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

Gates of Mars - Banner

About the Book, Gates of Mars

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

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

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

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

Praise for this book:

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

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

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

Buy, read and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the Authors, Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

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

Gates of Mars is their eighth co-authored book.

Connect with Clark and Kathleen:

Facebook ║ Instagram

Connect with Kathleen:

Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter

Connect with Clark:

Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Giveaway

Gates of Mars - Giveaway

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

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

June 29-July 8, 2020

(U.S. Only)

 

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Review: The English Wife, by Adrienne Chinn

About the Book, The English Wife

The English WifeTwo women, a world apart.

A secret waiting to be discovered…

VE Day 1945: As victory bells ring out across the country, war bride Ellie Burgess’ happiness is overshadowed by grief. Her charismatic Newfoundlander husband Thomas is still missing in action.

Until a letter arrives explaining Thomas is back at home on the other side of the Atlantic recovering from his injuries.

Travelling to a distant country to live with a man she barely knows is the bravest thing Ellie has ever had to do. But nothing can prepare her for the harsh realities of her new home…

September 11th 2001: Sophie Parry is on a plane to New York on the most tragic day in the city’s history. While the world watches the news in horror, Sophie’s flight is rerouted to a tiny town in Newfoundland and she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged aunt Ellie.

Determined to discover what it was that forced her family apart all those years ago, newfound secrets may change her life forever…

This is a timeless story of love, sacrifice and resilience perfect for fans of Lorna Cook and Gill Paul.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the Author, Adrienne Chinn

Adrienne ChinnAdrienne Chinn was born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, grew up in Quebec, and eventually made her way to London, England after a career as a journalist. In England she worked as a TV and film researcher before embarking on a career as an interior designer, lecturer, and writer. When not up a ladder or at the computer, she can usually be found rummaging through flea markets or haggling in the Marrakech souk. Her second novel, The English Wife — a timeslip story set in World War II England and contemporary Newfoundland — is published in June 2020. Her debut novel, The Lost Letter from Morocco, was published by Avon Books UK in 2019. She is currently writing her third novel, The Photographer’s Daughters, the first of a 3-book series, to be published in 2021.

Connect with Adrienne:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI’ve been obsessed with the musical Come From Away, which tells the story of how the people of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed the “plane people”  – the travelers of the thirty-seven international flights that were diverted away from U.S. airspace after the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001.

The English Wife is not connected to the musical, and yet, because I know the play, the contemporary parts of this wonderful novel felt very familiar to me, as they also take place in Gander, Newfoundland, beginning on September 11th, 2001, and continuing from there, as one of the many vibrant female characters in the story, Sophie, is one of the “plane people.”

But, not all of the novel takes place in Gander – half the story is set in England during World War II, where we meet Ellie and Dottie, sisters living with daily fear of bombings, as well as the thrill of being young women (well, Dottie is really just a girl when we first meet her) in the first blushes of young love.

The story is a sweeping family drama, with three strong women at the center – Ellie and Dottie in the distant past, and Sophie in the recent past – but there are also male characters who add to the tale, for they are the love interests, the people who gently push the women to greater achievements, and the quiet presences who balance their partners.

Thomas and George, in the WWII sections, and Sam in the more contemporary parts of the story are those central male figures, and they are each as interesting and dimensional as the women with whom they interact.

Rounding out the story is a host of supporting characters, most importantly Emmett (Emmy), Florie, and Becca (Sam’s daughter, who is deaf.)

Author Adrienne Chinn weaves the historical and contemporary parts of her tale together with great aplomb, and her craft is really highlighted by her use of the Newfoundland dialect and the way she describes people using sign language with Becca. (As an aside, I’m now curious as to whether Newfoundlanders use ASL or BSL or something specifically Canadian.) Her skill with dialogue does as much to tell us about her characters as their physical descriptions do.

Overall, this was a story rich in cultural and historical detail, family drama, and a plot that had the perfect pace for a novel  that blends history, romance, personal tragedy, and layered relationships into a satisfying and compelling whole.

Goes well with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and a really good ale.

The English Wife Blog Tour

 

Review: Resurrecting Rain, by Patricia Averbach

About the book, Resurrecting Rain

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Golden Antelope Press (February 3, 2020)

Resurrecting RainDeena’s house is being auctioned off at sheriff’s sale and her marriage is falling apart. As her carefully constructed life unravels, her thoughts return to the New Moon Commune outside Santa Fe where she was born, and to Rain, the lesbian mother she had abandoned at fourteen. No one, not even her husband and children, know about New Moon or that she sat Shiva for Rain in exchange for living in her Orthodox grandmother’s house in an upscale suburb of Cleveland.

