Spotlight and Giveaway: Ghost Agents by Nita DeBorde

BNR Ghost Agents

 

About the book, Ghost Agents

  • Categories: Science Fiction / Cozy Mystery / Paranormal / Texas History
  • Series: The Ghost Agents Trilogy
  • Publisher: Mabelonia Press
  • Date of Publication: July 31, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 309 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Ghost AgentsAn organization that has operated in secret for centuries… a mystery that threatens to burn it all to the ground… and she’s the only agent who can stop it…

To the residents and tourists of Galveston Island, Claire Abelard is the friendly young woman who works at the local candy store by day and leads ghost tours of the island’s haunted locations by night. They don’t realize this persona is a cover for Claire’s real job as an agent of the Bureau for Historical Preservation, a clandestine organization that monitors and assists energy projections, or the entities more commonly known as “ghosts.”

When projections begin disappearing from around the island, Claire worries that history may be repeating itself. She launches a dangerous investigation and uncovers a sinister, arcane organization whose agenda threatens not only Galveston’s ghosts, but everything she has worked her whole life to protect.

The truth behind the disappearances rocks Claire’s world to its core and shows her that ghosts aren’t the only things that can come back to haunt you.

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About the author, Nita DeBorde

author photo DeBorde 2020Nita DeBorde is a published author and teacher from Houston, TX. Writing and teaching are her two major passions, though traveling and being dog-mom to a crazy Staffordshire-Boxer mix named Mabel are high on the list as well.

Nita has taught high school French for more than 20 years and absolutely loves her “day job” job (about 95% of the time). She loves to travel, and not surprisingly, France is her favorite destination, though her home state of Texas runs a close second.

She is also a huge history buff, which comes through in her fiction writing, and particularly in her latest novel, Ghost Agents, a genre-defying, cozy paranormal mystery with a little sci-fi and romance thrown into the mix. Ghost Agents: Revelations, the second book in the Ghost Agents Trilogy, is slated for release in March 2022.

Nita’s first novel, Project Lachesis, is currently available in both Kindle and hardcopy format from Amazon.com.

Her first published work, a Christian allegory titled Lessons from the Meadow, was published in December of 2013 under the pen name A.M. Ward. Stay tuned for more titles by A.M. Ward in the Christian fiction genre.

Connect with Nita:

WEBSITE ◆ FACEBOOK ◆ TWITTER AMAZON  ◆  GOODREADS


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Review and Giveaway: Out of Temper, by Amber Royer

BNR Out of Temper

 

About the Book: Out of Temper (Bean to Bar Mysteries #3)

  • Categories: Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuth / Romance
  • Publisher: Golden Tip Press
  • Date of Publication: February 1, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 264 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Out of TemperFelicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand has been the scene of two murders – both of which she has been instrumental in helping solve. So when she gets invited to demo her chocolate skills aboard a cruise ship sailing out of the local port, she’s excited at the chance to get away from the shop long enough to regain her equilibrium. She even brings her best friend along and makes plans for time at the spa. But when she gets on board, she finds out that she’s been booked for a mystery-themed cruise, and said best friend, Autumn, has to finally deal with the real reasons she quit writing mysteries. Only – if that wasn’t stressful enough – it doesn’t take long before there’s a real murder on the cruise, and someone Felicity knows becomes the prime suspect. When said suspect asks her for help, she can’t exactly say no, can she?

Felicity finds herself surrounded by cruise goers who all had connections to the victim – and finds that both Logan (her business partner, whom she recently kissed) and Arlo (the cop who was once Felicity’s first boyfriend, before she moved away from Galveston) are dealing with the case until more official help can arrive. How will Felicity survive the ensuing awkwardness?

One thing that helps: the retired police dog turned therapy dog she meets on board. Satchmo helps Felicity deal with being back on the water after tragedy in her past – and also helps her uncover a vital clue to the case. Can Felicity unmask the killer and keep a friend from being framed before all the suspects leave the ship?

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About the Author, Amber Royer

Amber RoyerAmber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: a Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach. Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs.  If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes.  Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.

Connect with Amber

WEBSITE ◆ BLOG ◆ FACEBOOK ◆ TWITTER AMAZON ◆ GOODREADS  ◆INSTAGRAM  ◆  YOUTUBE


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’ve long been a fan of cozy mysteries having been raised – rather appropriately – on TV shows like Magnum P.I. (he can believe he’s an action hero all he wants, that show was cozy) and Murder, She Wrote, and on series like Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who… novels, and the amazing Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman. It’s as if I’ve had a lifetime of training that left me primed and ready for Amber Royer’s “Bean to Bar” series, though alas, I’m only encountering it with this book – book three – Out of Temper.

