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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Review: All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone, by John J. Jacobson – Giveaway

BNR All the Cowboys Ain't Gone

 

About the book, All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone

  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • Pages: 352
  • Date of Publication: February 23, 2021Cover All the Cowboys Ain't Gone 1 0223
  • Categories: Historical Fiction / Action Adventure / Western
  • Scroll for the Giveaway!!

All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone is the rollicking adventure story of Lincoln Smith, a young Texan living at the beginning of the twentieth century, who thinks of himself as the last true cowboy. He longs for the days of the Old West, when men like his father, a famous Texas Ranger, lived by the chivalric code. Lincoln finds himself hopelessly out of time and place in the fast-changing United States of the new century. When he gets his heart broken by a sweetheart who doesn’t appreciate his anachronistic tendencies, he does what any sensible young romantic would do: he joins the French Foreign Legion. On his way to an ancient and exotic country at the edge of the Sahara, Lincoln encounters a number of curious characters and strange adventures, from a desert hermit who can slow up time to a battle with a crocodile cult that worships the god of death. He meets them all with his own charming brand of courage and resourcefulness.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Bookshop.org | Goodreads


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About the author, John J. Jacobson

John J. JacobsonThough John J. Jacobson didn’t join the French Foreign Legion after being jilted by a girlfriend, or over his displeasure of missing the last great cattle drive, he has, borrowing Churchill’s phrase, lived a rather variegated life. He was born in Nevada, grew up in the West, surfed big waves in Hawaii, circled the world thrice, survived the sixties and seventies, corporate America, and grad school. Among other degrees he has an MA in Renaissance literature from Claremont Graduate University.

Connect with John:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads / BookBub


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI don’t read a lot of westerns but the description of All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone really hooked me, so I asked to review it, and wow! What a fantastic adventure this book is!

Protagonist Lincoln Smith is introduced to us as a young man with a vivid imagination, and a dislike of trains. In fact the first time we meet him, he’s “attacking” one with his pint-sized bow and arrows. Very quickly, we see that while be may balk (as many children and teens do) at being in formal school sessions – run by his mother – he’s inquisitive, intelligent, and interested in the world around him, albeit a version of the world that is already disappearing when the novel opens in 1888.

What follows are a series of adventures that pit Lincoln against the ever changing American – and world – culture and technology, as well as his own dreams and desires. From the open spaces of his native Texas to the exotic locales seen after he really does join the Foreign Legion, Lincoln’s real antagonist is himself, and that story is fascinating.

What I loved about this novel was the language. I could hear the accents in Lincoln’s speech and his mother’s corrections of his phrasing. “Dern” may not technically be cussing, as he points out in an early scene, but his mother doesn’t want him using it anyway. Those organic conversations are universal – what parent hasn’t had such a chat with their child? – and for me they really “sold” this story, grounding it in emotional truth.

Author Jacobson has a knack for vivid description, as well, and I never had a problem visualizing  any setting.

At times funny, poignant, hopeful, and somewhat resigned, All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone makes you wistful for a period in American history long since past, but one that still lingers in the shadows of our imaginations, where we can still slap on a Stetson hat, climb onto an (imaginary for most of us) horse, and keep the modern world from encroaching too far, too quickly.

Goes well with: a bottle of sarsaparilla and leftover brisket in a sandwich.


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FIVE WINNERS each receive a print copy of

All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone.

(US Only. Ends midnight, CDT, March 19, 2021.)

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3/12/21 Review Bibliotica
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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:

Facebook | Website | Goodreads


Giveaway

ONE WINNER receives an autographed copy

+ Knock! Knock! coffee cup.

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

 

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Review: A Brush with Death, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Cosy Mystery Series

 

About the book, A Brush with Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Fiona Leitch

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

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with: hot tea and saffron buns.


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Review: Murder on the Menu, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Mysteries

 

About the book, Murder on the Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the Author, Fiona Leitch

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

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with: organic sausages and mashed potatoes.


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Spotlight: Trust Me, by Candace Hutton – With Giveaway

Trust Me Banner

 

About the book, Trust Me

Trust MeBrooke Anderson never pictured herself as a divorcee at twenty-eight. But when she mentions getting a post-nup to her husband Garrett after one deliciously sex-filled year, he promptly serves her with divorce papers. Admittedly, she could’ve told him about how her father left her and her mother homeless when she was young, and how she’s never been wired to trust anyone. Especially those closest to her. Now, all she wants to do is avoid anywhere he might be so she won’t have to face him again.

But she’s not the only one who can’t seem to trust.

Garrett Call grew up with parents who married for money and wants no part of a life that puts material possessions above love. He reinvented himself in college, complete with a new last name so he couldn’t be tied to his family’s lucrative business. He never even told Brooke the truth. Admittedly, he could’ve handled the issue of a post-nup better with his ex-wife. Maybe he didn’t count on how much he was going to miss having her in his life.