Deena’s story unfolds with empathy and wit as a cascade of disasters leaves this middle aged librarian unmoored from her home and family, penniless and alone on the streets of Sarasota, Florida. The novel is populated with deftly drawn characters full of their own secrets and surprises–from Deena’s blue haired freegan daughter who refuses to tell her parents where she lives, to the octogenarian TV writer who believes that crows are the reincarnated souls of Jews lost in the Holocaust. Deena loses her house, but will she find a home? Maybe the crows know.

Resurrecting Rain explores the unanticipated consequences of the choices that we make, the bonds and boundaries of love and the cost of our infatuation with materialism. At its heart the novel is a tale of loss and redemption, a reevaluation of our material culture and an appreciation for the blessing of friends and family. It demonstrates that sometimes you have to lose everything before you find yourself.

Praise for Resurrecting Rain:

“Averbach unspools her story with dark humor and a mounting sense of calamity. Her prose is measured yet vigorous, capturing the chagrin Deena feels with each new humiliation…Averbach approaches Deena’s problems with restraint and seriousness and has things to say about materialism and self-exploration… an organic and quite captivating plot. A finely drawn story of a woman losing everything and finding herself.”
 -Kirkus Review

“A deftly crafted novel by an author with an engaging narrative storytelling style — extraordinary and unique-— highly recommended, especially for contemporary literary fiction collections. “Resurrecting Rain” is one of those novels that linger in the mind of the reader long after the book itself has been set back upon the shelf.”
-MidwestBook Review

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Patricia Averbach

Patricia AverbachPatricia Averbach, a Cleveland native, is the former director of the Chautauqua Writers’ Center in Chautauqua, New York.

Averbach’s second novel, Resurrecting Rain, the contemporary story of a woman who loses her house but finds her home, was released by Golden Antelope Press in 2020.

Her first novel, Painting Bridges, was described in a Cleveland Plain Dealer review as “introspective, intelligent and moving.” Her poetry chapbook, Missing Persons, received the London based Lumen/Camden award in 2013 and was selected by the Times of London Literary Supplement (Nov. 2014) as one of the best short collections of the year.

Previous work includes a memoir about her early career as Anzia Yezierska’s sixteen year old literary assistant and an article about the Jewish community in a virtual world called, Second Life. Her work has appeared in Lilith Magazine, Margie, The Muse, and The Blue Angel Review.

Connect with Patricia:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissAs much as I enjoy all fiction, I always find it really refreshing when the protagonist of a story is a mature adult. Not old, just not twenty. Patricia Averbach’s novel Resurrecting Rain is the perfect example of such a novel, because when we initially meet Deena she’s a librarian with a failing marriage, among other catastrophic life events.

What I loved about this story was the way Averbach wove together Deena’s past and present. The novel never felt like it was overwhelming you with exposition, but rather, the backstory was offered in context, so we got to see our main character fully formed, and in the process of forming.

I also appreciated the way Averbach wrote dialogue. From Deena’s grandmother to her mother to herself, each character had a distinct voice and tone, and yet, the sense that they were all connected by family ties was also evident in the characterization, the descriptions, and even some of the speech patterns. This attention to detail is what made Resurrecting Rain really sing for me.

Overall, this novel is proof that one can have a coming-of-age experience at any point in their life. Deena, when we meet her, is a character in flux, but as her story progresses she becomes more and more herself, owning her past and, building on it. This not only made for a satisfying read, but it also made her feel more real.

Averbach is definitely a writer whose work I’ll be reading more of, and Resurrecting Rain is a novel I’m recommending to every woman I know.

Goes well with: coffee and an onion bagel with cream cheese and lox. Capers and tomato optional.


