Review: Lemons in the Garden of Love, by Ames Sheridan

About the book Lemons in the Garden of Love

Lemons in the Garden of Love

  • Publisher : She Writes Press (May 11, 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 248 pages

It’s 1977 and Cassie Lyman, a graduate student in women’s history, is struggling to find a topic for her doctoral dissertation. When she discovers a trove of drawings, suffrage cartoons, letters, and diaries at Smith College belonging to Kate Easton, founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts in 1916, she believes she has located her subject.

Digging deeper into Kate’s life, Cassie learns that she and Kate are related―closely. Driven to understand why her family has never spoken of Kate, Cassie travels to Cape Ann to attend her sister’s shotgun wedding, where she questions her female relatives about Kate―only to find herself soon afterward in the same challenging situation Kate faced.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Ames Sheldon

Ames SheldonAMES SHELDON: was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and grew up in Wayzata, Minnesota. After graduating from Northrop Collegiate School, she attended Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in English. After graduating, she worked in the legal department of a chemical company, as a reporter at two newspapers, as office manager of a start-up auto salvage business, and eventually as a grant writer and development officer for a variety of nonprofit organizations, ranging from the Sierra Club in San Francisco to the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minneapolis Public Library. She has an M.A. in American Studies and was lead author and associate editor of the groundbreaking Women’s History Sources: A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States (R.R. Bowker, 1979). In the process of working on this monumental reference book, Ames discovered her love of women’s history and of using primary sources for research. Her debut novel, Eleanor’s Wars, won the 2016 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Best New Voice: Fiction. Her second novel, Don’t Put the Boats Away, was published on August 27, 2019, by She Writes Press. Her third novel, Lemons in the Garden of Love, will be published in 2021.

Connect with Ames:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

As a woman who was given my mother’s vintage original copy (then little more than a pamphlet) of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and as a woman who has fought for reproductive rights my entire  adult life (often with my mother beside me) I was eager to read Lemons in the Garden of Love when it was offered to me for review. This, I thought, was a story I could really relate to.

The parallel stories of Cassie, a grad student in the 1970s, and her aunt Kate, several decades earlier, are compelling reading. Both women were intellectually curious, passionate, and trapped in marriages to cold men. Both women found themselves facing a similar challenge. And both women had to deal with family members who were slaves to conservative views of gender roles, at best, and generally dreadful, at worst.

What I loved about this novel, was that you could tell that author Ames Sheldon had a personal investment in the story. Indeed, she is so committed to reproductive rights and  women’s healthcare that fifty percent of the proceeds from this novel are being donated to Planned Parenthood. That’s an amazing legacy, but so is this novel, which captures the very different experiences of women in the earlier and more recent twentieth century. As well, I really appreciated the technical knowledge that Sheldon included in her story, like how to make your own diaphragm from liquid latex and a darning ring, as many of our great-grandmothers had to do.

Beyond the technical detail, however, I liked how distinctive the two main characters’ voices were. Cassie is very much a contemporary woman, even if the seventies are considered “historical” now (as someone born in 1970 I have difficulty with that), and Kate’s words in her journals are stiffer, and more formal, really cementing her in the early twentieth century.

Overall, I feel Lemons in the Garden of Love is an important read. We must know where we came from as we face an increasingly autocratic future. We must take care not to repeat the worst parts of our history, and honor the best. Most importantly, we must continue to tell our stories, our mothers’ and grandmothers’ stories, and those of our sisters in spirit.

Goes well with grilled chicken, asparagus, and sauteed mushrooms.

 

Review and Giveaway: Infinity’s Gateway by James S. Parker

BNR Infinity's Gateway

 

About the book, Infinity’s Gateway

  • Published by: Morgan James Publishing
  • Series: The Infinity’s Gateway Trilogy
  • Pages: 361 Pages
  • Pub Date: January 26th, 2021
  • Categories: Science Fiction / Adventure / Action
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover Infinity's GatewayEvery year, all across the planet, people simply vanish, completely disappear and are never seen again.  Some areas of the world are well known for this phenomenon.  Infinity’s Gateway opens with a very famous incident that took place just after the end of World War II with the United States Navy.  The story then jumps to the present day with an unexplainable event that occurs off the coast of Florida, an event that cannot be ignored by the military.