I’m so sorry I waited this long.

Out of Temper is a breathtakingly brilliant read combining a dynamic cast of quirky characters, led by chocolatier and accidental sleuth, Felicity Koerber, with the perfect “locked room” setting: a cruise ship, and mixing in a murder.

I liked Felicity from the start, and really enjoyed the first-person narrative from her perspective. First person can be tricky to do well, but author Royer handles it deftly, and it really gave this story more impact. Felicity’s best friend, Autumn, who just happens to write mysteries, her colleague Logan, and her longtime-friend Arlo comprise the core cast, but Ash, Craig, Bea, and Bea’s beagle, Satchmo, round out the story providing motive, murder, and a means of solving it (not necessarily in that order – because spoilers).

It will only out me as a dog lover when I confess that after Felicity, Satchmo was my favorite character.

What I liked about this novel was the way Royer balanced the pacing. The business of the convention at sea was intercut nicely  both with Felicitiy’s angst over her lovelife, her legitimate concern about her chocolate making, and her amateur detective work. No element seemed out of place, no thread was too long or too short.

I also want to applaud Royer for working animals into her story so organically. Like small children, animals can take over a story in unpleasant ways if written too sweetly. This author made Satchmo a true character rather than an accessory or a piece of comic relief and I appreciated it immensely. I really like the detail that Felicity encouraged the animal’s friendship with bits of beef given under the table.

If you want a cozy mystery that is equal parts sleuthing and serious chocolate, you need to read Out of Temper.

Goes well with: extra sharp cheddar cheese, a glass of red wine, and a chocolate “salami” from Dude, Sweet Chocolate in Dallas, TX.

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Signed copy of Out of Temper +

a chocolate bar from French Broad Chocolates!
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Review and Giveaway: The Sparrows of Montenegro, by BJ Mayo

BNR Sparrows of Montenegro

About the book, The Sparrows of Montenegro

  • Categories: Western / Historical Fiction / Texas
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Date of Publication: February 8, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 312 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Sparrows of MontenegroTree “Bigfoot” Smith and Cedar Jones first meet on the day they join the US Cavalry’s Fourth Cavalry Regiment based out of the Historic Fort Concho in what is now San Angelo, Texas, in 1870.

Their journey takes them into the heart of the dangerous Llano Estacado region known as the Comancheria. The area is ruthlessly defended by a band of Quahadi Comanche and their stoic leader, Lonely Horse. The Troop encounters a large group of Comanches and the gun-running Comancheros at Mushaway Mountain, close to Gail, Texas. A quick battle ensues that leaves eight men dead.

Post Cavalry life finds Tree Smith and Cedar Jones as cowhand and cook on the large Rolling J cattle ranch in South Texas bordering the Rio Grande River. The ranch employs two Vaqueros from the village of Montenegro in Mexico, just across the river, whom Tree befriends.

The quiet life on the Rolling J ranch is brought to an abrupt halt when a local sheriff warns that a band led by the cold-blooded, sadistic killer known as Gato Montes has been preying on the ranches along the Rio Grande. After the sheriff is nearly killed by these men, Tree is tasked with tracking them down, only this time, he is traveling alone and the dangers are greatly multiplied. His epic journey takes him back into the Llano Estacado where he is captured by Lonely Horse and taken to Mushaway Mountain where the Comanche carry out their own form of frontier justice.

Tree’s return journey puts him on the same path as Marco, a Mexican goat herder, who rides with him to the Mexican Village of Montenegro, where Tree meets Julia, who changes his life forever after he becomes involved in and bears witness to the wonderful celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

Praise for this book:

“I could not put this one down. Mayo has masterfully written a character-driven page-turner, a compelling tale for the reader who seeks something more than the stereotypical western novel.” Ron Schwab, author of Goldsmith and the Law Wranglers series

“This mild-mannered west Texas rancher has woven a border tapestry using yarns made of unimaginable horror and sweet innocence.” Tumbleweed Smith, author of Under the Chinaberry Tree

“A thoroughly enjoyable read—a cowboy’s trail you’ll want to follow, with a memorable cast of characters, renegades, soldiers, lawmen, and simple folks, and a hero that you’ll want more of.” John J. Jacobson, author of All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, BJ Mayo

Author Pic BJ Mayo

 

BJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola, West Africa.

He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.

Connect with BJ

WEBSITE  ◆  FACEBOOK  ◆  TWITTER INSTAGRAM ◆  SKYHORSE PUBLISHING


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellBJ Mayo’s latest novel, The Sparrows of Montenegro is a grand epic story of friendship, loyalty, war, peace, and culture. Set in and around what is now San Angelo, Texas (a place I’ve only heard of because a dear friend is from a town near there), Mayo has made the landscape as much a character as the human beings. He really makes you feel the dust and heat, or smell the goats.