Patricia Averbach’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

TLC BOOK TOURSWednesday, April 15th: Audio Killed the Bookmark

Wednesday, April 22nd: Really Into This – author guest post

Monday, April 27th: BookNAround

Monday, May 4th: Books, Cooks, Looks

Thursday, May 7th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, May 11th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm – author guest post

Monday, May 11th: @pnwbookworm

Monday, May 18th: Eliot’s Eats

Wednesday, May 20th: Bibliotica

Thursday, May 21st: Kahakai Kitchen

TBD: Friday, April 17th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews and @bluntscissorsbookreviews

TBD: Wednesday, April 29th: Openly Bookish

TBD: Thursday, May 7th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: Lost in Oaxaca, by Jessica Winters Mireles

About the book, Lost in Oaxaca

 

  • Print Length: 328 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (April 21, 2020)
  • Publication Date: April 21, 2020

Lost in OaxacaOnce a promising young concert pianist, Camille Childs retreated to her mother’s Santa Barbara estate after an injury to her hand destroyed her hopes for a musical career. She now leads a solitary life teaching piano, and she has a star student: Graciela, the daughter of her mother’s Mexican housekeeper. Camille has been grooming the young Graciela for the career that she herself lost out on, and now Graciela, newly turned eighteen, has just won the grand prize in a piano competition, which means she gets to perform with the LA Philharmonic. Camille is ecstatic; if she can’t play herself, at least as Graciela’s teacher, she will finally get the recognition she deserves.

But there are only two weeks left before the concert, and Graciela has disappeared—gone back to her family’s village in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. Desperate to bring Graciela back in time for the concert, Camille goes after her, but on the way there, a bus accident leaves her without any of her possessions. Alone and unable to speak the language, Camille is befriended by Alejandro, a Zapotec man who lives in LA but is from the same village as Graciela. Despite a contentious first meeting, Alejandro helps Camille navigate the rugged terrain and unfamiliar culture of Oaxaca, allowing her the opportunity to view the world in a different light—and perhaps find love in the process.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Winters Mireles

Jessica Winters MirelesBorn and raised in Santa Barbara, California, Jessica Winters Mireles holds a degree in piano performance from USC. After graduating, she began her career as a piano teacher and performer. Four children and a studio of over forty piano students later, Jessica’s life changed drastically when her youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two; she soon decided that life was too short to give up on her dreams of becoming a writer, and after five years of carving out some time each day from her busy schedule, she finished Lost in Oaxaca. She also knows quite a bit about Oaxaca, as her husband is an indigenous Zapotec man from the highlands of Oaxaca and is a great source of inspiration. She lives with her husband and family in Santa Barbara, California.

Connect with Jessica

Website | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissIn Lost in Oaxaca, author Jessica Winters Mireles gives us a story that mixes romance, adventure, and an exploration of the human condition with just enough suspense to keep things interesting. More, she weaves these components into a seamless whole and a compelling story.

We initially meet our protagonist, Camille, on a bus in Mexico, but just after our initial meeting, we are treated to the first of many flashbacks exploring her earlier life. This method of telling a story from both ends and the same time is not new, but in Mireles’s hands it doesn’t feel anything but organic.

Mireles is particularly adept at both giving us the essence of a character with comparatively little backstory  – we get a sense of who Alejandro is from his very first appearance, for example – and writing truthful dialogue. While I’ve never been to Oaxaca, I’ve spent an extensive amount of time in  Baja Sur, on the Pacific side of Mexico, and I really appreciated the way Spanish words and phrases were used to lend authenticity to the characters, without ever seeming like the author was either pandering or creating stereotypes rather than real people.

Overall, Lost in Oaxaca is a gripping story with vivid, dimensional characters whom we care about from the first page.

Goes well with: chicken mole, blue corn tortillas and Bohemia beer.

 

Review – First Herd to Abilene, by Preston Lewis – with Giveaway

First Herd to Abilene

About the book, First Herd to Abilene

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Western / Humor
  • Publisher: Wolfpack Publishing
  • Date of Publication: February 5, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 449
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

First Herd to AbileneAn H. H. Lomax Western, #5

HISTORICALLY SOUND AND HILARIOUSLY FUNNY! H.H. Lomax meets Wild Bill Hickok in Springfield, Missouri, and is responsible for Hickok’s legendary gunfight with Davis Tutt. Fearing Hickok will hold a grudge, Lomax escapes Springfield and agrees to promote Joseph G. McCoy’s dream of building Abilene, Kansas, into a cattle town, ultimately leading the first herd to Abilene from Texas.

Along the way, he encounters Indians, rabid skunks, flash floods, a stampede, and the animosities of some fellow cowboys trying to steal profits from the drive. Lomax is saved by the timely arrival of now U.S. Marshal Hickok, but Lomax uses counterfeit wanted posters to convince Hickok his assailants are wanted felons with rewards on their heads.

Lomax and Wild Bill go their separate ways until they run into each other a decade later in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, where Hickok vows to kill Lomax for getting him fired.