The Navy ship Eclipse and its crew are sent to investigate, but after several days come up empty.  Two days before returning to port, the event reoccurs, and the Eclipse is caught up in something it cannot escape.  The Eclipse and its crew suddenly find themselves completely isolated, all communication lost, surrounded by a terribly hostile environment where each day is a struggle to survive.  Infinity’s Gateway is an intense, action packed story of survival, self-reliance, and discovery.

Praise for this book:

Infinity’s Gateway is an engaging science fiction thriller with tones of Michael Crichton Tom Clancy.  To fans of the science fiction genre, it will feel like an old friend with a surprising, and exciting new makeover.”  —Joseph Mauceri, Executive Editor, Fearsmag.com.

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About the author, James S. Parker

Author Pic James ParkerEvery now and then author James S. Parker has a vision.  And, when he does, he sees people and places off in the misty distance.  Sometimes these visions are futuristic and filled with danger.  Most often they are mystical, with good and evil and a cast of characters who beautifully represent both.

In his high school years James experienced a spine-tingling brush with the supernatural.  That single event – complete with the sound of heavy footsteps and an invisible visitor – etched forever in his mind the idea that life is much more mysterious than we oftentimes admit — that the spiritual world is all around us, and that its impact on us cannot be denied.

Though he sees through a glass darkly, he writes as though he has been granted a glimpse into the unknown, one that has informed his novels and their powerful stories of good and evil and the struggles we all face every day to assure that good wins.

Infinity’s Gateway, the first book in a fascinating sci-fi adventure trilogy, is his latest work.  James lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Margaret. He is available for in-person and online book club visits.

Connect with James

 Facebook | Instagram | Amazon | Website

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’m a huge fan of the two authors whose work this novel, Infinity’s Gateway was compared to – Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy – and I love anything that takes place on ships, so I knew this novel would be right up my alley, and I was not wrong. James S. Parker’s latest novel has that perfect balance of technical detail and action-adventure that makes for a fun and gripping story. Plus it’s a new exploration of the Bermuda Triangle myths. It’s been far too long since we’ve had something new in that niche.

Beginning in post-WWII Florida and later jumping to a more contemporary setting, I found Parker’s story to be incredibly well crafted. His attention to the technical detail of both past and modern naval vessels was obvious as were the subtle differences in speech patterns and word choices for each time. I also felt that the pacing he used was appropriate for the story he was telling. There was enough specificity that you could easy visualize everything that was going on, but at no point did it feel like there was too much exposition. Similarly, while there were a LOT of characters introduced in the early chapters – from admirals to ensigns, and congressmen to chaplains – it was never confusing keeping track of who was who.

One thing I particularly loved about this novel were the interjections about the Bermuda Triangle itself, even mentioning that “Mr. Spock” had narrated a show about it in the 1970s. I like it when fiction acknowledges contemporary culture and pop culture (the comments about funding for Navy projects were also appreciated) instead of ignoring them, because it grounds the work in our world (references to the Many Worlds theory notwithstanding).

Overall, this is a well-written, compelling adventure story with touches of philosophy, mystery, and wonder, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Goes well with: Lobster rolls and cold beer.


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TWO WINNERS each receive a signed copy of Infinity’s Gateway!

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Review & Giveaway: Dire’s Club by Kimberly Packard

BNR Dire's Club

 

About the book Dire’s Club

  • Publisher: Abalos Publishing
  • Publication Date: March 23, 2021
  • Pages: 326 Pages
  • Categories: Action & Adventure / Contemporary / Women’s Fiction
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover Hi Res Dire's ClubDying isn’t just hard on the ones left behind, the regret of unfinished lives weighs heavily on the terminally ill. That’s where Dire’s Club steps in, a specialty travel agency that takes a small group of dying people on one final adventure-so they can be free of guilt, be more than a diagnosis, and find a way to confront life … and death.

Life Coach Charlotte Claybrooke built a successful second career guiding people out of grief, but the impending tenth anniversary of her own heart-wrenching tragedy sets her on a journey to find life among the dying.

Staring death in the face was Jimmy Dire’s business. He met it with a warm hug, a kind word, and a smile. Dire’s Club gave the terminally ill one final, bucket-list adventure before passing on, but dying was expensive. The bills, like Jimmy’s lies, were piling up. It’s only a matter of time before he’s forced to face a different type of death.