But it’s the human story that is truly compelling in this book, and while we’re introduced to two strong characters at the beginning, Tree, a bear of a man who despises injustice, and Cedar, a sharpshooter who can also cook. The two become fast friends, but it’s really Tree’s story, for it’s his life that we see after they leave the Cavalry, and it’s he who tangles with a local man named Pablo who goes by the alias Gato Montes – which can be translated as “cat of the mountain” or “mountain lion.”  (The former is more literal, I think the latter has more panache.)

Gato Montes is bitter and twisted, and his behavior involves levels of violence toward humans and animals that sensitive readers may want to avoid, but it should be noted that the grittier scenes are never gratuitous or written for shock value, and absolutely move the story forward.

While this novel isn’t a romance in the conventional sense, there is a bit of a romantic interlude once Tree meets Julia. More than a love story, though, The Sparrows of Montenegro is a satisfying saga of blood, land, honor, friendship, and trusting oneself to do the right thing.

Goes well with: birria de res and a bottle of Indio beer.


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Autographed copies of The Sparrows of Montenegro.
(US only. Ends 2/19/22).

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2/10/22 Review Forgotten Winds
2/11/22 Review The Book’s Delight
2/11/22 Review Momma on the Rocks
2/12/22 Review Librariel Book Adventures
2/13/22 Review Julia Picks 1
2/14/22 Review Book Bustle
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Review: Shapeshifting by Michelle Ross

ShapeshiftingAbout the book: Shapeshifting: Stories

  • Publisher: Stillhouse Press
  • Paperback: 232 pages

The fourteen spellbinding stories in Michelle Ross’s second collection invite readers into the shadows of social-media perfectionism and the relentless cult of motherhood. A recovering alcoholic navigates the social landscape of a toddler playdate; a mother of two camps out in a van to secure her son’s spot at a prestigious kindergarten; a young girl forces her friends to play an elaborate, unwinnable game. With unflinching honesty and vivid, lyric prose, Ross explores the familial ties that bind us together-or, sometimes, tear us apart.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Michelle Ross

Michelle Ross is the author of three story collections, There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, winner of the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award and Finalist for the 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award for Short Stories, Shapeshifting, winner of the Stillhouse Press Short Story Award (forthcoming in 2021), and They Kept Running, winner of the 2021 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction (forthcoming in Spring 2022). Her fiction has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, The Common, Epiphany, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, TriQuarterly, Witness, and other venues. Her fiction has been selected for Best Microfiction, Best Small Fictions, and the Wigleaf Top 50, among other anthologies. She is fiction editor of Atticus Review and was a consulting editor for the 2018 Best Small Fictions anthology. A native of Texas, she received her B.A. from Emory University and her M.F.A and M.A. from Indiana University. She currently lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and son.

Connect with Michelle:

Website


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellMichelle Ross’s collection of short stories, Shapeshifting, is a haunting, provocative anthology focusing on motherhood and womanhood, and how the two are intertwined.

These  fourteen stories are not shiny, fluffy, stories about how becoming a mother is the be-all and end-all of life. Rather they are  often hilarious, sometimes dark glimpses at the struggle to retain oneself within the context of being responsible for another human being.

Rather than the retouched moms and tots we see on Instagram, these stories show a mother sleeping in a van with her still-nursing baby to get her other child into the right school, while her husband can’t even feed said child dinner because he’s busy running parenting support groups and offering advice. Ross also shows us a mother separated from her adult daughter and the bitter, skewed images each has of the other, and the collection goes on – different mothers, different stages of motherhood, all flawed and dimensional and real. All individual women.

What I loved about Ross’s writing, in addition to her brutal clarity, was the detail she put in each story – the way mothers will extend their arms to keep their children safe in their plane or car seats, even though they have seat belts – something my own mother still does when we’re in a car together even though I’m now fifty-one.

Motherhood is often called a transformative experience. Ross’s stories look at the truth of those transformations, these shifting shapes of our bodies, our minds, and our souls and reveal the parts we think, but don’t share. They are compelling mirrors of the lives of women.

Goes well with: hot coffee, a cinnamon pastry, and twenty minutes of solitude.


