Spotlight & Giveaway: The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas (and Sharla Lovelace & Scarlett Dunn)

BNR Cowboy Saved Christmas

 

About the Book, The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas

  • Genre: Romance / Adventure / Anthology
  • Publisher: Kensington Books
  • Date of Publication: October 27, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 336 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Cowboy Who Saved Christmas Hi ResThe Lone Star State doesn’t have to be lonely during Christmas time!

Legendary author Jodi Thomas headlines a new holiday-themed Western historical romance collection featuring three Texas-set stories of romance and adventure. The Civil War is over, Christmas is coming—and it’s time for three rugged cowboys to hang-up their spurs and settle down.

These authors combine their talents and excel at creating atmosphere and complex characters which infuse these stories with Texas history and evoke the grandeur of a bygone era and the indomitable pioneer spirit of the region.

Prepare to be swept off your feet by these heroic cowboys who will stop at nothing to make sure this Christmas is one to remember. Ideal for gift giving, The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas will be the fan-favorite collection of romance for the 2020 Christmas season.

Praise for this book:

  • “FATHER GOOSE is a warm, entertaining story, with Trapper and Emery starting with nothing, yet finding love and hoping for a future.” — Rose from Roses Are Blue
  • “It was a pitch-perfect reading experience that left my heart bursting with joy.  This story has become an instant classic in my holiday reading canon.” — PJ Ausdenmore from The Romance Dish
  • “I love an anthology at this busy time of the year because I can read a complete story in a short time–this book hit the mark.” — Mary from Bookfan

XTRA promo graphic

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Jodi Thomas’s Website | Goodreads


About the author, Jodi Thomas

Author Pic Thomas_JodiJodi Thomas is a New York Times bestselling author and fifth-generation Texan who sets many of her award-winning stories in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A multi-RITA Award winner and member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame, she’s written over 50 novels with millions of copies in print. Her most recent releases are The Little Tea Shop on Main and the first book in her new Honey Creek series, Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café, which is out now.

Connect with Jodi:

Website | FacebookTwitter  | InstagramAmazon  | BookBub | Pinterest  | Goodreads


Giveaway

One copy of THE COWBOY WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS

signed by Jodi Thomas

Giveaway Ends Midnight, CST, 11/30/2020

 (US only)

 

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New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun, by Chris Penhall

New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun

 

New Beginnings in the Sun cover thumbnailAbout the book, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun

Follow your yellow brick road ….

Alice Dorothy Matthews is on the road to paradise! She’s sold her house in London, got rid of her nasty ex and arranged her move to Portugal where friendship and romance awaits. All that’s left to do is find a place to call home.

But Alice’s dreams are called into question when complications with friends, work and new relationships make her Portuguese paradise feel far too much like reality.
Will Alice’s dream of a new home in the sun come true

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Goodreads


New Beginnings Author Photo IMG_0572About the author, Chris Penhall

Chris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published on August 25th 2020.

Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.

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

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

Connect with Chris:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun is the sequel to The House that Alice Built, which I haven’t read, but there’s enough backstory in this novel that I didn’t feel at all lost. Rather, I loved jumping into Alice’s new life in Cascais, Portugal just as she was.

Reinventing yourself is never easy, and I liked that author Chris Penhall gave Alice some challenges in this story… finding a house to buy, expanding her business options, and navigating her relationship with boyfriend Luis (who starts off being very supportive and pretty much stays that way) are all things that didn’t necessarily mesh with our protagonist’s vision of her new life, but gave the story depth and made all the characters feel very real.

(I especially loved Alice’s mother. We should all have a mother like that… or perhaps not.)

Penhall’s writing style is breezy but not fluffy, and diving into this book was a lovely experience, though I might be slightly biased as I harbor fantasies of retiring to Portugal, myself.

I liked that there was no soft-pedalling of Alice’s relationship with her ex-husband.

I liked even more that, ultimately, Alice was her own hero.

This novel would be a perfect beach read, but it also works well as an escape from fall/winter doldrums.

Goes well with a bowl of caldo verde and a cold beer.


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Review: Forever 51 by Pamela Skjolsvik

Forever-51-cover-654x1024About the book Forever 51

• Paperback: 332 pages
• Publisher: Fawkes Press, LLC (November 5, 2020)

Immortality’s a bitch.