A rock god, a telenovela star, a grandmother living her life-long dream, and a young tech genius round out this group of strangers facing death together. But when tragedy strikes, their bond is shattered. Lies and fraud surface, forcing the dying to come together to save someone’s life.

Everybody dies. The lucky ones have fun doing it.

Buy, read and discuss this book:

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Book Trailer

Dire’s Club trailer from Kimberly Walton on Vimeo.


About the author, Kimberly Packard

Author Pic PackardKimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. She began visiting her spot on the shelves at libraries and bookstores at a young age, gazing between the Os and the Qs. Kimberly received a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, and has worked in public relations and communications for nearly 20 years.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found rollerblading, doing a poor imitation of yoga or curled up with a book. She resides in North Texas with her husband Colby, a clever cat named Ollie and Tully, the precocious puppy.

Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors. Other published works by Kimberly include a Christmas novella, The Crazy Yates, and the sequels to Phoenix: Pardon Falls and Prospera Pass, and her stand-alone titles, Vortex and Dire’s Club. She was honored as one of the Top 10 Haute Young Authors by Southern Methodist University in 2019.

Connect with Kimberly:

Amazon | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter Goodreads Bookbub


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellGathering a group of diverse strangers to go on a journey together has been a literary conceit since Chaucer gave us The Canterbury Tales, and there’s a reason for that: it’s a setup that is extremely effective. Kimberly Packard latest novel Dire’s Club, uses a modern twist on that setup, but it does so in a way that is completely new, and results in a story that is fresh, compelling, and surprisingly thought provoking.

The idea of a a club for terminally ill adults to share in each other’s ultimate – and quite literal – “bucket list” item is a fascinating one, and perfect for our health-obsessed modern era. Like a cross between Fantasy Island and Make-a-Wish for adults, Jimmy Dire’s business  is to grant wishes to the terminally ill, and he fits that Mr. Roarke roll well: wealthy, connected, operating legally (mostly), he’s the perfect ringleader, arranging things, but never quite stealing the spotlight. Rather, the first “member” of this group that we meet is the central figure: Charlotte Claybrooke, life coach. Yes, the irony is real. Even more so: Dire has used Claybrooke’s work in his own business.

If Charlotte and Jimmy are the central figures, the other Diers (even the title of the group is a pun) are equally interesting: Levi, the aging rock star, Celeste, a grandmotherly type, Dylan who may or may not be over the proscribed minimum age of 21, and Lourdes, the Mexican telenovela star are all fully realized, though some of their stories are given a bit more depth than others. Truly though, any one of these people could easily be the protagonist in their own novel, and author Kimberly Packard has done her job well, because I want more, of this group, of this concept, of her words.

If all of this sounds a bit grim, especially as you go into this novel knowing that a significant amount of the cast will be dead at the end, fear not. Packard has included a lot of humor into her story. From gallows humor, to sarcasm, to simple organic life moments that make you chuckle, this book is an amazingly lighthearted read, despite the heavy subject.

And then there’s the language. I love it when I encounter language that hooks me, and Packard’s writing did that. The first line that struck me was from Lourdes: “I want to know what it feels like to be alone. To bask in the light of the weaker stars.”  That sentence struck me so hard that I actually texted it to a friend (who just bought the Kindle copy of the book, based on my gushing.)

There’s an old theatre adage, attributed in various forms to the late Edmund Gwenn:  “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” In Dire’s Club Kimberly Packard handles both with grace and aplomb.

Goes well with: Grilled sea bass, sauteed spinach and mushrooms, mashed potatoes with Gouda, and a glass of pinot noir, which actually pairs really well with fish.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS:
2 Winners: Autographed Paperbacks;
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4/7/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
4/8/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
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4/9/21 Review The Clueless Gent
4/10/21 Review Jennie Reads
4/11/21 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
4/12/21 Review Bibliotica
4/13/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
4/13/21 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
4/14/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
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Review: A Little Birdie Told Me, by Sharley Scott

A Little Birdie Told Me

 

About the book, A Little Birdie Told Me

A Little Birdie Told Me_ FINALIt’s 1988. The era of young love, with Scott and Charlene melting hearts in Neighbours, and a new princess for the Royal Family. With Bros, Madonna and Wet Wet Wet in the charts, and children hoping for Ghostbusters’ toys in their stockings.

