Review: Warwick’s Mermaid, by Ellie Gray

Warwicks Mermaid

 

About the book, Warwick’s Mermaid WarwicksMermaidbyEllieGray1800HR

  • Publication date : October 11, 2017
  • Publisher : Tirgearr Publishing (October 11, 2017)
  • Print length : 178 pages

Having escaped an abusive relationship, Chloe MacGregor is determined to put the past behind her. The little cottage high up on the cliffs overlooking the beautiful North Yorkshire town of Whitby is her safe haven, somewhere she is free to be herself.

When the arrival of her new neighbour and boss, Luke Warwick, threatens her peaceful, sheltered life, Chloe is forced to confront her past and to re-evaluate who she really is. Falling in love with Luke is not part of her plan but, to her surprise, Luke is falling for her too. The only thing preventing their happy ever after is Chloe herself. Will she ever truly learn to leave the past where it belongs?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Ellie Gray

Ellie GrayEllie says…

I’m a contemporary romance author, published with the lovely Tirgearr Publishing, and am a proud member of the Romantic Novelist Association. I live in the beautiful East Riding of Yorkshire in the UK and, although I work full-time in the public sector, my favourite pastime, when not writing, is wandering around old stately homes.

My debut novel, Beauty and the Recluse, was published in February 2016, closely followed by my second, Love on the Nile, which was released in the Summer of 2016. My third novel, Warwick’s Mermaid, was published in October 2017 and I’m currently working on my fourth.

A few random pieces of information about me:

  • Favourite TV shows – The Walking Dead, The X-Files, Nashville, Dr. Who, the Great British Bake-off.
  • Favourite Music – I’m an 80’s girl!, country, sixties, Elvis, classical (when I’m writing)
  • Favourite Food – Indian, tapas, crisps
  • Favourite Drink – black coffee (copious amounts when I’m writing) sauvignon blanc

Connect with Ellie:

Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellEllie Gray is a new author to me, but I took a chance on this title because if you call yourself The Bathtub Mermaid (as I do) you cannot pass up anything with “mermaid” in the title. Of course the mermaid in this novel isn’t literal, but refers to Chloe, our protagonist, a well-rounded woman who loves to walk on the beach, collect shells, and play with her dog, a female shepherd named Jasper.

We first meet Chloe as she’s exiting an abusive relationship, and author Gray handled that plot point with great care and delicacy. It was never glossed over, and the experience colored many of Chloe’s later reactions and responses, but at the same time, it never overtook the the story. Balance is something a lot of authors never learn; Ellie Gray’s work on this novel exemplifies it.

The romance between Chloe and Luke was wonderful to read. Gray captured the reluctance of two complicated people to succumb to attraction, thus taking on further complications. Both characters were well drawn, but I also appreciated the supporting characters, especially Chloe’s friend Rebekah. (Her other friend, Lucie, made me want to throttle her for inconsiderate behavior, which just proves how talented Ellie Gray is!)

The story was well-paced, and the time spent on characters engaging in self-examination did not feel indulgent. Rather it was both organic and necessary, and I appreciated that Gray recognized that need.

No review of Warwick’s Mermaid can be considered complete without mentioning the Whitby beaches where Chloe walks. The descriptions of sand and sea were so vivid that I came away from some scenes with the urge to shake sand out of my own shoes. As someone who was nearly born on the beach, I was quite drawn to those scenes, and I love that the shore became a sort of silent character in this novel.

This novel is a lyrical, expressive story where there is as much of the main character falling in love with herself as there is with her falling in love with the male lead. It’s a deep and satisfying read that leaves you slightly wistful for a barefoot walk on the sand with someone holding your hand.

Goes well with any kind of fish stew – my favorite is cioppino, but choose what you will – and a glass of wine.


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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

 (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: The Square Root of Texas, by Rob Witherspoon

BNR Square Root of Texas

About the Book The Square Root of Texas

The First Calamity of QED Morningwood

  • Genre: Satire / Humor / Absurdist Fiction
  • Publisher: Independently Published
  • Date of Publication: September 26, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 181 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Hi Res Square RootQED Morningwood is a liar, braggart and teller of tall tales. When he shows up at the domino parlor with a mysterious Russian crate in the back of his pick-up truck, he confides to the players he is a ‘Shadow’ member of the NRA, not on their official membership roll, and has a load of rocket propelled grenades – all lies. The news spreads to the real Shadow NRA, the FBI and Homeland Security. Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Cultural Preservation sends an agent to retrieve the crate, the actual contents known only to the Russians.