Veronica is eternally fifty-one years old with a proclivity for problematic drinking. Like most hormonally challenged women negotiating the change of life, she is a hot mess. To retain her sanity, she attends weekly AA meetings and adheres to a strict diet of organic, locally-sourced, (mostly) cruelty-free human blood from the hospice facility where she works. Her life stopped being fun about a hundred years ago, right about the time her teenage daughter stole her soul and took off for California with a hot, older guy. These days, Veronica’s existence is just that – an existence, as flat and empty as her own non-reflection in the bathroom mirror.

When her estranged daughter contacts her via Facebook, Veronica learns that she has one chance to escape her eternal personal summer: she must find and apologize to every one of the people she’s turned into vampires in the last century. That is, if they’re still out there. With raging hormones and a ticking clock, Veronica embarks on a last-ditch road trip to regain her mortality, reclaim her humanity, and ultimately, die on her own terms.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Goodreads


About the author, Pamela Skjolsvik

Forever-51-Pamela-Skjolsvik-APA curious thing happens when you have the audacity to call yourself the death writer; people want to talk to you about death. A lot. This is all well and good for those daring types of writers like Mary Roach or Jessica Mitford, but for me it was initially problematic. Prior to declaring my morbid writing intention of exploring death professions during my first semester of Goucher College’s MFA program in 2008, I had little experience with death or grief, not to mention very little social engagement with the living. It wasn’t until after I finished the two years of research for this book that I was officially diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and went through four months of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy through a research study at Southern Methodist University.

My writing life began in 2005 when I received a fellowship to the San Juan Writers’ Workshop. The instructor, Lee Gutkind, told me not to publish for the sake of publishing, but to publish well. He also informed me that I was a horrible public speaker. Admittedly that stung, but he did like an essay I’d written. It was published in Creative Nonfiction Issue 33 and in Silence Kills: Speaking Out and Saving Lives. In August 2010, I received my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College and read five pages from my manuscript in front of a packed room without passing out.

As part of my therapy, I was encouraged to join a writer’s group where I would have to read regularly in front of a group, as this was one of my main fears. I am happy to say that I am now an active member of the DFW Writers Workshop in Euless, TX. We meet every Wednesday and I make it a point to read out loud every week.

Connect with Pamela:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhen I first heard about this book, and that the lead character was a vampire who’d been turned in middle age and was eternally menopausal, I laughed out loud, because as someone who just turned fifty in August, I could totally relate. Then I leapt into reading it.

Wow! What a refreshing take on the vampire trope! Veronica Bouchard is middle-aged, crotchety, confident about everything except her body, tand addicted to the red stuff -blood. So much so, that she attends AA meetings in order to help keep herself from killing people for food, and works as a night nurse in a hospice where the deaths she must cause are largely merciful.

When her biological daughter, forever fifteen, and estranged from her since the 1930s, contacts Veronica (via Facebook – how else?) and informs her that she can become mortal again, hijinks ensue, involving a young junkie, and a lot of practice of the ninth step of the Twelve Step program: Make direct amends to [people they have wronged]  wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Through Veronica’s Great Apology Road Trip, we meet the men and women who most impacted her (un)life, and learn her history with each of them. We also see some popular vampire myths completely debunked (garlic, crosses, sunlight, invitations to enter) which causes Veronica to be annoyed, frustrated, amused, and even a little smug when she realizes how much information isn’t shared among her kind.

What I loved about this novel was that the central figure could, except for the specifics of her “addiction,” be any woman entering or experience menopause. The hot flashes, the mood shifts, the dissatisfaction with what she sees (or doesn’t see) in the mirror are all universal, and, to be honest, we all have addictions of some kind or another, though not all require meetings and intervention.

While Veronica is the  most vividly drawn figure, her daughter Ingrid, her (current) husband Frank, and her adopted tag-a-long happy meal with legs, Jenny the junkie, are all equally dimensional, and the characters we encounter are all well crafted, too. I’m not sure if my favorite was Desmond, Ingrid’s maker (and also a waiter and a morgue attendant) or Knud, one of Veronica’s first post-death partners, who reminded me of a deeper, more in-touch version of Olaf the Viking from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

At turns funny, sad, frustrating, and poignant, Forever 51 is a fast-paced adventure of personal transformation and discovery, and one that you can really (forgive the obvious pun) sink your teeth into.