00-tlc-tour-hostTour Stops

Monday, January 3rd: Lit and Life

Wednesday, January 5th: @purrfectpages

Wednesday, January 5th: @openbookbyleila

Thursday, January 6th: @nurse_bookie

Friday, January 7th: @webreakforbooks

Monday, January 10th: Stranded in Chaos and @sarastrand9438

Tuesday, January 11th: @secretreadinglife

Wednesday, January 12th: @lyon.brit.andthebookshelf

Wednesday, January 12th: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 13th: @mommaleighellensbooknook

Friday, January 14th: 5 Minutes for Mom

Monday, January 17th: The Cozy Book Blog

Monday, January 17th: @nerdy_book_lover_1987

Tuesday, January 18th: Forever Lost in Literature

Wednesday, January 19th: Musings of a Literary Wanderer

Thursday, January 20th: @megsbookclub

Friday, January 21st: @kristens.reading.nook

Friday, January 21st: @wonderousreads

Monday, January 24th: Reading is My Remedy

Tuesday,  January 25th: Run Wright and @karen_runwrightreads

Wednesday, January 26th: @kelly_hunsaker_reads

Review: The Blue Zones Challenge, by Dan Buettner

About the Book, The Blue Zones Challenge

• National Geographic (December 7, 2021)
• Hardcover (240 pages)

Blue Zones ChallengeIn this companion to the number one New York Times bestseller The Blue Zones Kitchen, Dan Buettner offers a four-week guide and year-long sustainability program to jump-start your journey to better health, happiness, less stress, and a longer life.
Get started on the path to a longer, healthier, happier life with this quick start to building your own Blue Zones lifestyle. Dan Buettner, founder of the Blue Zones and author of the New York Times number one best-selling Blue Zones Kitchen, offers the challenge of a lifetime: Build a foundation for better nutrition, more exercise, and a stronger social life that will extend your lifetime by years.
In this easy-to-implement guide, you’ll start with the rules of the Blue Zones Challenge, including tips and tricks from the five Blue Zones–locations around the world where people consistently live to 100–advice for setting up a successful kitchen and pantry, and resources for expanding you support network. Then, follow week-by-week prompts to
• Change your diet
• Increase your activity
• Update your living spaces
• Build your social life.

After four weeks–and with the help of easy-to-use worksheets and recipes–you’ll see results in your weight, your well-being, and your general health. From there, follow the Blue Zones challenge through the rest of the year with an 11-month sustainability calendar that will continue to encourage you and build upon the foundation you’ve already started.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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Dan BuettnerAbout 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 FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, and at his website bluezones.com.


My Thoughts

MissMeliss2021In March, 2020, I had the privilege of reviewing Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones Kitchen, which I loved so much, I bought copies for friends and family, so I was excited about this book, The Blue Zones Challenge, not the least because we’ve all developed some Pandemic Pudge.

What I love about Buettner’s work is that he’s passionate about his subject. The Blue Zones represent parts of the world where people practice clean eating as a way of life, and live longer, healthier lives because of it. Dan Buettner suggests that if we alter our diets to emulate those found in those zones, we, too, will live longer, healthier lives.

My familiarity with Buettner’s previous work meant that I was expecting these recipes to be mainly vegetarian, with seafood as the dominant animal protein. But this book isn’t just a cookbook. It has some recipe suggestions, but it’s really a holistic approach to a better lifestyle overall.

The best part is, the suggestions in the book aren’t difficult, and there’s no judgement in the author’s tone. Rather, there are guidelines on how to do small things to improve your overall health. Move more. Eat mindfully. Choose foods that aren’t processed. Make sure your social needs are met as well.

With the new year and “resolution” season approaching, this book could not be better timed. The Blue Zones Challenge is the perfect way to begin 2022 as you mean to go on.

Goes well with: Pumpkin Pancakes.


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Tuesday, December 7th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, December 8th:  Instagram: @nurse_bookie

Monday, December 13th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, December 14th: Instagram: @literannie

Wednesday, December 15th: Run Wright

Thursday, December 16th: Instagram: @americanlitteacher

Monday, December 20th: Instagram: @megs.notes

Tuesday, December 21st: Bibliotica

Wednesday, December 22nd: Instagram: @readresa

Thursday, December 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Cover Reveal: Perfect Payback by Bill Briscoe

BNR Revealed Perfect Payback

 

About the book, Perfect Payback

(Book 3 of the Pepperman Mystery Series)

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Categories: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
  • Expected Publication: February, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 250 pages

Cover Perfect Payback_final

 

When Jim and Laura Pepperman find a musty German Olympic jacket and an old journal in their attic, they stumble onto a gripping pre-World War II story of a cousin Jim knows nothing about.