First Herd to Abilene is an entertaining mix of historical and hysterical fiction.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonBarnes and NobleBookshop.org | Goodreads


About the author, Preston Lewis

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

Connect with Preston:

WEBSITE ║ FACEBOOK ║ GOODREADS AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE


My Thoughts

MissMelissOne of the first musicals I was ever in as a kid was Annie Get Your Gun, so when I read the description of this novel, and saw that Wild Bill Hickok was a character, I knew I had to read it, even though I had not read books 1-4 of this series. I’m not a frequent reader of true westernsi, but I’m really glad I took a chance on First Herd to Abilene, because reading it was a rich and rewarding experience.

First, this novel is written in first person, which proves that the author, Preston Lewis, is incredibly talented, because sustaining a first-person narrative is incredibly difficult to do well. And boy, howdy, does Lewis do it well. I felt like Lomax was telling me his story over a campfire, while we shared barbecued meat and cold beer. This novel is completely immersive, and thoroughly enjoyable.

What worked particularly well was the insertion of real, historical characters into the story. Lewis clearly knows his history well, and it shows, because never once are you pulled out of the story because a detail doesn’t ring true.

In addition to grand adventure and some very human moments, this novel has humor woven into it from the first line to the last. Some of the humor comes from situations, but some is also in the name – almost all of Lomax’s relatives are named after famous (or infamous) historical figures – George Washington Lomax, for instance.

If you want a book that blends craft, style, and story into a truly satisfying whole, read First Herd to Abilene. It’s a rollicking good adventure with attention paid to history.

Goes well with barbecued brisket sandwiches and cold beer.


Giveaway (ends May 8)

Giveaway

1ST PRIZE: 

Signed Copies of First Herd to Abilene and Bluster’s Last Stand

2ND PRIZE: 

Signed Copy of First Herd to Abilene

APRIL 28-MAY 8, 2020

(US ONLY)

 

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Review: A Shop Girl at Sea by Rachel Brimble

A Shop Girl at Sea

About the book A Shop Girl at Sea

  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Aria (April 9, 2020)
  • Publication Date: April 9, 2020

A Shop Girl At Sea CoverBath, 1912.

Amelia Wakefield loves working at Pennington’s, Bath’s finest department store. An escape from her traumatic past, it saved her life. So when Miss Pennington sets her a task to set sail on the Titanic and study the department stores of New York, she couldn’t be more excited – or determined!

Frustrated with his life at home, Samuel Murphy longs for a few weeks of freedom and adventure. Meeting Amelia on board the Titanic, Samuel can’t help wonder what painful history has made the beauty so reserved. But he already has too many responsibilities for love.

Ruby Taylor has always kept her Pennington co-workers at a distance. Making sure her little brother is safe has always been her priority. But when that means accepting Victoria Lark’s offer of sanctuary, more than one of Ruby’s secrets is under threat of being revealed…

A riveting and uplifting saga, perfect for fans of Elaine Everest and Fiona Ford.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Rachel Brimble

Rachel BrimbleRachel Brimble is the author of the popular Pennington’s Department Store series. Set in Bath’s finest Edwardian department store, the series is a romantic saga filled with drama, intrigue and long-lasting love.

The first book, The Mistress of Pennington’s was a number one bestseller in the Amazon historical category in Australia and also selling well in the UK and US. The second book, A Rebel At Pennington’s was released in February 2019 and the latest instalment, Christmas At Pennington’s was released in September 2019. The next book is due for release in Spring 2020 (all books can be read as single titles).

She also wrote the Harlequin Templeton Cove series which consists of eight books that are either mainstream romance or romantic suspense stories. The Templeton Cove series is sexy, romantic and compelling. Finally, she has written a four-book Victorian series for Kensington Books and several single titles for The Wild Rose Press.

Her next trilogy will be set in a Victorian brothel in Bath and will feature three strong, resilient heroines who come together in the name of survival. Watch this space for news of a release date for book one!

When Rachel isn’t working she likes to read, knit, watch TV and walk the English countryside with her family and beloved chocolate Labrador, Tyler.

To find out more about Rachel’s novels, go to her books page – it’s quite possible there will be more than one title to tempt you…


My Thoughts

MissMelissA Shop Girl at Sea, is the fourth book in author Rachel Brimble’s Pennington’s series, which all revolve around the eponymous store in Bath. To the honest, I haven’t read the first three books in this series, so I was a little concerned that I would be at sea. Fortunately, this novel works well as a stand-alone, and I immediately found myself thoroughly engaged with the three stories that are woven together in this story.