Goes well with a bacon cheeseburger, garlic fries, and a Bloody Mary, naturally.


TLC Book ToursVisit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Thursday, November 5th: Instagram: @kara.bookstagram

Friday, November 6th: Instagram: @jenguerdy

Monday, November 9th: Becky on Books…and Quilts

Tuesday, November 10th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Thursday, November 12th: Bewitched Bookworms

Monday, November 16th: Instagram: @hooked.by.books

Tuesday, November 17th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, November 18th: Instagram: @mixed_matched_socks

Thursday, November 19th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews

Saturday, November 21st: Instagram: @mommaleighellensbooknook

Monday, November 23rd: Books and Bindings


Bonus Chapter

Pamela Skjolsvik is hosting a challenge on her Twitter. Tag her (@pamelaskjolsvik) with an image of yourself doing one of the things in the image below, and she’ll send you a bonus chapter:

Forever-51-cover-bonus-chapter

 

Review: Painting Bananas by Amanda Paull

Painting Bananas

 

About the book, Painting Bananas 

Painting BananasPainting Bananas is all about love, dreams and taking stock.

Two happy couples, one person from each on the verge of change. But as paths cross and plans unfold, will their spouses reveal their true colours?

Alison struggles with insomnia. She also hates her job and fantasizes about throttling her irritating oaf-of-a boss. Thankfully, her lifelong plan to return to university will soon be realized. After supporting her husband in his career for over twenty years, it’s now her turn. He’s rooting for her every step of the way. Or so she thinks.

Meanwhile, Christopher has a wake-up call with his health. Somehow, pre-diabetes has replaced his six-pack. He must take stock immediately. He realises that the perfect solution is right under his nose. He can’t wait to share his brilliant idea with his wife. The future looks good. But does she agree?

Will the spouses show their support? Or will Alison and Christopher start to wonder whether they really know their other halves?

Painting Bananas was written and formatted with British grammar, punctuation and humour. It is the second novel in Amanda Paull’s Cherry Dene series but can be read as a standalone story.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


Amanda Paull About the author, Amanda Paull

Amanda Paull is a writer of humorous romantic fiction. She lives in the North East of England with her husband and works in the public sector. The inspiration for her stories comes from real life, which she tries to show the funnier side of by embellishing to the hilt.

Connect with Amanda

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAlison & Nathan and Christopher & Sandy, the four people at the center of Painting Bananas, are two couples who have been married for decades and, as empty-nesters (one couple has adult twins, the other has a grown daughter), have yet to learn how to live with only each other, or even communicate effectively.

Amanda Paull has drawn each couple very vividly, and made their relationships distinct. Alison is the epitome of a woman being gaslighted, first by her doctor, but also by her husband. Christopher is part of a traditional marriage of the sort that feels more like my grandparents’ dynamic than the relationship my husband and I (married 25 years last March) have, or even that my parents had. He’s changed to a lower-paying job in order to travel less and practice self-care because of a pre-diabetes diagnoses, and his wife seems largely oblivious.

If this sounds like a sad story, rest assured, it isn’t. Or at least, not entirely. Alison and Christopher meet and start chatting over lunch, and through them, the rest of the story unfolds. We also see their children both relating to their parents, and also observing and commenting on them, which Paull has done to great effect – they’re in the story, but they’re also a bridge between we readers and the main action.

What I liked was that even though this novel dealt with serious issue, there were moments of organic humor. Most of it wasn’t the kind that generates belly laughs, but rather the type where you nod, smile, maybe even chuckle, and recognize glimmers of yourself in the narrative.

Something I found really refreshing was that Alison and Christopher talk and share, but don’t have an affair. Author Paull has written a lovely friendship between the two, and I really enjoyed their dynamic.

Painting Bananas is an easy read about some hard truths of the sort we will all face one day, and the characters are absolutely worth spending time with.

Goes well with hot tea, tomato soup, and a toasted cheese sandwich.