After a career-ending injury forces Hans Pepperman to lose his spot on the 1936 Olympic boxing team, he trades his athletic aspirations for a degree in mechanical engineering and secures his dream job working for the famous Willy Messerschmitt. Tasked to solve the stalling issues of the BF109 fighter plane engine, Hans finds himself smack in the middle of the Abwher Intelligence Service’s radar. Pro-Germany but anti-Nazi, he reluctantly agrees to help flush out the spy leaking secret information on the BF109 engine to foreign agencies . . . and finds himself a suspect of espionage and murder. Unsure who to trust, he must unravel the tangle of lies he’s caught in before he falls prey to the Nazi agenda slowly and stealthily taking over the country he loves.

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Series Graphic BillBriscoe3D

AVAILABLE NOW IN THE  PEPPERMAN MYSTERY SERIES

Prequel—Pepperman’s Promise

Book One-Perplexity

Book Two-Panic Point


About the author, Bill Briscoe

Author photo BriscoeAward-winning author Bill Briscoe grew up in the oil and gas refinery town of Phillips in the Texas Panhandle. As his retirement was on the horizon, he had an idea about a book. That idea became Pepperman’s Promise, the prequel to The Pepperman Mystery Series, leading to Perplexity, Panic Point, and now Perfect Payback, books one, two, and three of the series. Bill and his wife of over fifty years live in West Texas.

Connect with Bill:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |   AMAZON  | GOODREADS  |  TWITTER  |   BOOKBUB

 

 

 

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Review: Wild Seas, by Thomas Peschak

About the book Wild Seas

• Publisher: National Geographic (November 30, 2021)
• Hardcover: 240 pages

Wild SeasOne of @NatGeo’s most popular nature photographers shares 200 breathtaking images — and the stories behind them — from a wide swath of wild ocean locales around the globe.

From gregarious gray whales plying the waters of Baja California to acrobatic manta rays in the Maldives and parading penguins in Antarctica, National Geographic photographer Thomas Peschak has spent a lifetime documenting the beauty and fragility of underwater life and the majesty of wild coastlines.

This awe-inspiring book of photography charts his transformation from marine biologist to full-time conservation advocate, armed with little more than a mask, fins and a camera. In these vivid pages, Peschak photographs sharks in a feeding frenzy, tracks sea turtles the size of bears, and dodges marine poachers, to reveal the splendor of pristine seas as well as the dark side of pollution, overfishing, and climate change.

Filled with magnificent images from Southern Africa, the Galápagos, Seychelles, and more, this illuminating collection offers an impassioned case for revering and preserving the world’s oceans.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Thomas Peschak

Thomas Peschak is a National Geographic photographer who documents the beauty and fragility of the world’s oceans and coasts. Originally trained as a marine biologist, he embraced photography after realizing his images could have a greater conservation impact than his research. As the Director of Storytelling for the Save our Seas Foundation and a National Geographic Society Fellow, he merges science with photojournalism to tackle critical conservation issues. His TED Talk, “Dive into an Ocean Photographer’s World” has been viewed more than one million times. When he is not underwater or exploring remote islands, Peschak calls Cape Town, South Africa home.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellOpening Thomas Peschak’s new book, Wild Seas, is an amazing experience. Full color photos spread across the initial pages, and continue on almost every subsequent page, generally with brief captions clarifying what each image presents, and where it was captured. It’s almost as though one is stepping into an art exhibit rather than merely turning pages in a book, and, in fact, there have been exhibits that included some of the photos from this piece.

But Wild Seas is more than just pretty pictures. It also tells a story: Peschak’s own story, in which we learn about his childhood, his educational background, and what drew him to a great love of our planet’s oceans and their inhabitants, and how that love led to a career as one of National Geographic’s most popular lensmen. It is that story that had me turning page after page. The pictures, of course, are amazing, but the glimpse at the artist who took them, is equally so.

Ecology, oceanography, marine biology, and art all coalesce in this beautiful book. It’s heavy – the kind of book you leave on the coffee table so you can pick it up every so often and revisit your favorite sections (for me, it’s the chapters on Manta Rays and Sharks)  – and that your friends will gush over when you see it.

As the quotation goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In Wild Seas, Thomas Peschak shows that with words and with photos, he’s a serious storyteller.

Goes well with: Steamed mussels with garlic and butter, and a crisp Pinot Grigio.


Review Stops

00-tlc-tour-hostSunday, December 5th: Stranded in Chaos

Tuesday, December 7th: Instagram: @geronimoreads

Wednesday, December 8th: Bibliotica

Thursday, December 9th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, December 13th: Instagram: @pickagoodbook

Tuesday, December 14th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Wednesday, December 15th: Man of La Book

Friday, December 17th: Kahakai Kitchen

TBD: Instagram: @oomilyreads

TBD: Instagram: @reading_with_nicole

TBD: BookNAround

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Review & Giveaway – Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy, by Marlene M. Bell

Scattered Legacy

 

About the book, Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy

  • Genre: Mystery / Romance
  • Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing
  • Date of Publication: November 4, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 352 pages
  • Series: Annalisse (Book 3)
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Scattered LegacyTo outsiders, the relationship between Manhattan antiquities assessor Annalisse Drury and sports car magnate Alec Zavos must look carefree and glamorous. In reality, it’s a love affair regularly punctuated by treasure hunting, high adventure, and the occasional dead body.