But it’s not all fun for Belinda. If her life was a board game, she’s losing at snakes and ladders. Once she’d been working her way up one of those ladders but, thanks to her snake-like polytechnic lecturer, she’s toppled from the rungs. Now she works in an old people’s home, where her chief duties involve cleaning toilets and emptying commodes.

At least her lovely colleague, Joe, offers excitement in her otherwise dreary life. But Belinda can’t believe he’d be interested in someone like her. Not when her pretty friend, Tracey, only has to glance at a man to have him fall for her.

But just when it seems things are looking up for Belinda, the residents’ precious possessions start to go missing. Then she witnesses a disturbing incident and doesn’t know what to do. Luckily, Belinda has Joe to guide her – until she discovers that he’s hiding a secret, one that forces her to make an agonizing decision.

Will she continue to hide in the shadows, never speaking out – or will she put her future on the line to stand up for what is right? After all, she’s caring for a generation that’s lived through two wars. Now it’s time to fight for them.

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 – and the Maddie Meadows series.

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 fictional characters featured in the Devon Seaside Guesthouse series.

The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows – and its sequel The Gift of a Rose – portray the life of a working single mum. Some of the mischief Maddie’s little one, Josh, gets up to will be familiar to all parents. In real life, Sharley has carried out the threats she made to her son decades ago and now gets her own back him by telling tales to his girlfriend (some of the incidents in the books are inspired by him), although he returns the favour by recounting utterly embarrassing stories about his mum.

Sharley’s latest novel ‘A Little Birdie Told Me…’ is being published in February 2021. This book goes back in time to the late eighties: a time of fun music, interesting fashion, strange hairstyles and no internet or mobile phones. Fancy having to talk to each other! (Says the author who frequents Facebook too often).

Connect with Sharley

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’ve read and reviewed Sharley Scott’s work before, and her books are always absorbing and well-written.

A Little Birdie Told Me is no exception. Protagonist Belinda, like her story, is at times frustrating, funny, and feisty. She is a completely realistic character, and while her best friend Tracey almost slips into the realm of stereotypes, she is also the perfect foil for her friend.

What I really loved about Belinda, and what drew me into this novel, was her flaws. She’s not quick to stand up for herself, she lacks self-confidence, and she tends to mumble. Put together, these things don’t scream “leading lady,” and yet, under Scott’s deft hand what could be a tragic character becomes a romantic heroine.

While Belinda is the focus of the story, I enjoyed meeting Joe, wanted to throttle Belinda’s coworkers, and loved meeting all of the different residents of this retirement home, and seeing them interact with our young lead.

Like the last Scott novel I read, this book is not a predictable, cookie-cutter romance, but a deep, personal story with an element of romance running through it. The dialogue is convincing, and the plot is well-paced, with just enough exposition to keep things clear without ruining the experience for readers who prefer to learn things from the characters’ activities.

A Little Birdie Told Me is a fast, compelling read, perfect for a rainy weekend.

Goes well with: egg salad sandwiches and fresh lemonade enjoyed while lounging on a blanket in the park.

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Spotlight: Aggravated, by Michael Sirois – with Giveaway

BNR Aggravated

 

About the book, Aggravated

  • Publisher: Truth Boots Publishing, LLC
  • Pages: 389 Pages
  • Pub Date: December 11th, 2020
  • Categories: True Crime / Criminal Procedural Law
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover AggravatedDescription: In 2006, the author’s brother, Steve Sirois, was sentenced to serve 35 years in a Texas prison for a horrendous crime, aggravated sexual assault of a child — a crime Steve swore he didn’t commit. After the conviction, Michael started helping Steve write his appeals, but what he saw in the trial transcripts made him question how a jury could have convicted his brother based on that testimony.

Steve’s accuser originally gave vague dates for the crime but soon abandoned those dates and even replaced the details of her claims with new ones. There was no forensic evidence, no DNA, no physical evidence of any kind: nothing but his accuser’s words. The author wondered if he could prove that her accusations were false. But how?

Using affidavits, court transcripts, and interviews, along with additional evidence from public information requests and other factual data, the book lays out a devastating portrait of an untruthful accuser, an overzealous prosecutor, a jury that made a deal to swap votes in order to gain a conviction, and the series of lies that led to that outcome.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Michael Sirois

Author Pic SiroisMichael Sirois was reading by the age of four and was writing quirky short stories by the third grade. In high school he added acting to his bag of tricks. After graduating from the University of Houston, he taught writing, drama, and technology in the middle school trenches for two decades, but continued to act and write, placing well in competitions like the Writer’s Digest Short Story contest and the HBO Project Greenlight series. His first novel, The Jagged Man, was published in 2015, and a two-book series, If a Butterfly, is slated to be published in late-Spring 2021.