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In Their Words with Marion Surles, author of Araceli’s Path

BNR Araceli's Path

About the Book, Araceli’s Path (Among Angels and Devils in Juarez)

  • Genre: Realistic Fiction / Border Stories / Mature Middle Grade
  • Publisher: Love and Literacy
  • Date of Publication: November 30, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 145
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Cover Med Res Araceli's PathAraceli comes from a blended, dysfunctional family held together by the love of a grandmother. Rubí is being raised by a single mother who works as a prostitute. Both young girls are affected not only by their mothers’ choices but also by the violence and culture of Juarez, Mexico.

Can they overcome the cards they have been dealt, or are they destined to follow the same paths as their mothers?

Follow the lives of Araceli and Rubí from childhood to young adulthood and listen for children everywhere who are voiceless, trapped in their own cultures.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads

Proceeds benefit Love and Literacy  


About the author, Marion Surles

Marion SurlesMarion Surles was born in 1957 in Columbus, Mississippi. From a young age she was interested in learning Spanish, due to a special offering of Spanish at her elementary school. She received a BA and MA in Spanish and social work from Mississippi State University and teaches Spanish and English as a Second Language to all levels of students. She also serves as a volunteer missionary at home and in many Spanish-speaking countries. Most recently, she has formed a mission in Juarez, Mexico called Love and Literacy, which encourages reading and staying in school. Every two months, Marion travels to Juarez to bring books and literacy activities to a poor neighborhood, partnering with a local family to serve as the library. Her books are a fictional account of the lives of her students. Her Facebook page, Love and Literacy, gives updates of her work in Juarez.

Marion lives in Dublin, Texas with her husband, horses, and dogs. She enjoys trail riding, kayaking, and camping, plus visiting with her daughters and granddaughter nearby.

Connect with Marion:

Website | Amazon Author Page | Facebook


An Interview with Marion Surles

Cover Med Res Araceli's PathHow has being in Texas influenced your writing?

I grew up in Mississippi and lived there all my life. Our girls both rodeoed at Tarleton State University, and we moved to Texas to be closer to them. I had been on mission trips often to Mexico but being in Texas made the logistics much easier for more frequent trips. Driving in West Texas gave my mind long hours to think of my stories from the mission field.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field? How does your book relate to your faith?

After each mission trip, usually with a team, we would give a report to our support churches. There were statistics of how many immunizations given, how many houses built, or how many souls saved, maybe a slide show, and a few funny stories of gaffes by fellow teammates. In Texas, I met a volunteer who enjoyed writing and helping in a more individual way. He encouraged me to write and tell stories of the people we worked with.

I hope my books make our mission report more personable and easier for those who cannot be there to feel as if they are there. I want my readers to understand the material and spiritual needs across our southern border. I hope my stories strengthen the reader’s faith and encourage him or her to use the blessings we have been given to give a hand-up to someone else. We cannot all go, but we can all serve and learn from each other. These people who have their faith tested daily are the real heroes of life. They truly rely on God for their daily bread. We have so much to learn from them.

Araceli’s Path is a prequel to Grit in Juarez, your first book. What made you decide to write a prequel? Any unexpected hurdles in doing this?

When I wrote my first book, I was writing with children as my main audience and from the children’s point of view. However, the majority of my readers were adults. Some readers told me the book was too sad, and they couldn’t finish it. Others wanted to know what happened next. Many wanted to know why these families were in these situations. Araceli’s Path follows the lives of two of the mothers in a coming-of-age story. With adults as my main audience, I was able to touch on the more difficult topics of prostitution and drug culture. I hope I have given these women’s stories a fair depiction, without sugar-coating the real struggle of their lives. I also wanted to encourage others to search for their gifts of service.

Is there any person you credit for being your inspiration for reading and/or writing?

My mother always encouraged us to read. We went to the library often, chased down the bookmobile, and often received books for Christmas and birthdays. She always read to us, and on vacations she would select a special chapter book to read from each night. Plus, we always saw her reading and wanted to copy her. She was a homemaker, later a teacher, and even later an author and genealogist.

She gathered old family letters and published two books, My Darling Daughters, which contains letters from her four great-grandfathers to his daughters far away at school, and a compilation of my daddy’s letters, My Marine Memories of World War II. But I never considered writing until my mission friend Jay Nutt suggested it. Sometimes I feel like an impostor when other writers say they have been writing all their lives.