The Russian agent, an FBI team, a DHS undercover agent and a Shadow NRA hit team arrive in Heelstring, Texas looking for QED and his crate. Their convergence is followed by interrogations, seduction, lies, arrests, jailbreak, kidnapping and rescue – along with car chases and explosions. If not for Cotton Widdershins, an ancient black man with secrets of his own, who acts as QED’s mentor and savior, the Morningwood line would be doomed to end, or at best spend life in a federal penitentiary.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Rob Witherspoon

Author Pic WitherspoonRob Witherspoon was born and raised in rural Texas. He earned a BA in Physical Education, UT Arlington 1985 and a BS in Aerospace Engineering, UT Arlington 1990. He worked in the aerospace industry for 30 years before retiring in 2018. He lives in north central Texas with his wife and youngest daughter and has spent much of his life in rural communities and on the ranch. He combines his love for Texas, lying, the outdoors, engineering, and his children in his writing.

Connect with Rob:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  | TWITTER AMAZON  GOODREADS  | YOUTUBE 


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellFrom the very first scene of Cotton Widdershins and the other menfolk in this story playing dominoes and drinking coffee that might or might not not be ‘just’ coffee, I was hooked on The Square Root of Texas.

In this novel, Rob Witherspoon introduces us to QED “Kid” Morningwood, the town… well… referring to him as the town calamity would not be entirely inaccurate. It’s a good thing this book is both humor and satire because otherwise I wouldn’t sure whom to feel bad for: Kid, or everyone else.

Much of the story is told through the perspective of Cotton Widdershins, which is fantastic because he makes these seemingly commonplace observations that lend to both truth and hilarity, like telling everyone to look out the window at Kid and his blazing (literally) truck in the beginning of the novel, because Morningwood won’t be satisfied if there aren’t witnesses to his disaster of the moment.

Witherspoon’s creativity isn’t limited to character names or situations, though. This novel takes place in an alternate version of Texas, where he’s changed the place names both to protect the not-so-innocent and just to be silly. And unabashed silliness is at the heart of this book. Witherspoon defies structure, eschewing formal chapters for suggested activities when we readers need a break (as someone who does a ton of reading in the bathroom, I mainly did laundry and got more coffee, but you are free to follow other ideas) and inventing a “mesologue” in the middle of the story.

It takes a special kind of brain – and a lot of bravado – to create something that meshes a fantastic (in all senses of the word) plot with instances of both black and conventional humor, but Witherspoon has done so with aplomb. That being said, I feel that there are things that I missed, because I’m not as steeped in Texas culture and lore as an actual native.

A short book at under 200 pages, The Square Root of Texas is fast, funny, and fabulous.

Goes well with coffee (with whatever additive you like) and popcorn, because this story is quite the show.


Giveaway

THREE WINNERS 

GRAND PRIZE (US only):

Signed Copies of The Square Root of Texas and Deus Tex Machina

2ND PRIZE (US only): Signed Copy of The Square Root of Texas

3RD PRIZE  (US Only): Kindle Copy of The Square Root of Texas

Giveaway ends midnight, CST, 11/20/2020

 

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11/10/2020 Notable Quotable Texas Book Lover
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11/11/2020 Review Max Knight
11/12/2020 Author Video StoreyBook Reviews
11/13/2020 Review Book Bustle
11/14/2020 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
11/15/2020 Guest Post Video Sybrina’s Book Blog
11/16/2020 Review Jennie Reads
11/17/2020 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
11/18/2020 Review Reading by Moonlight
11/19/2020 Review Bibliotica

 

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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

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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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11/9/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
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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.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS 

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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LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Review: The 12 Christmases of You & Me by Jennifer Joyce

The 12 Christmases of You & Me

 

About the book, The 12 Christmases of You & Me

The_12_Christmases_of_You_&_Me_Jennifer_Joyce_pngWhat if you could go back in time and fix the biggest mistake of your life?

Two years ago, Maisie’s best friend walked out of her life and she hasn’t heard from him since. When she wakes up in 1994, she naturally assumes she’s dreaming. But when she finds herself in the past again the next night and her actions in the dream alter her present-day life, she begins to wonder if she’s somehow hopping back in time. And if she is time-travelling, can she save her friendship with Jonas?

When Maisie is forced to relive Christmases of the past, will she face up to her mistakes, or make them all over again?

The 12 Christmases of You & Me is a magical tale of friendship, first loves, and learning to live in the present.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jennifer Joyce

Jennifer JoyceJennifer Joyce is a writer of romantic comedies who lives in Manchester with her husband and their two daughters. She’s been scribbling down bits of stories for as long as she can remember, graduating from a pen to a typewriter and then an electronic typewriter. And she felt like the bee’s knees typing on THAT. She now writes her books on a laptop (which has a proper delete button and everything).

Connect with Jennifer:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellJennifer Joyce’s novel The 12 Christmases of You & Me came to me on a rainy day in autumn, which seems appropriate, since it opens on a rainy day in November, with the main character complaining that it’s too soon for a Christmas Countdown since Halloween and Bonfire Night have only just passed. As someone who revels in Halloween, I appreciated this sentiment more than is probably healthy, and felt an instant connection with Maisie.