When their best friends’ wedding forces the exes to see each other again, a dangerous man from Garrett’s world threatens Brooke’s life. And they realize the only way to save themselves is to finally learn to trust each other.

Buy, read and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


Trust Me - Candace Hutton AvatarAbout the author, Candace Hutton

Candace Hutton was born and raised on books. She spent a great deal of her teenage years in libraries and bookstores and still tries to sneak off to them as often as possible. Some of her other favorite things are coffee, puppies, and the smell of rain.

Connect with Candace:

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Read an Excerpt from Trust Me

Trust MeContext: Brooke and Garrett bump into each in a club, and they argue about their decision to divorce.

Brooke took a sip of her martini just as a familiar body slid into the chair across from her. Garrett. It wasn’t fair for him to look that good, with the sleeves of his dress shirt rolled up and his tie missing. His hair was artfully tousled, and she felt a stab of satisfaction when she noticed he’d done it himself. It hadn’t been caused by a woman running her fingers through it over and over.

God, why the hell wasn’t he out of her system yet?

His lips were pulled up in a smirk when he sat down, but then the smile slipped a little when he looked at her. “You okay?”

“Perfect.”

“Like I can’t tell when you’re upset.”

She stirred her martini with the olive stick. “Since we’re no longer married, you really don’t have a right to ask me questions like that.”

“I don’t have a right to be a caring human just because we’re no longer married?”

Brooke didn’t respond. She’d never told him about her dad or mom. Never told him about sleeping under an overpass when it rained or wanting someone to come along and rescue them. She didn’t want him thinking she was weak, didn’t want to be that scared little girl around him.

Garrett leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “If it were up to me, we’d still be married.”

“If you’d wanted to stay married, you would’ve signed the damn post-nup,” she snapped.

His jaw twitched with anger. “A marriage built on a contract wouldn’t last.”

“Maybe we weren’t meant to last from the beginning.”

He settled back in his seat. “I don’t know about that. I think I always did a pretty decent job lasting.”


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Review: Comfort Foods, by Kimberly Fish – with Giveaway

BNR Comfort Foods

About the book, Comfort FoodsCover Comfort Foods

  • Series: Comfort Stories – but this is a Standalone Novel
  • Categories: Contemporary / Second Chance Romance
  • Publisher: Fish Tales Publishing
  • Date of Publication: October 7, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 385 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

From the award-winning author of Comfort Plans and Comfort Songs comes a story of two rising stars blitzed by social media. Lacy Cavanaugh and single-dad Rudy Delgardo live a hundred miles apart but meet in the worst possible way. Working at a weekly paper and creating social media for area businesses helps Lacy connect with locals who open her mind to a perspective beyond Instagram. In launching a food-and-wine festival to support Comfort’s new event center, she discovers surprising skills bubbling over, much like the food she’s attempting to cook.

Rudy, on the brink of his restaurant’s takeover, struggles to improve time management so he can create a better relationship with his daughter. Distracted by Lacy and her invitation to the festival, he’s tempted by her beauty, wit, and courage, but as a chef, he rarely gets to enjoy life outside the kitchen. Enemies, illness, and exes add unwelcome spice to the dish they’re concocting—one that will teeter with misunderstanding until the very end.

Will Lacy and Rudy embrace their second chances and discover the perfect seasonings of family, resilience, and grace to create a handwritten recipe of love that will stand the test of time?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Kimberly Fish About the author, Kimberly Fish

Author Kimberly Fish resides in Longview, Texas, and enjoys writing contemporary fiction set in the Hill Country. During the seven years she lived in San Antonio, wandering in and around Comfort, Texas, provided endless space for her imagination to develop stories of women discovering their grit. She studied the small Texas town that had seemingly dug its heels into the limestone and refused modern development and thought that was fertile ground for stories about women remodeling their lives. It made a juxtaposition of place and purpose that was hard to ignore. Plus, anything that takes intentional effort has a much higher value than the things that come easily—Comfort personifies this, and the novels remind readers that anything worth having is worth the work.

Comfort Foods is the third full-length novel in the set, Fiction from the Texas Hill Country, and follows behind the award-winning novels Comfort Plans and Comfort Songs. A novella, Emeralds Mark the Spot, is available as a free eBook download to subscribers of the incredibly sporadic newsletter at kimberlyfish.com and is the original story from which all other Comfort novels grew.

Connect with Kimberly:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Kimberly Fish is one of those authors you can trust to always tell a great story. She writes realistic, interesting characters, who feel like people you’d want to know (with a few exceptions who are still vividly drawn, but so annoying you hope they walk off a cliff – I’m looking at you, Amy Marsh). The fact that she can create such a visceral reaction to antagonist who exists mostly in references made by the protagonist is proof of her craft. Ms. Fish is an amazing writer.