What are you working on at the present?

I have two projects I am working on now. One will be the sequel, to complete a trilogy of this series. The children grow up and follow their dreams, some crossing the border and some staying home to make things better there. I’m also working on a middle-grade-fiction chapter book about a boy running away from home. Boys are harder to entice to read. I hope the adventures of this character will encourage boys to read.

I do not write full time, as I travel often to Juarez to bring more books and supplies to the children I work with there. I’ve also made a connection with the local school principal and bring books and supplies for the school. I am always happy to receive donations of books in Spanish for my mission, Love and Literacy.

How has your formal education influenced or impacted your writing?

I have a master’s degree in Spanish and taught high-school Spanish and bilingual pre-K. I have traveled to many Spanish-speaking countries and extensively in Mexico. I also teach English as a Second Language and help students with immigration paperwork. The people and culture of Mexico have become a large part of my life, and I believe they have made my writing better. My books are also available in Spanish on Amazon.


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS: Autographed copies of Araceli’s Path and Grit in
Juarez
(choice of English or Spanish), Day of the Dead shopping bag &
plate, Mexican coin purse, Mexican candy. 

NOVEMBER 5-15, 2020

(US ONLY)

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Visit the other Great Blogs on This Tour

(Or go to the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page)

11/5/20 Book Trailer Book Bustle
11/5/20 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
11/6/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
11/7/20 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
11/8/20 Top Ten It’s Not All Gravy
11/9/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
11/10/20 Guest Post All the Ups and Downs
11/11/20 Review Forgotten Winds
11/12/20 Author Interview Bibliotica
11/13/20 Review The Clueless Gent
11/14/20 Review Missus Gonzo

 

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Review: Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe, by Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Christmas Tour

About the book, Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot CafeCozy up with a mug of hot chocolate for some festive sparkle from bestseller Jessica Redland.

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely.

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was originally released as Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Now re-released with a new title and new cover, this version has been freshly edited and features several new chapters.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Author PicJessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe is my second visit to the cozy coastal town Whitsborough Bay, and like other fictional small towns (Stars Hollow, CT and Everwood, CO, for example) it remains a place I wish were real, a place I could visit.

As much as I loved the previous novel in this series, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, which I reviewed on September 22nd, I think I connected with this book even more. Maybe it’s because I have a ‘thing’ for cafe novels, maybe it’s because the cafe in the story is a business very like one I’ve always fantasized about running, or maybe it’s just that, having a feel for author Jessica Redland’s writing style, I was able to appreciate more of the nuance as I was reading.

I felt like I really connected with the main character, Tara, and her rabbit, Hercules. (I raised rabbits for 4-H when I was a kid, but I’m a dog person now). Her need to reinvent herself (shown in memories she recounts to her friend Carly, and in private remembrances) is one I think many women can relate to, for we do it throughout our lives as we become wives, mothers, empty nesters, career women, retirees. It’s true that most of us don’t have the same impetus Tara did, but the resonance remains.

I also loved Tara’s gradual opening up first to Carly, then to her staff, and later, to her colleagues. When trust has been abused, it’s really difficult to open your heart and allow yourself to be vulnerable, and Redland showed this in a very real, plausible way, while still making this book a heartwarming holiday romance at its core.

Speaking of romance, this novel is filled with it. Early in the story, Tara’s assistant manager, Maria, asks if she can have her wedding at the cafe. Later, other characters ask about an engagement party, and of course, there’s the enemies-to-friends (and possibly beyond) relationship with Jed, the man who owned the building where the Chocolate Pot now lives, before Tara bought it.

Spanning more than just a single holiday season, this novel is a meaty, satisfying read. It’s a romance, yes, but it’s also about loving your friends and yourself, as much as it is about falling in love.

A visit to Whitsborough Bay is never a bad idea, but a visit to The Chocolate Pot Cafe will make you appreciate all the wonderful things that life has to offer.

Goes well with: salted hot chocolate and those dyed-green leaf-shaped Italian butter cookies with a thin layer of chocolate in the middle.