Amelia’s story, of course, is the central one, and in this young woman we are given a heroine for all ages, not just the early twentieth century. She’s bright, curious, loyal to those who deserve it and has a healthy amount of ambition. She’s also got a dark and difficult past – which makes all of her good qualities seem much more real, and make her fully human. She’s flawed, as are we all, but she’s working to improve herself.

Then there’s Ruby, whose story has an interesting juxtaposition to Amelia/s. Both are Pennington ‘s shop girls, but Ruby’s threat begins with darkness and moves toward the light in a way that is both heartwarming and incredibly bold for the times.

And finally, there’s Sam who gets a position on the Titanic to escape from his own troublesome family life.

While Sam and Elizabeth meet on the ill-fated ship, that part of the story is a catalyst and a metaphor. It’s a catalyst because experiencing such an event (and Ruby, who does not go on the ship experiences it as well, just not quite so viscerally) changes you, often in ways that take years to truly discover. But it’s also a metaphor, because while Sam and Elizabeth are literally at sea for part of the story, all three characters are at sea in their lives, caught between brutal reality and their hopes and dreams.

Author Brimble was wise not to make this another Titanic novel, but rather a novel that has the ship in it, and her talent really shows at the way she uses that oh, so famous incident to serve the story she’s really telling, without letting it overpower the tale.

I found the characters to be emotionally truthful representatives of every-day people, the sort we can all relate to, because most of us are not so different. I found this novel to be completely engaging and well worth the read.

Goes well with hot tea and lemon scones.

Review: A Firm Place to Stand, by Lori Altebaumer – with Giveaway

BNR A Firm Place to Stand

About the book, A Firm Place to Stand

  • Genre: Christian / Romantic Suspense
  • Independently published
  • Date of Publication: January 25, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 321
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Cover Med Res A Firm Place to StandShe’s either being stalked or losing her mind.

A job at a camp in the rustic and often rugged landscape of West Texas offers Maribel Montgomery a chance to escape both, especially if she makes sure no one knows she’s there. But when the body of a woman washes up in the river on her first morning, her hopes of a safe place to start over are swept away.

The suspicion that she’s being watched follows her to her new home, and Maribel is forced to take a stand or keep running. Does she have the courage to face the danger stirring at the Pool of Siloam Camp? If she doesn’t, another girl might die. If she tries and fails, it could be her.

Circumstances force her into the acquaintance of Conner Pierce—a man with secrets of his own. Can Maribel risk working with him in order to save the next victim and find a missing girl? Or is he the killer?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | BookBaby | BookShop | GoodReads | Lone Star Literary Life


About the author, Lori Altebaumer

Author Pic Lori Altebaumer HeadshotA life-long Texan, Lori lives in a small community not far from the rugged West Texas landscape she loves to write about. The mother of now-grown twins, she has learned that the secret to survival is a well-developed sense of humor and an active prayer life. After years spent working in the insurance business, Lori now uses her time to educate, inspire, encourage, and entertain through the written word.

Connect with Lori:

WEBSITE ║ FACEBOOK ║ TWITTER ║ INSTAGRAM  || GOODREADS ║ AMAZON ║ BOOK BUB


My Thoughts

MissMelissWhile I’m not a particular fan of fiction labeled “Christian,” I dove into this book with an open mind. What I found was that the author, Lori Altebaumer, is brilliant at dialogue and description – if you’ve never experienced  a Texas summer day in reality, you will completely understand what one feels like after this novel. Similarly, you will believe that Maribel, Conner, the sheriff, and all the supporting characters are real people, because they talk like real people.

The opening of this thriller was strong. I was hooked from the first paragraph. The ending gave us enough closure of the mystery to be satisfying – something that not all thrillers accomplish –  while also leaving enough open that we can make delicious speculations about Maribel and Conner’s futures. Where I felt Ms. Altebaumer got a bit muddled was in the middle, when the action slowed and Maribel’s personal, spiritual journey took center stage.

Admittedly, I’m not the target audience for Christian literature,but I admired the skill it took the author to make the story Biblically-based without feeling contrived or preachy. This was not a religious treatise. It was a compelling thriller where the main character’s faith was integral to the story. And Altebaumer deftly wove all the components of her story into a cohesive whole that I thoroughly enjoyed.

If you want a gripping story with authentic characters, A Firm Place to Stand is a worthy choice.

Goes well with: a smothered burrito and sweet tea.