And how could I not? In her lead character, Joyce has given us a funny, candid woman who is also a single mom feeling a bit adrift from her teenaged daughter, something all mothers and daughters experience at some point. She’s also a therapist, good at helping her clients find truth and equilibrium when she’s a bit out of balance herself.

The time travel dreams, allowing Maisie to relive her youth with her friends Lily and Jonas, are an interesting convention in a Christmas novel. It’s almost as if Joyce said “What if the Ghost of Christmas Past was YOU?” While some of Maisie’s dream-alterations do seem to flow into her waking life, she seems to instinctively know that there are fixed points (to borrow a concept from Doctor Who) that cannot be changed.

Ultimately her dream journey is one of self-discovery, and watching her unfold each memory is delightful, and evocative of the wistfulness we all feel when gazing at photo albums, whether they are digital or analog.

The supporting characters in this story were all as vivid as Maisie. Lily, her best friend, was the perfect slightly nervous bride, and I liked the way Joyce wrote her as almost a non-biological sister to Maisie. Similarly Aaron and Jonas were dimensional from their first introductions, and if the latter at first made me think of Ricky from My So-Called Life , I hope I can be forgiven, because with the exception of a teenaged fondness for eye-liner, the two are nothing alike.

Maisie’s Mum  and Dad (Fran and Mick) and her daughter Annabelle also felt supremely real, and in the latter, particularly, Joyce managed to capture the mix of sullen young woman and sweet child that so many teenagers can be. (I know I was, and I’ve apologized to my own mother more than once.)

While the title of this novel might imply a story full of fluff, this is absolutely not the case. The Christmas setting is neither sugary or saccharine, but serves as a perfect time of reflection with a hint of magic, and every character takes a journey that leads them down their proper path.

Goes well with a sandwich of leftover holiday turkey with cranberry sauce and cream cheese. (Trust me, it’s delicious.)


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Endless Skies

About the book, Endless Skies

  • Paperback : 281 pages
  • Publisher : Sapere Books (July 26, 2020)

Endless Skies - coverAs archaeologist Rachel excavates a World War Two airfield, could a love story from the past hold a lesson for her as well?

After yet another disastrous love affair Rachel has been forced to leave her long-term position for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University. Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out. But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again…

She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney. He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…

As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past. Could a wartime love story have any bearing on her own situation? Could this time be different?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

UK Readers (99p til October 23) | US Readers (Amazon) | Goodreads


About the author, Jane Cable

Jane Cable I write romance with a twist, that extra something to keep readers guessing right to the end. While my books are character driven my inspiration is always a British setting; so far a village in Yorkshire (The Cheesemaker’s House), a Hampshire wood (The Faerie Tree), gorgeous Studland Bay in Dorset (Another You) and rural Lincolnshire (Endless Skies).

I was born and raised in Cardiff but spent most of my adult life living near Chichester before my husband and I upped sticks and moved to Cornwall three years ago.

I published my first two novels independently and have now been signed by Sapere Books. I am an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and contributing editor to Frost online magazine.

Connect with Jane:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Endless Skies was my first introduction to Jane Cable’s writing, and now I’m wondering where she’s been all my life, because her style is both haunting and lyrical, and her descriptions are vivid to the point that I, who have never been to Lincolnshire, or even to England (save for a stopover at Heathrow) felt like I was first, flying home over the area (in the prologue) and later, shopping for antiques with Rachel Ward, our protagonist.

It takes a deft touch and a skilled imagination to create a main character who is abrasive, but still makes you want to follow her journey, and Cable has done that with Rachel. Deliciously flawed, particularly by her taste in men, Rachel, when we meet her is a temporary Archaeology Lecturer at the local university, recovering from her latest love affair gone wrong, and grieving for her dead grandmother. Anyone would be a bit closed off and prickly.

And yet, Rachel remains compelling. Every antique she touches tells a story, and we get to share her attraction to history, and her love of finding why things mattered to the people who once owned them. In this way, we also get to see bits and pieces of her beloved Gran’s own story, which makes this novel all the more interesting.

No story is about a single person, though, and this novel is the richer for three (well, four) of the people whom enter Rachel’s life and stay there. Esther, an elderly woman in a care home, helps her untangle some of the history of the local airfield – the one we first encounter in the prologue. Jem (and his dog Toast) provide a bit of color wrapped in friendship. (Incidentally, Jem lives on a barge, something I’ve always fantasized about.) And Jonathan, a developer Rachel encounters professionally, but who may become the latest in her poorly chosen romances.

Still, romance is at the heart of this story, and the history running through it only makes it more real and more dimensional. This story is one for the ages, perhaps destined to become a classic. It’s rich and luscious and deeply satisfying.

Goes well with: a hearty fish stew.


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