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Review: Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, by Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Christmas Tour

About the book, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

  • Paperback : 210 pages
  • Publisher : Boldwood Books (August 13, 2020)

Christmas at Carly's CupcakesIt’s the most wonderful time of the year…

It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

A heartwarming, short festive story of friendship and family from bestseller Jessica Redland. You can find out what happens to Carly next through exploring her best friend Tara’s story in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.

This is a new and updated version of Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which has been previously published.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Author PicJessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

It may seem odd to be reading Christmas novels when it’s literally the first day of Autumn (in the northern hemisphere), but Jessica Redland’s pair of novels Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe (which I’ll be reviewing on Friday the 25th) are just what is needed to beat the end-of-summer doldrums and make us anticipate cozy firelit nights with hot chocolate or Irish coffee and a good friend – or lover – for company.

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes was my first visit to author Redland’s Whitborough Bay, a cozy English village that is absolutely contemporary, and made me want to relocate. If only it were real! This novel focuses on Carly and Bethany, sisters and friends. Carly owns a cake shop on Castle Street, and Bethany works for her, but is disastrous at any of the back room activities, though she’s great with customers.

Most of the novel is set against the days leading up to younger sister Bethany’s wedding to Joshua, but Carly is mentioned in the title, and despite Bethany being the bride it’s really about her: how does she cope with an employee who is also family? How does she face attending her little sister’s wedding when the man she longs for is deployed to Afghanistan (and thinks of her as a friend)? How does she help her sister embrace her strengths and overcome her weaknesses?

And did I mention that wedding takes place just before Christmas, adding a heightened emotional state, and a lot of demanding customers to serve into the mix?

Redland marries all of these elements as if she were mixing batter for the perfect cake, bakes them into a coherent, interesting, fun family saga with a romance filling, and frosts them with all the wishes, dreams, and hopes that are part of the holiday season.

Carly is a wonderful protagonist, kind, smart, patient, and truly caring. Bethany, in anyone else’s hands, would be a ditz, but instead Redland has given us someone who means well and always tries, but hasn’t quite found her niche. Together these sisters make a compelling pair of women to read about, and their stories are twined together with the sweetness and freshness of the red and white stripes of a candy cane.

Bethany’s fiance Joshua is equally dimensional, even though we don’t see each other, and the sisters’ parents are supportive and lovely, as all parents should be.

And then there’s Liam… the childhood friend we all needed, who returns from his deployment just in time to be Carly’s date to the wedding. The boy we meet in memories has become a caring man, and he fits into the world Redland has created as if he were part of the story from page one.

This novel is satisfying, sweet, and supremely real, with characters who may make cupcakes, but are absolutely not cookie-cutter copies of anyone.

Goes well with chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and Irish coffee.


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Spotlight: A Vote is a Powerful Thing, by Catherine Stier (illustrated by Courtney Dawson) – with Giveaway

BNR A Vote Is A Powerful Thing

 

About the book, A Vote is a Powerful Thing cover med res A Vote Is A Powerful Thing

  • Children’s Picture Book / American Historical Fiction / Elections and Voting
  • Ages 4-7
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company
  • Date of Publication: September 1, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 32
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Callie knows there’s a presidential election coming up, and people will soon vote to decide the country’s leader.

Her class is having an election too, about an issue that affects them all–the class field trip. Should they choose the cookie factory or the wilderness park?

Join Callie as she campaigns for the wilderness park she loves and learns how people have organized, marched, and protested for the right to vote. And find out how a vote–even just one vote–can make a difference!

Praise for this book:

  • “Gets the job done.” ―Kirkus Reviews
  • “A galvanizing read for children interested in politics or parents who hope to instill such interests.” ―Publishers Weekly

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

The Twig Book Shop ║ IndieBound ║Barnes and Noble ║ Amazon || Goodreads

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About the author,  Catherine Stier

Catherine StierCatherine Stier is the author of several awarding-winning children’s books. Her titles include If I Were PresidentIf I Ran for PresidentIf I Were a Park Ranger, and the A Dog’s Day chapter-book series. In grade school, Catherine ran a class campaign for student council with handmade signs, and, although she didn’t win, she found the process exciting! She went on to earn an MA in reading and literacy from the University of Texas at San Antonio and has conducted children’s literature research. She now resides with her husband in San Antonio and volunteers at a local wilderness park.