Giveaway

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THREE WINNERS: 

1ST PRIZE

Signed Copy of A Firm Place to Stand + $25 Gift Card to the Texas Indie Bookstore of Choice

2ND PRIZE: Signed Copy of A Firm Place to Stand

3RD PRIZE: eBook of A Firm Place to Stand

APRIL 30-MAY 10, 2020

(US ONLY)

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A Firm Place to Stand Tour Stops

4/30/20 Notable Quotable Texas Book Lover
4/30/20 BONUS post Hall Ways Blog
5/1/20 Review Librariel Book Adventures
5/1/20 Excerpt 1 Reading by Moonlight
5/2/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
5/3/20 Excerpt 2 Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
5/4/20 Review Nerd Narration
5/4/20 Review Bibliotica
5/5/20 Top 5 Book Fidelity
5/5/20 Review The Page Unbound
5/6/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
5/7/20 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
5/7/20 Review Forgotten Winds
5/8/20 Review Tangled in Text
5/9/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
5/9/20 Review Missus Gonzo

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Review: The Road to Delano, by John DeSimone

With apologies, this was supposed to post yesterday, and something went wrong with WordPress, so I’ve posted it today, April 7.

About the book The Road to Delano

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Rare Bird Books (March 10, 2020)

The-Road-to-Delano-coverJack Duncan is a high school senior whose dream is to play baseball in college and beyond?as far away from Delano as possible. He longs to escape the political turmoil surrounding the labor struggles of the striking fieldworkers that infests his small ag town. Ever since his father, a grape grower, died under suspicious circumstances ten years earlier, he’s had to be the sole emotional support of his mother, who has kept secrets from him about his father’s involvement in the ongoing labor strife.

With their property on the verge of a tax sale, Jack drives an old combine into town to sell it so he and his mother don’t become homeless. On the road, an old friend of his father’s shows up and hands him the police report indicating Jack’s father was murdered. Jack is compelled to dig deep to discover the entire truth, which throws him into the heart of the corruption endemic in the Central Valley. Everything he has dreamed of is at stake if he can’t control his impulse for revenge.

While Jack’s girlfriend, the intelligent and articulate Ella, warns him not to so anything to jeopardize their plans of moving to L.A., after graduation, Jack turns to his best friend, Adrian, a star player on the team, to help to save his mother’s land. When Jack’s efforts to rescue a stolen piece of farm equipment leaves Adrian?the son of a boycotting fieldworker who works closely with Cesar Chavez?in a catastrophic situation, Jack must bail his friend out of his dilemma before it ruins his future prospects. Jack uses his wits, his acumen at card playing, and his boldness to raise the money to spring his friend, who has been transformed by his jail experience.

The Road to Delano is the path Jack, Ella, and Adrian must take to find their strength, their duty, their destiny.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Rare Bird Books | Goodreads


About the author, John DeSimone

John-DeSimone-APJohn DeSimone is a published writer, novelist, and teacher. He’s been an adjunct professor and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. His recent co-authored books include Broken Circle: A Memoir of Escaping Afghanistan (Little A Publishers), and Courage to Say No by Dr. Raana Mahmood, about her struggles against sexual exploitation as a female physician in Karachi. His published novel Leonardo’s Chair published in 2005.

In 2012, he won a prestigious Norman Mailer Fellowship to complete his most recent historical novel, Road to Delano. His novels Leonardo’s Chair and No Ordinary Man have received critical recognition.

He works with select clients to write stories of inspiration and determination and with those who have a vital message to bring to the marketplace of ideas in well-written books.

Connect with John:

Find out more about John at his website, and connect with him on Instagram.


My Thoughts

MissMeliss2020The Road to Delano is novel, but it’s based in truth even if the characters aren’t all based on specific real people, and John DeSimone has written that truth in a way that is vivid and cinematic, while still being emotionally real.

While I’m not a lifelong Californian like the author, I did spend my teen years in the San Joaquin valley, in Modesto and Fresno, and while those years were in the 80s, not the 60s, I remember all too well the news coverage of Cesar Chavez’s last hunger strike – the one that was contemporary to my life – as well as picket lines at grocery stores. To this day, I feel guilty whenever I buy grapes.

It is for that reason that this novel gripped me so much. I knew the vagaries of the United Farm Workers’ battle for basic rights and fair work conditions, but I didn’t have a real connection to it. This book gave me that. It gave me context. It gave me a better sense of the history of central California. And, by framing the story as a novel, it also gave me just enough distance that I didn’t have to clench my fists, or walk away from the text and cool down before going back.