When Alec schedules a getaway trip to show Annalisse his mother’s Italian birthplace, he squeezes in the high-stakes business of divesting his family’s corporation. But things go terribly wrong as murder makes its familiar reappearance in their lives – and this time it’s Alec’s disgraced former CFO who’s the main suspect.

Accompanied by friend and detective Bill Drake, Annalisse and Alec find themselves embroiled in a behind-closed-doors conspiracy that threatens the reputation and legacy of Alec’s late father – linking him to embezzlement, extortion, and the dirty business of the Sicilian Mafia. The key to it all might be a gifted set of rosary beads where Annalisse can use her skills for appraising artifacts to uncover the truth. She leads Alec toward answers that are unthinkable—and events that will change their futures forever.

Scattered Legacy is the third in Marlene M. Bell’s thrilling Annalisse series, which weaves romance, crime, and historical mystery into addictive tales to instantly captivate fans of TV show Bones or Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

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About the author, Marlene M. Bell

Marlene M. BellMarlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer and acclaimed artist as well as a photographer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News, to name a few.

Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded ranch with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma guard dog named, Tia, along with Hollywood, Leo and Squeaks, the cats that believe they rule the household—and do.

Connect with Marlene:

WEBSITE  ◆  BLOG ◆ FACEBOOK  ◆  TWITTER ◆ AMAZON  ◆  GOODREADS  ◆ BOOKBUB


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellMurder. Intrigue. Scandal. Romance. Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy has it all.

While this is the third book in Marlene M. Bell’s Annalisse series, it’s my introduction to the series (though I did feature a guest post from the author when book one was published several years ago). Nevertheless, I had no trouble recognizing the relationships between Anna and Alec, and Anna and Gen (both of which are central to the story) or following any of the through-plots that were obviously set up in previous installments. Rather, I found this to be a richly developed, if slightly heightened, version of reality. Bell’s opening scene captured my attention from the first paragraph. The juxtaposition of impending doom, family drama, and a shoplifting attempt (that clearly meant something more) was instantly intriguing.

As a second-generation Italian-American myself, I really appreciated the way Italian words and slang were dropped into the dialogue by some of the characters (Gen, especially) and how naturally ALL the dialogue sounded. I loved the way the family drama was both sweeping, involving an antique rosary, and intimate at the same time. The interactions between all the core characters felt believable. In many ways, I felt as if I’d met them before.

I also appreciated the pacing of the novel, which had a contemporary feel complimented by a neo-noire undertone that worked perfectly. Exposition unrolled organically, and I never felt like any scene was just a gratuitous info-dump. Of course, when the action moved to Italy, everything became even more heightened. The Italian characters really stood out here, but Anna and the rest of the non-Italians, Bill Drake most prominently, were equally dynamic. (In truth, I’d read a whole series about Bill.)

But it was the story that stayed front-and-center, and Bell did not let me down. Passion, scandal, blackmail, murder, intrigue, and even history are woven into a intricate plot with just enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing without causing confusion. I’m definitely going to go back and read the first two novels – I’m hooked on Anna and her story. This book was a satisfying read as a stand-alone, but I want more.

Goes well with: Sicilian blood oranges and a glass of chilled Prosecco.

Scattered Legacy


Giveaway

 THREE WINNERS (US ONLY):

1st SUPER GRANDPRIZE ($425 VALUE):
Patricia Nash leather bag; Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Puglia Region of Italy; Orecchiette Pasta from the Puglia Region; Weekly 2022 Engagement Spiral Calendar; Silver/Gold Italy Coin necklace on 18” silver chain; autographed copy of Scattered Legacy; $50 VISA gift card.

2ND PRIZE & 3rd PRIZE – Signed copies of Scattered Legacy.