Fish’s latest novel, Comfort Foods is an amazing book.

At 385 pages, this novel is a meaty, satisfying story that is as much about reinventing yourself as it is about finding love at different stages of your life. Protagonist Lacy Cavanaugh is a former singer and social influencer who has been put in tech jail after using her powers to expose the truth about the afore-mentioned Amy Marsh. leaves the bright lights of Dallas for the Texas Hill Country town of Comfort, where her sister raises goats and makes cheese, and her friend runs a lavender farm. If that sounds more like a vacation than a punishment, than you, like me, will love this book.

Lacy comes off as a bit self-entitled at first, but I quickly grew to find her charming. She’s pretty, funny, smart, and a loyal friend, and though she’s forbidden from posting to her own social media accounts, is happy to help her sister and friends maximize their exposure. She’s the kind of woman who does a lot of things well, and just hasn’t settled into a really productive and positive niche. Even though I’m a couple of decades older than Lacy, I really identified with that aspect of her personality. (I sometimes joke that I’m a professional dilettante.)

Lacy may be the central character, but the other people we meet, in Comfort and a hundred miles away in Austin, are equally compelling. Rudy Delgardo, a successful chef and divorced father to a precious little girl named Luna, is dynamic. His conflict over his responsibilities to his job and to his child are totally plausible – things every working parent must work through. It’s no surprise when he’s reluctant to enter into a relationship.

But Lacy and Rudy aren’t the only paring in this novel. Fish gave us two fantastic characters in Frank, owner of the local paper and Lacy’s boss/mentor and Gloria, Frank’s ex-wife, who is also Lacy’s landlady and  mother-figure (because every woman needs a mother, no matter her age – and I love that Kimberly Fish understands that.) Watching the combination of tenderness and pricklyness between the two is both funny and endearing – I’d happily read a whole novel based on just them.

Kale, AJ (the lavender farmer), and their spouses round out the regulars in Comfort, and each one is a perfect voice in the chorus that is this novel.

And then there is Comfort itself. This fictional Texas town is as much a setting as a character, and after reading two of Fish’s previous books set there, it’s a town I wish I could visit in real life and not just in the pages of a novel.

Overall, Comfort Foods is a wonderful slice of life story with just enough romance to keep things interesting, but without being overpowering. It has scenes with great food. It has moments of perfect sunsets over fields of lavender. It is the perfect book for these January days when we are past the holidays, stuck in the winter doldrums, and overwhelmed by the realities of the Pandemic and politics.

Kimberly Fish is an author who always hits the right notes with her stories. In Comfort Foods those notes are herbs and spices instead of chords, but they still harmonize beautifully.

Goes well with a burger made on a backyard grill, homemade French fries, and a cold “Dublin” Dr. Pepper (the kind made with real sugar and sold in glass bottles


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ONE WINNER 

GRANDPRIZE (US only):

Signed copy of COMFORT FOODS +

Ina Garten’s MODERN COMFORT FOOD

Ends Midnight, CST, January 22, 2021

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1/12/21 Guest Post Hall Ways Blog
1/12/21 Review Sydney Young, Stories
1/13/21 Excerpt Forgotten Winds
1/14/21 Review Jennie Reads
1/14/21 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
1/15/21 Review The Clueless Gent
1/16/21 Review Jennifer Silverwood
1/17/21 Guest Post All the Ups and Downs
1/18/21 Review Momma on the Rocks
1/18/21 Character Interview StoreyBook Reviews
1/19/21 Review Book Bustle
1/19/21 Guest Post That’s What She’s Reading
1/20/21 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
1/21/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
1/21/21 Review Bibliotica

 

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

BNR Black-Marketer's Daughter

 

About the book, The Black-Marketer’s Daughter

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

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

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

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

Praise for this book:

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

 


Author Pic MallickAbout the author, Suman Mallick

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

Connect with Suman:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | AMAZON | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts

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

And all that in less than two hundred pages!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

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

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

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Spotlight: Christmas at the Marshmallow Cafe, by CP Ward

Christmas at the Marshmallow Cafe

 

Christmas me profile-001About the book, Christmas at the Marshmallow Cafe

When downtrodden checkout assistant Bonnie Green receives a letter from a mysterious uncle, she can hardly believe her eyes.

Gifted a hundred-year lease on a famous cafe situated in the middle of a mythical theme park, Bonnie sets off with her best friend Debbie on an adventure to a hidden valley in the Lake District where they will find new friendship, love, and happiness, all set against the magic of Christmas … and more marshmallows than they can possibly eat….

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase | Goodreads


About the author, CP Ward

CP Ward is an author from Cornwall in the UK.

Connect with CP:

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Review: Christmas in Cockleberry Bay, by Nicola May

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the author, Nicola May Nicola May

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

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

Connect with Nicola

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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