Review and Giveaway: Trace of Doubt, by DiAnn Mills

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About the book, Trace of Doubt

  • Publisher: Tyndale House
  • Pub Date: September 7, 2021
  • Pages: 432 pages
  • Scroll for the Giveaway!

Cover - Trace of Doubt Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.

FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.

But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.

Praise for this book:

“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – LYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREAT and ONE FINAL BREATH

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart. . . Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Well-researched . . . with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN

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About the Author, DiAnn Mills

DiAnn MillsDiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Connect with DiAnn:

Blog Posts | Facebook | Instagram | Youtube | Pinterest | Goodreads  | LinkedIn | BookBub | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellDiAnn Mills’ latest novel Trace of Doubt, is an intense thriller that’s equal parts mystery, faith, and love, that keeps you invested from the prologue to the epilogue.

Written in first person, mostly from the point of view of recent parolee Shelby and her neighbor, Denton (who may be more than he seems) this novel has everything – believable characters, a small-town setting, a gripping mystery, a dash of romance, puppies, horses and great coffee, and author Mills has wrapped all of that up in a meaty (432 pages) package that was a pleasure to read.

This book is categorized, in part, as Christian fiction, and it’s easy to see why because Shelby’s strong faith in God is both her her strength and part of the glue that binds her to her two biggest supporters, Edie, who is a landlady and friend, and Amy Jo, who runs the local bakery-cafe, but it’s not at all preachy. Their faith is simply part of these Texas women (and men) , and it’s part of what makes them feel so real. As someone who has always struggled with faith, and doesn’t mesh with organized religion, I appreciated the way the author made it a critical part of the novel, and and recommend this book to readers of all persuasions.

What I loved was the detailed character work that the author put into this novel. I really liked and sympathized with Shelby, and was rooting for her from day one. She’s much more than a classic underdog, and I’d happily share a pot of coffee with her. Denton, also, was drawn with real dimension. He felt like a “weathered” soul to me, and I was as committed to his story as I was to Shelby’s. The  town sheriff, local cop (also Edie’s brother), and parole officer were equally believable characters, and even the townsfolk, both kind and cruel had perfect moments that really let you see them.

I also enjoyed the pacing of this story. It’s an easy read, in terms of being accessible, but it’s also pretty long. At no point did I feel the urge to skip ahead and see what happened, and I felt the clues and twists in the narrative were all placed well, serving the story, and never letting the reader become too complacent.

If this had been JUST a romance, or JUST a mystery, or JUST a redemption story, Trace of Doutbt would still have been a worthy read. That the author combined all three elements into a satisfying and well-crafted whole just makes the whole thing a literary treat.

Goes well with: a cup of coffee with a dollop of half & half, and a lemon tart.


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Review & Giveaway: No Names to Be Given, by Julia Brewer Daily

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About the book, No Names to Be Given

  • Categories: Women’s Fiction / Vintage Fiction / Adoption / 1960s
  • Publisher: Admission Press Inc.
  • Pub Date: August 3, 2021
  • Pages: 334 pages
  • Scroll for the Giveaway

Cover Hi Res No Names to be Given1965. Sandy runs away from home to escape her mother’s abusive boyfriend. Becca falls in love with the wrong man. And Faith suffers a devastating attack. With no support and no other options, these three young, unwed women meet at a maternity home hospital in New Orleans where they are expected to relinquish their babies and return home as if nothing transpired.

But such a life-altering event can never be forgotten, and no secret remains buried forever. Twenty-five years later, the women are reunited by a blackmailer, who threatens to expose their secrets and destroy the lives they’ve built. That shattering revelation would shake their very foundations—and reverberate all the way to the White House.

Told from the three women’s perspectives in alternating chapters, this mesmerizing story is based on actual experiences of women in the 1960s who found themselves pregnant but unmarried, pressured by family and society to make horrific decisions. How that inconceivable act changed women forever is the story of No Names to Be Given, a heartbreaking but uplifting novel of family and redemption.

Praise for this book:

A gorgeous, thrilling, and important novel! These strong women will capture your heart. Stacey Swann, author of Olympus, Texas.