Connect with Catherine:

Facebook ║ Twitter ║ Instagram ║ Amazon ║ Website

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Giveaway

ONE WINNER: Copies of each of the three election-series books;
patriotic socks, button, and pencils; plus a $15 gift card to The Twig Book Shop.

September 4-10, 2020

(US ONLY)

 

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CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR.

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Review: The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows, by Sharley Scott

Maddie Meadows - Banner

 

About the book, The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows

Maddie Meadows - CoverMaddie Meadows adores her family and loves her work. But she has good reason to keep them separate.

For single mum Maddie, home is a flat on a run-down estate. And family consists of an excitable toddler, a lonely Dad and a younger brother mired in a love triangle.

Meanwhile, professional Madeleine balances a tricky day job, made worse by a jealous colleague. No one at work knows about her other life, and she needs to keep it this way: one of the bosses has made his feelings very clear about single parents and the people on her estate.

Thank goodness for her fun-loving and loyal friends – although Maddie wishes they’d believe her when she insists she has no time for love. Or so she tells herself as she fights to quell her hidden feelings for her gorgeous colleague, Oliver, who comes from the posh part of town.

When her friends line up their ideal man for her – Sean, more beanstalk than Bean – Maddie wishes she’d told them the truth. It’s hard enough juggling two lives. But, with all the added complications, how long will be it be before Maddie’s carefully created world comes crashing down?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Sharley Scott

Sharley Scott is the author of the ‘Devon Seaside Guesthouse’ novels – Bedlam & Breakfast and B&Bers Behaving Madly.

Her latest book ‘The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows’ is being published in early July 2020. The second in the series ‘The Gift of a Rose’ will be available in the autumn.

Sharley is a guesthouse owner in South Devon. She is thankful to have been blessed with lots of amazing and kind-hearted guests, who are nothing like some of the characters featured in the Devon Seaside Guesthouse series.

The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows is a fictional account, but Sharley has never forgotten how interesting life can be with a toddler. Some of the mischief Josh gets up to will be familiar to all parents. Sharley has carried out the threats she made to her son decades ago and now embarrasses him by telling tales to his girlfriend, although he gets her back by recounting stories about his mum.

Connect with Sharley:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI try not to commit to reviewing books in August, because it’s my birthday month and it’s also the month when I’m usually doing a daily podcast project, but I had a few interactions with the author, Sharley Scott on Twitter when this novel launched, and she was so lovely, I couldn’t not review it.

The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows is a light read about serious topics. Part romance, part social commentary, it focuses on a young woman who lives in two worlds, the “posh” world of her corporate job, and the decidedly less-than-perfect one of being the single mother of a toddler, living in a rundown council estate.

Maddie (known as Madeleine at work) is the perfect heroine of the modern age. Her story is a love story, but it’s as much about falling in love with her true self as it as about the men in her life – handsome, co-worker Oliver and down-to-earth Sean.

Scott’s dialogue is excellent, and really differentiates the characters who populate Maddie’s two worlds. Her friends and family are much more casual in their speech, while those she works with speak the bland corporate-ese that masks one’s origins the world over. (Scott gets extra points from me for explaining the code-switching Maddie displays, and acknowledging that everyone does it to some degree.)

What I loved about this novel was that even when Maddie was uncertain about her place in either world, she was still very much herself. She might not be a cookie-cutter mother, but she showed real love for her son, and true devotion to her father and brother.

As an American reader, I found myself re-examining class differences in my own country, even as Maddie was facing them during her life. On this side of the pond, where even millionaires are still middle class, the divisions are harsher, if often less  obvious.

In this novel, Sharley Scott has given us a story about identity and family that also provides a look at life in one corner of the UK, and she has done so with humor and grace. From the first page, I was rooting for Maddie, and I was not disappointed.

Goes well with ice cream cones eaten in a park after feeding ducks.


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Review: Santa Claus Bank Robbery by Tui Snider – with Giveaway

BNR Santa Claus Bank Robbery

About the book Santa Claus Bank Robbery

  • Genre: Nonfiction / Texana / Texas History
  • Publisher: Castle Azle Press
  • Date of Publication: December 8, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 146 pages + black & white photos
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Santa Claus Robber hi resWhen Marshall Ratliff dressed like Santa Claus to pull a Christmas-time heist, he thought it would be easy. Unfortunately for him, when the citizens of Cisco heard Santa was robbing a bank, they came running – with loaded guns in hand!