After running educational outreach programs at Rice University for seven years, he retired and lives with his wife, Minay, in Spring, Texas, where he is hard at work on a thriller, The Hawthorn’s Sting, and a mystery/thriller, Murder Between Friends, hoping to have a first draft of at least one of them by late-2021. Ideas for a few more are also floating around in that scary place called his brain. Stay tuned.

Connect with Michael:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS receive autographed copies.

 (US only. Ends midnight, CDT, 3/29/2021)

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Spotlight on: Knock Knock by Douglas Thompson – with Giveaway

Knock Knock

 

About the book, Knock! Knock! Lessons Learned and Stories Shared

  • Categories: Nonfiction / Motivational Stories / Positivity/ Relationship Building / Integrity / Time Management / Entrepreneurship
    Publisher: Lucid House Publishing
    Date of Publication: January 8, 2021
  • Pages: 154
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover Knock KnockKnock! Knock! is a fast-paced, fun-filled journey through the author’s career in sales that not only teaches you how to be better at selling but to also have a ton of fun while you are doing it.

Knock! Knock! invites you to join Doug on what salespeople call “a ride along,” which is where a senior salesperson shows a newbie the ropes. This book delivers a winning sales philosophy learned through years of experience and is illustrated by real-life stories that Doug shares — along with multiple Knock-Knock Moments (or lessons and revelations learned) that have fueled his career and that he believes will help yours.

Every one of us is in Sales. If you deal with people, you are in sales. Knock! Knock! teaches you how to get out of your Comfort Zone to believe in yourself and to believe in the product, services, or message you are trying to sell. But it also teaches you to have a great time while you are doing it.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Main Street Reads | GoodReads


Knock Knock

About the author, Douglas Thompson

Douglas ThompsonDouglas Thompson’s passion for improving the customer’s experience as well as the sales profession continues to drive him as he comes up with new ideas to answer this question: How can we make the sales process better? Starting out as an insurance agent going down the street selling accident insurance by knocking on doors, Doug quickly moved into the management side of the life and health insurance industry, hiring and training agents to be successful doing the same. His ability to build successful sales teams caught the eye of the corporate leadership of several major companies. Doug became the vice president of sales and marketing for Conseco and was recruited to do the same for Pacificare, UnitedHealthcare, American Republic, Tranzact, and Humana.

Currently, he is the marketing director for a large national insurance wholesaler that recruits and trains insurance agents and agencies in the senior marketplace across the country, and he continues to build his own general agency, which offers life and health products to the senior population. He is known nationally for his innovations in the sales industry and frequently speaks and trains on his favorite topic of sales.

Doug and his wife Shirley own a Bed & Breakfast in Jefferson Texas.

Connect with Douglas:

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ONE WINNER receives an autographed copy

+ Knock! Knock! coffee cup.

US only. Ends midnight, CST, 3/11/2021.

 

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Spotlight: You Never See Rainbows at Christmas by Elaine Spires

You Never See Rainbows at Christmas

About the book, You Never See Rainbows at Christmas no-rainbows-at-xmas-kindle

  • Paperback : 170 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0992867282
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0992867287
  • Published : November 17, 2020

Like a rhinestone Miss Havisham Eloise plans to spend Christmas alone, lying on the settee, crying her eyes out and listening to Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits.  But a fall in the sleet two nights before Christmas lands her at the feet of rough sleeper Adam who is fighting his own demons.  Limping, cut and bruised, she has no alternative but to accept his offer of help. And instead of rejection and solitude there’s friendship and company and the festive season suddenly seems brighter.  Eloise’s never seen a rainbow at Christmas… Until now.

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About the author, Elaine SpiresElaine Spires

Elaine Spires is a novelist, playwright and actress. Extensive travelling and a background in education and tourism perfected Elaine’s keen eye for the quirky characteristics of people, captivating the humorous observations she now affectionately shares with the readers of her novels. Elaine spends her time between her homes in Essex and Five Islands, Antigua (W.I.).

Connect with Elaine

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You Never See Rainbows at Christmas

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

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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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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