An insightful and sympathetic view offered into the lives of those who were adopted and those who adopted them. Pam Johnson, author of Justice for Ella.

A novel worthy of a Lifetime movie adaptation. Jess Hagemann, author of Headcheese.

Readers can expect deep knowledge of the world the characters inhabitSara Kocek, author of Promise Me Something.

This book is a relevant read and one that will keep readers guessing page after page until the very end. The US Review of Books

Today’s young women, especially, need to absorb No Names to Be Given. Midwest Book Review, D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer

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About the author, Julia Brewer Daily

Author photo Daily

Julia Brewer Daily is a Texan with a southern accent. She holds a B.S. in English and a M.S. degree in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has been a Communications Adjunct Professor at Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi, and Public Relations Director of the Mississippi Department of Education and Millsaps College, a liberal arts college in Jackson, MS.  She was the founding director of the Greater Belhaven Market, a producers’ only market in a historic neighborhood in Jackson, and even shadowed Martha Stewart. As the Executive Director of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi (300 artisans from 19 states) which operates the Mississippi Craft Center, she wrote their stories to introduce them to the public. Daily is an adopted child from a maternity home hospital in New Orleans. She searched and found her birth mother and through a DNA test, her birth father’s family, as well.  A lifelong southerner, she now resides on a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband Emmerson and Labrador retrievers, Memphis Belle and Texas Star.

Connect with Julia:

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellNo Names to Be Given is a beautiful, haunting novel about three very different women who find themselves in the same maternity home in New Orleans in the mid-1960s. Sandy, Faith, and Becca couldn’t be more different – one is escaping an abusive home, one suffers a horrible attack, and one falls in love with someone that society says she shouldn’t, but all find themselves alone and pregnant at a time when women were pressured to make horrible sacrifices in order to maintain the expectations of American culture in a time that is both bordering on free, and still holding onto the even deeper social structures of earlier times.

Julia Brewer Daily chose to write this book so that the point of view alternates between these women a chapter at a time, and in doing so, she first lets readers learn who they are and where they come from. In another author’s hands the story might have ended when they met, but Daily’s tale is far from over at that point. Rather, we get to see the devastation each experiences, and then we get to jump into the future and meet the older versions of the the women’s babies, and see how they grew up, and how (or if) they reconnect with their birth mothers.

Daily does a great job of setting the time period. Her scenes in the 60s are full of the social issues of the day, including racism and the civil rights movement, and as she moves into later times, she enhances her storytelling by mentioning  then-newly-developed DNA testing as a means of connecting mothers and the children they were forced to part with.

Issues of adoption and single motherhood run through the entire novel, of course. As the daughter of a single mother, who nearly faced the same ultimatum, but ultimately chose to keep me, it’s a story that really resonated with me. It was obviously a very personal story for the author, as well, for she was adopted from a maternity home.

It’s this personal connection that makes this story sing. Each of the women is compelling and interesting. It’s easy to like them, to be concerned when they make poor choices, and to root for them when they find success in any aspect of life. While the stigma of unwed motherhood has lessened somewhat today, echoes of it do remain, and this book made it clear how it felt to be in that position.

Well-written and well-paced, I feel this novel is more  than entertaining. It’s a gripping story that is as much social commentary as compelling fiction. It is intensely female, but deals with universal subjects. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the culture of America in the 1960’s, as a counterpoint to all the stories about free love and wild adventures (not to invalidate those stories), and make it required reading for anyone in a women’s studies program.

Goes well with: a shrimp po’boy and sweet tea.


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8/24/21 Guest Post Forgotten Winds
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Review: Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir Inspired by True Events, by Brent Spiner

About the book, Fan Fiction

  • Publisher: ‎ St. Martin’s Press (October 5,  2021)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Print length: ‎ 256 pages

Fan FictionBrent Spiner’s explosive and hilarious novel is a personal look at the slightly askew relationship between a celebrity and his fans. If the Coen Brothers were to make a Star Trek movie, involving the complexity of fan obsession and sci-fi, this noir comedy might just be the one.