But can you blame them? In 1927, the only way to earn the $5000 Dead Bank Robber Reward was to kill a bandit while the crime was in progress.

This bungled bank robbery led to a wild shootout and a getaway with two little girls as hostages. And that is only the beginning!

Tui Snider’s true-crime tale reads like a comedy of errors as the consequences of the Santa Claus Bank Robber’s actions escalate to include a botched car-jacking, one of the biggest manhunts in Texas history, and a jailbreak leading to a deadly conclusion.

Meanwhile, it’s up to readers to decide whether or not a mysterious blonde helped these gangsters escape. And if so, did she get away with murder?

Watch the trailer for this book:

 

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author Tui Snider

Tui SniderTui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!”

Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences, and bookstores.This fall, she will speak about the Great Airship Mystery of 1897 at this year’s UFO Congress and teach a course on Understanding Cemetery Symbols at Texas Christian University. She also shares weekly info-videos based on her research at her YouTube channel.

Snider’s writing and photography have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including WFAA TVCoast to Coast AM, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman WakingShades of Angels and many more. She has several more books in progress.

Connect with Tui:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE  INSTAGRAM  |  YOUTUBE  | GRAVE HOUR ON INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellOver the last few years of doing book reviews for Lone Star Book Blog Tours, I’ve fallen in love with Tui Snider’s books about cemetery symbology and spooky Texas locations, but with this book, Santa Claus Bank Robbery, I got to see a side of her work that is slightly more narrative, though still non-fiction.

And I loved it.

Presented almost like a forensic analysis (though with a lot more warmth and humor), this book tells the true story of a 1920s bank robbery where one of the bandits dressed in a (stolen) Santa Claus suit to rob a bank. Well, part of a suit. He didn’t have the pants, and that’s actually just one of the many things that went wrong with the heist, and the bandits’ lives.

True crime novels tend to be either very dry or quite grisly. Santa Claus Bank Robbery is neither. Rather, it’s a dive into Texas history that offers insights only a contemporary historian/storyteller could consider. (Example: one of the people in the book, a young girl, says she spent so much time in court in one year that she flunked 7th grade. Snider posits the theory that the child was suffering from burnout and PTSD… and she’s probably not wrong.)

One thing I really liked is that Snider corrected and clarified an earlier work about the events in Santa Claus Bank Robbery without being disrespectful to the previous author’s work. She does question his choice to use pseudonyms for a lot of the key figures, and also notes his avoidance of going too deeply into the details of one family, but she also expresses envy that he (A.C. Greene) had access to at least one of the original sources, one of the men who was with Santa Claus (really Marshall Ratliff) in the bank.

While I’m not a native Texan (I’m a Jersey girl who was raised in Colorado and California), I’ve now lived in Texas longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, and reading Snider’s books has really been a wonderful way for me to explore the Lone Star State in new and interesting ways.

That said, even if you have no connection to Texas at all, Santa Claus Bank Robbery is a fascinating picture of a period between the “wild west” and modern Texas, and Snider’s treatment of it is fair and balanced without whitewashing or soft-pedaling anything.

Goes well with: BBQ brisket, fried squash, potato salad, and sweet tea.


Giveaway

GRAND PRIZE (US only)

Signed Paperback +$10 Amazon Gift Card

+ Thank You Post Card

2ND PRIZE (US only)Signed Copy + Thank You Post Card

3RD PRIZE (International)Kindle eBook

  December 12-22, 2019

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Check Out the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

12/12/19 Review Bibliotica
12/12/19 Review Hall Ways Blog
12/13/19 Review That’s What She’s Reading
12/14/19 Review StoreyBook Reviews
12/14/19 Review Reading by Moonlight
12/15/19 Review Book Fidelity
12/16/19 Review All the Ups and Downs
12/17/19 Review The Page Unbound
12/17/19 Review Books and Broomsticks
12/18/19 Review The Book Review
12/19/19 Review The Clueless Gent
12/20/19 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
12/20/19 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
12/21/19 Review Momma on the Rocks
12/21/19 Review Forgotten Winds

 

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