(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/10/21)

Giveaway Scattered Legacy

 

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11/30/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
11/30/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
11/30/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
12/1/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
12/1/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
12/2/21 Review The Book’s Delight
12/3/21 Review Forgotten Winds
12/3/21 Review Julia Picks 1
12/4/21 Review Momma on the Rocks
12/5/21 Review Jennifer Silverwood
12/6/21 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
12/6/21 Review Book Fidelity
12/7/21 Review Bibliotica
12/7/21 BONUS Promo All the Ups and Downs
12/8/21 Review The Clueless Gent
12/8/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
12/9/21 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
12/9/21 Review Missus Gonzo

 

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Review: I Am Beauty: Timeless Skincare and Beauty for Women 40 and Over, by Riku Campo

About the Book, I Am Beauty: Timeless Skincare and Beauty for Women 40 and Over

• Publisher: HarperOne (September 15, 2020)
• Hardcover: 240 pages

I Am Beauty-CoverA groundbreaking celebration of ageless beauty, providing the ultimate skincare and makeup guide for women in their forties and beyond from celebrity makeup artist Riku Campo.

The first makeup guide to celebrate and support women forty and over, I Am Beauty is Riku Campo’s labor of love. Riku has worked with some of the most beautiful and recognized faces in the world, like Cindy Crawford, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Anne Hathaway. But he has always wanted to create a book honoring those women we don’t always see on the runaways and in magazines—women like his mother, whose beauty is everlasting.

I Am Beauty includes step-by-step tutorials, advice from skincare experts, and Riku’s best behind-the-chair tips every woman needs to revitalize her routine, including:

  • Day and night skincare routines that keep you fresh and beautiful, whether you’re in your forties, fifties, sixties, or beyond
  • At-home facial massages to stimulate collagen production and optimal skin health
  • Must-have everyday makeup tools
  • Choosing the right foundation for all skin tones, types, and textures
  • Tricks for modern, elegant eyebrows and keeping lipstick fresh all day
  • Eyeshadow colors and types that work best on mature skin
  • Finding the eyeglass designs that best complement your style and daily makeup

Riku also has one-on-one conversations and day-and-night makeovers with sixteen incredible women—each with her own unique style—and shares their secrets for finding beauty in all parts of life.

Comprehensive, practical, and inspiring, packed with more than 100 full-color photos, I Am Beauty is the ultimate resource for women to maintain their glow and live their most joyful, beautiful lives.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Riku Campo

Riku CampoFinnish-born international skincare expert, makeup artist, and beauty director Riku Campo has worked as a makeup artist since 1988 and has lived in the United States since 2003. His work has been featured in major fashion and beauty magazines and ad campaigns for L’oreal, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Smashbox, Guess, and others, and he has worked with some of Hollywood’s most renowned actresses. Riku is passionate about bringing out the beauty of many different women by highlighting their own personal style. Instead of following strict rules, he believes in using makeup to bring out joy and confidence.

Connect with Riku:

Find our more about Riku on his website, Instagram, and Facebook.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellEven if you work from home and only wear makeup if you have to go out, or be on a Zoom call – like me – Riku Campo’s I Am Beauty is an essential read. As we age (I turned 51 a few months ago) our skin changes. If we were oily as teenagers, chances are we’re dryer (but with fewer wrinkles) and we don’t know how to deal with dry skin. If we have always been dry, we might not have been moisturizing correctly. Campo covers all of that, and more.

Aided by the work of photographer Samantha Rapp, Campo talks about what makeup to choose, not so much specific brands, but types – water based vs. oil, powder vs. cream – and what eyeshadow colors give us the most natural look. All of this advice is offered with sensitivity and tact. You never feel pandered to or like a face without a person behind it.

What I really loved, though, were the day-to-night makeovers featured in the book. While still respecting each woman’s own style, Campo demonstrated transformations that ranged from the subtle to the sublime and explained how he achieved each look. It was incredibly informative.

I loved everything about this book.

It should be required reading for every woman who wants to look her best at any age.

Goes well with: a glass of cucumber water, some grilled shrimp, avocado, and cherry tomatoes.

 


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Monday, September 20th: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, September 21st: Instagram: @readalotwritealot

Wednesday, September 22nd: Books, Cooks, and Looks

Thursday, September 23rd: Stacy’s Books

Friday, September 24th: What Is That Book About

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Wednesday, September 29th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

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Monday, October 11th: Instagram: @andrea.c.lowry.reads

Wednesday, October 13th: Instagram: @bookishly_overdue

Monday, December 6th, Bibliotica

 

 

Review & Giveaway: The Big Empty, by Loren C. Steffy

BNR The Big Empty

 

About the book, The Big Empty

  • Genre: Western / Rural Fiction / Small Town
  • Publisher: Stoney Creek Publishing Group
  • Date of Publication: May 25, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 304 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Big Empty, TheWhen Trace Malloy and Blaine Witherspoon collide on a desolate West Texas highway, their fender bender sets the tone for escalating clashes that will determine the future of the town of Conquistador.  