Set in 1991, just as Star Trek: The Next Generation has rocketed the cast to global fame, the young and impressionable actor Brent Spiner receives a mysterious package and a series of disturbing letters, that take him on a terrifying and bizarre journey that enlists Paramount Security, the LAPD, and even the FBI in putting a stop to the danger that has his life and career hanging in the balance.

Featuring a cast of characters from Patrick Stewart to Levar Burton to Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, to some completely imagined, this is the fictional autobiography that takes readers into the life of Brent Spiner, and tells an amazing tale about the trappings of celebrity and the fear he has carried with him his entire life.

Fan Fiction is a zany love letter to a world in which we all participate, the phenomenon of “Fandom.”

Praise for this book:

“Like the man himself, this book is funny, sharp, and brilliant. You’re going to love it, and Brent, even if you’ve never heard of “Star Trek”. It’s one of the most entertaining books ever written about entertainment.” ―Phil Rosenthal (creator, writer, producer), creator of Everybody Loves Raymond and star of Somebody Feed Phil

Fan Fiction is perfect! I loved that damn book. Lots of laugh out loud moments and real heart. Actor Brent Spiner’s pop-culture infused memoir is hilarious, warm, insightful, and absolutely delightful! Highly recommended!” ―Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Ink

“Brent Spiner’s rollicking meta-memoir is a meditation on celebrity, Hollywood, fandom, ego, and self-discovery, hidden inside a black comedy shell. This wildly entertaining novel opens the doors to the Starship Enterprise and the making of Star Trek: The Next Generation even as it peers into the soul of the actor and the utterly crazy world around him. Richly comic and surprisingly moving, Fan Fiction is a gift to both Trek fans and general readers. So put on your Raymond Chandler fedora, or your Starfleet uniform, and settle in for a wild ride through the underbelly and outer space of Hollywood.” ―John Logan, screenwriter of Skyfall, Gladiator, The Aviator

“Both laugh out loud funny and painfully dark, Brent Spiner has created a fictional autobiography that is filled with surprises.” ―Jonathan Frakes

“Brent takes us all on a wild ride in this fanciful tale.” ―Leonard Maltin

“Of all the pleasures Fan Fiction affords the reader ― a gripping plot, deftly and delightfully twisted; an insider’s slant on a pop culture mega-phenomenon; an affecting personal narrative of childhood trauma overcome; an insightful meditation on the ambiguities of fandom ― the greatest and most singular is Brent Spiner’s prose style. Dry, urbane, acerbic, self-deprecating and gently absurdist, it evokes a lost age of Hollywood autobiography. If Groucho Marx had played Commander Data, this is the kind of memoir he might have written.” ―Michael Chabon, Pulitzer-Prize winning author

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About the author, Brent Spiner

Brent SpinerBRENT SPINER is an actor, comedian, and singer best known for playing the android Lieutenant Commander Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation from 1987-1994. He has appeared in numerous television roles, in films, and in theatre on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in Los Angeles. He currently has a role in the T.V. series Star Trek: Picard.

Connect with Brent

Facebook | Twitter

 


My ThoughtsMelissa A. Bartell

I’ve known Brent Spiner was a fantastic storyteller from his panels at conventions, brief interactions with him at those conventions, and from a thing he did on Twitter many years ago where he also wrote a fictionalized noir-esque version of his life. I cannot deny that part of my interest in reading Fan Fiction was because I am a longtime fan of his work. I have, therefore, tried to temper my review in order to counter my own bias.

In a book about improv (it might have been Truth in Comedy) I read that as long as you ground your scene work in emotional truth, the audience will take the journey with you no matter how preposterous things get. Spiner states in this book that everything in the prologue is true, and everything after is not, but he’s put in enough emotional truth that readers will happily stick with the story.

It’s important to remember when reading this, that Brent played Data on TV, but he isn’t an emotionless, perfectly correct android in real life, and in this tale which takes place in a heightened (at the very least) reality gives readers a decidedly earthy version of the actor. Die-hard fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation (in general) and Data (specifically) may find the cursing and references to sex and drugs (nothing scary) off-putting. I personally found them refreshing. Brent-the-character sounds like a real guy, with the sorts of neuroses so many gifted and talented people tend to display.  Similarly, the exaggerated versions of his TNG castmates (and the Roddenberries) added humor, but also helped tie the book more closely to reality.