As the daughter of activist parents (my parents formed the Amnesty International chapter in Modesto when I was twelve or thirteen), I really appreciated some of the cultural touchstones that DeSimone worked into his story. As someone who grew up with Joan Baez’s music (my Mom was a fan) and later got to meet her (she came for a benefit and slept in a sleeping bag on our floor!) the scene with her singing “Blowin’ in the Wind”  – even though it wasn’t a scene of terrible importance to the plot – really made me feel like I was in the book, and not just reading it.

That was made easier because of DeSimone’s deft use of dialogue. (I hadn’t realized the word “bitchin'” was quite that old – I thought it was from my generation). Similarly, his characters, especially Jack, Adrian, and Ella – but also the growers, the families, the other members of Jack and Adrian’s baseball team – were dimensional. These were not real people, but they easily could have been, and they certainly felt real.

If you’ve ever heard the name “Cesar Chavez” and wanted to know the context of his fight, if you’ve ever seen people protesting the sale of grapes, if you’ve ever heard the song “Deportee,” or even if you’re just vaguely familiar with the plight of farm workers in America you will find value in this novel. But even if you’re just picking it up because it seems interesting, it is a worthy read, and an important story.

Goes well with beer and tacos. Because I needed both after finishing this novel.


Tour Stops TLC BOOK TOURS

Tuesday, March 10th: Instagram: @jenabrownwrites

Wednesday, March 11th: Run Wright

Thursday, March 12th: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, March 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, March 13th: Orange County Readers

Monday, March 16th: BookNAround

Thursday, March 19th: Girl Who Reads

Friday, March 20th: Broken Teepee

Monday, March 23rd: Audio Killed the Bookmark

Wednesday, March 25th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, March 27th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Monday, March 30th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, March 30th: Life By Kristen

Monday, April 6th: Bibliotica

TBD: Thursday, March 26th: Wellreadtraveler

 

Review: The Gift of Cockleberry Bay, by Nicola May – with Giveaway

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About the book, The Gift of Cockleberry Bay

 

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Lightning Books (April 1, 2020)
  • Scroll down for giveaway.

The Gift of Cockleberry Bay FINAL COVERFrom the author of the #1 BESTSELLING The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay

All of our favourite characters from Cockleberry Bay are back in this final, heart warming story in the series. Including Hot, Rosa Smith’s adorable dachshund and his new-born puppies.

Now successfully running the Cockleberry Café and wishing to start a family herself, Rosa feels the time is right to let her inherited Corner Shop go. However, her benefactor left one important legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it.

Rosa is torn. How can she make such a huge decision? And will it be the right one? Once the news gets out and goes public, untrustworthy newcomers appear in the Bay . . . their motives uncertain. With the revelation of more secrets from Rosa’s family heritage, a new journey of unpredictable and life-changing events begins to unfold.

The Gift of Cockleberry Bay concludes this phenomenally successful series in typically brisk and bolshy style and will delight the many thousands of Rosa’s fans.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon US | Amazon UK


About the author, Nicola May

The Gift of Cockleberry AuthorNicola May lives in the UK, five miles from the Queen’s castle in Windsor, with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan. Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon and devouring cream teas.

Her bestselling The Corner Shop in Cockleberry, the 1st book in the Cockleberry Bay series, went to #1 on Amazon and stayed there for an unprecedented 6 weeks.

She classes her novels as ‘chicklit with a kick,’ writing about love, life and friendships in a real, not fluffy kind of way. She likes burgers, mince pies, clocks, birds, bubble baths and facials – but is not so keen on aubergines.

Connect with Nicola:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Since I haven’t read the first two books in the Cockleberry Bay trilogy, I was a bit concerned that jumping into book three would be confusing. I was wrong. Nicola May’s writing is so vivid, that the characters, both established and new, in The Gift of Cockleberry Bay jumped off the page and into my brain, and my heart.

And how could they not?

Rosa and Josh, Sara, Jacob and Raffi, Alec, Mary, and all their dogs (and one cat) inhabit the sort of coastal village where I was born (albeit mine was an American version) and where I long to live. Sure, there’s constant gossip because everyone’s lives are interconnected, but there’s also support, friendship, and love of every kind. Even better, Cockleberry Bay is a town with a cute cafe (ROSA’s named for ROsa and SAra), a nicer restaurant, a pub, and a corner shop that features pet paraphernalia. I was ready to move in within twenty pages.