Malloy, a ranch manager and lifelong cowboy, knows that his occupation—and his community—are dying. He wants new- millennium opportunities for his son, even though he himself failed to summon the courage to leave familiar touchstones behind.

Witherspoon, an ambitious, Lexus-driving techie, offers a solution. He moves to Conquistador to build and run a state-of-the-art semiconductor plant that will bring prestige and high-paying technology jobs to revive the town—and advance his own career.

What neither man anticipates is the power the “Big Empty” will wield over their plans. The flat, endless expanse of dusty plain is as much a character in the conflict as are the locals struggling to subsist in this timeworn backwater and the high-tech transplants hell-bent on conquering it. While Malloy grapples with the flaws of his ancestors and his growing ambivalence toward the chip plant, Witherspoon falls prey to construction snafus, corporate backstabbing, and financial fraud. As they each confront personal fears, they find themselves united in the search for their own version of purpose in a uniquely untamable Texas landscape.

Praise for this book:

“The Big Empty” captures a moment when Big Tech seemingly promised everything. By turns funny and painful, Steffy’s story builds like an accelerating freight train, reaching a fast-paced climax.”   The Epoch Times 

 “Like the titular land itself, Steffy’s novel is uncompromising in spotlighting the strains that the drive toward material achievement puts on the individual in the face of nature’s whims.”  — Southern Review of Books

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Stoney Creek Publishing Group (Currently 25% off) │TAMU PRESS │Bookshop.org│ AmazonGoodreads

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About the author, Loren C. Steffy

author pic steffyLoren C. Steffy is the author of five nonfiction books. He is a writer at large for Texas Monthly, and his work has appeared in newspapers and magazines nationwide. He has previously worked for news organizations including Bloomberg and the Houston Chronicle, and he is a managing director for 30 Point Strategies, where he leads the 30 Point Press publishing imprint. His is a frequent guest on radio and television programs and is the co-host of the Rational Middle podcast. The Big Empty is his first novel. Steffy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. He lives in Wimberley, Texas, with his wife, three dogs and an ungrateful cat.

Connect with Loren:

WEBSITE  | FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER |  AMAZON  |  GOODREADS  |  INSTAGRAM | LINKEDIN |

Connect with Stoney Creek Publishing:

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | LINKEDIN | INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellLoren C. Steffy’s debut novel is the perfect blend of his journalistic experience and a flair for good storytelling.

Set in the West Texas of the recent past, The Big Empty is a contemporary western, pitting modern cowboys against big technology, with a two-prong through line that addresses water access and the inevitability of modern development.

It’s a story Steffy tells well. The main characters literally crash into each other in the preface, and it’s obvious that these two men, cowboy Trace Malloy and techie Blaine Witherspoon will be confronting each other throughout the book.

What I found compelling about this story was that each man wants a better future for his family – Witherspoon wants to be settled in once place for a while, something he promised his wife – with a stable life for his family. Malloy wants a future for his son that isn’t tied to ranching, and includes college.

Each of these men also has different beliefs in how these things should be achieved, however. Malloy loves his West Texas home – the titular Big Empty – a flat stretch of land that’s home to cows, of course, but also to host of resident wildlife, including rattlesnakes and scorpions. Witherspoon, on the other hand, thinks technological progress is automatically good and right. In a way, he believes he’s bringing economic water to this proverbial desert.

Steffy has a good ear for dialogue, and that really helped to define the setting, as well as illustrating who was a native Texan and who was newcomer – a ‘homie’ in Malloy’s vernacular. He’s also presented, through this novel, an issue that is still very present in today’s world where we have corporations buying up small towns’ water supplies, and climate change has storms and droughts both increasing in strength and extremity.

It’s this combination of fiction and reality, as well as the conflict that comes between the characters, and how that conflict changes when they must unite – to a point – to fight a common enemy in the final third of the novel – that makes The Big Empty both full of literary craft, and as satisfying as a West Texas sunset.

Goes well with: Chicken fried steak, home fries, and a cold beer.


Giveaway

Giveaway The Big Empty

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 THREE WINNERS:
Signed copy of The Big Empty and logo hat.
(US only; ends midnight CST 11/25/21)

 

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

And check out the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page for The Big Empty

11/15/21 Author Video Chapter Break Book Blog
11/15/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
11/15/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
11/16/21 Review The Book’s Delight
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11/17/21 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
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11/19/21 Review Jennie Reads
11/19/21 Excerpt Book Fidelity
11/20/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
11/21/21 Deleted Scene Forgotten Winds
11/22/21 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
11/22/21 Guest Post Missus Gonzo
11/23/21 Playlist The Clueless Gent
11/24/21 Review Bibliotica
11/24/21 Review Reading by Moonlight

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