But this novel is not all fluff. It opens with a major storm that causes real damage to the town. It has family drama (long lost relatives turning up), romantic drama – Josh and Rosa spend a lot of the novel on separate continents because of his work, and they’re also trying to conceive – and town drama: Rosa has decided it’s time to pass the Corner Shop on to a new caretaker, but who will that be?

All of this is shared with descriptions that put you in the scene, and by characters who are fully dimensional. Reading this, I felt like I was sipping coffee in the cafe, watching it all unfold before me.

Is this a romantic novel? Yes. But it’s not a romance in the Silhouette sense of the word (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Rather, this is a novel that explores the comedy and tragedy of normal life in a small town, in a version of reality that’s only slightly heightened. Plus there are cute dogs.

Goes well with coffee and a bacon sandwich.


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Review: The Blue Zones Kitchen, by Dan Buettner

The-Blue-Zones-Kitchen-coverAbout the Book: The Blue Zones Kitchen

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 1 edition (December 3, 2019)

Best-selling author Dan Buettner debuts his first cookbook, filled with 100 longevity recipes inspired by the Blue Zones locations around the world, where people live the longest.

Building on decades of research, longevity expert Dan Buettner has gathered 100 recipes inspired by the Blue Zones, home to the healthiest and happiest communities in the world. Each dish–for example, Sardinian Herbed Lentil Minestrone; Costa Rican Hearts of Palm Ceviche; Cornmeal Waffles from Loma Linda, California; and Okinawan Sweet Potatoes–uses ingredients and cooking methods proven to increase longevity, wellness, and mental health. Complemented by mouthwatering photography, the recipes also include lifestyle tips (including the best times to eat dinner and proper portion sizes), all gleaned from countries as far away as Japan and as near as Blue Zones project cities in Texas. Innovative, easy to follow, and delicious, these healthy living recipes make the Blue Zones lifestyle even more attainable, thereby improving your health, extending your life, and filling your kitchen with happiness.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


Dan-Buettner-APAbout the author, Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner is the founder of Blue Zones, an organization that helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. His groundbreaking work on longevity led to his 2005 National Geographic cover story “Secrets of Living Longer” and two national bestsellers, The Blue Zones and Thrive. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

Connect with Dan:

Visit him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and at his website bluezones.com


MissMeliss2020My Thoughts

The Blue Zones Kitchen is a beautiful cookbook with fantastic pictures and a hundred recipes from different “blue zones” around the world. What are blue zones? They’re regions that the author has identified as having populations with above average longevity and health.  Along with diet, the theory is that these people are longer-lived because walking is their primary source of transportation, they have a strong sense of community, and while their diets are not completely vegan, they are mostly plant-based with occasional meat and fish, and minimal dairy.

The regions highlighted in this cookbook are:

  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Nicola, Costa Rica
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Loma Linda, California

In each section, author Dan Buettner talks about about the customs and cultures of the region, and what their staple foods are, and then shares a selection of recipes specific to that region. So far, tried a couple of the Sardinian vegetable dishes and found them really tasty. As a mid-level foodie and kitchen improvisor who tries to eat mindfully (though I’m not a vegetarian), I found this cookbook really expanded my idea of meat-free eating. It uses a lot of fresh vegetables and regional seasonings – the Okinawa section might be my favorite once I have time to explore those offerings – though some of those seasonings could be difficult for people outside of major cities to find.

The instructions for each recipe are well organized, though they do assume you have a basic knowledge of cooking. The level of difficulty varies with each recipe, but since most use vegetables – and especially beans – nothing is hugely complicated.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan looking for more variety in the dishes you serve, this book is ideal. If you’re a mindful omnivore, like me, who wants to broaden their culinary repertoire, it’s also a good bet.

Goes  well with a rainy afternoon and a freshly-arrived community supported agriculture box.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for The Blue Zones Kitchen

Tuesday, February 18th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, February 19th: Read. Eat. Repeat.

Thursday, February 20th: Instagram: @books_with_bethany

Monday, February 24th: Run Wright

Tuesday, February 25th: Instagram: @jenabrownwrites

Thursday, February 27th: Instagram: @thelastbiteblog

Friday, February 28th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Monday, March 2nd: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, March 3rd: Living My Best Book Life

Wednesday, March 4th: Eliot’s Eats

Thursday, March 5th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, March 6th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, March 9th: PNW Pixie

Monday, March 30th: Bibliotica