The invented characters, especially Cindy and Candy, were breaths of fresh air, and despite their roles in the story (FBI agent and bodyguard, respectively) also added necessary warmth and light. If they came off as slightly shallow, I can only assume they were meant to be.

And then there are the Daddy issues. Those are a strong theme in this story, both in Brent’s memories and feelings about his stepfather and in the stalker who identifies as the character Lal. The latter leads to a “cameo” from Hallie Todd that is both hilarious and disturbing. The former… I can only hope that some of those instances really are fiction.

Overall, this piece of meta-fiction is a solid entry into the contemporary noir oeuvre and a fast (it took me three hours), enjoyable read. I’ve always felt that some of Spiner’s best work is when he plays darker characters. I’ve often heard that the best comedy comes from pain. In Fan Fiction, Brent Spiner shows that both are true.

Goes well with: Vegetables. Lots of vegetables… or a double espresso and a bagel with cream cheese and lox.

 

 

Review: Finding Summer Happiness, by Chris Penhall

Finding Summer Happiness

 

About the book, Finding Summer Happiness

Finding Summer Happiness by Chris PenhallYou won’t find happiness without breaking a few eggs …
Miriam Ryan was the MD of a successful events and catering company, but these days even the thought of chopping an onion sends her stress levels sky rocketing. A retreat to the Welsh village of her childhood holidays seems to offer the escape she’s craving – just peace, quiet, no people, a generous supply of ready meals … did she mention no people?

Enter a cheery pub landlord, a lovesick letting agent, a grumpy astronomer with a fridge raiding habit – not to mention a surprise supper club that requires the chopping of many onions – and Miriam realizes her escape has turned into exactly what she was trying to get away from, but could that be just the thing she needs to allow a little bit of summer happiness into her life?

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About the author, Chris Penhall

Chris PenhallChris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published in August 2020. Her short story, Lily McKee’s Seven Days of Christmas appears in Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction’s Cosy Christmas Treats anthology.

Her new novel, Finding Summer Happiness, which is set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales was published in May 2021.

Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.
She also has her own podcast – The Talking to My Friends About Book Podcast in which she chats to her friends about books. Good title!

Born in Neath in South Wales, she has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it!

A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.

Connect with Chris:

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSomething I’ve learned in the last few years is that if a book has Chris Penhall as the author, it’s going to be a fabulous read. Finding Summer Happiness, the author’s most recent title completely supports my initial statement. Charming, with a bit of romance and a bit of intrigue, it came into my life when I really needed it, and put a smile on my face.

Protagonist Miriam is quite possibly my favorite Penhall lead so far. Savvy and smart, she’s burnt out with her business, and finally agrees to have her personal assistant arrange a break for her. Six months in a cottage by the sea. When she learns the actual terms of said break, I felt her disappointment, displeasure, and confusion, and wanted to rush in and help her out. Her work ethic and sense of honor merge with her attorney’s advice, and the story really takes off

A former business-owner myself, although not professionally, I really resonated with Miriam, especially since I’ve been through the experience of leaving the corporate world, but I enjoyed the characters of Jim the pub owner, Rhiannon the realtor (sorry, letting agent) and Alan the unwanted sort-of guest, and the largely offscreen Justin. These characters were all funny and interesting and felt the like odd assortment of friends and cohorts many of us tend to collect.

I also appreciated the various guests and villagers who rounded out the story. Penhall has a knack for creating vivid and dimensional characters and communities, and in this book she excels at both. I wanted to knock on the door of Miriam’s rented cottage and demand a seat in her supper club.

This is a light read that is grounded in serious topics, like how to change your life and when to make the leap and follow your dreams.

Goes well with: A rainy day, a glass of wine, and a bowl of onion soup.

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Spotlight with Giveaway: 70% Dark Intentions, by Amber Royer

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About the book, 70% Dark Intentions

  • Series: Bean to Bar Mysteries
  • Categories: Cozy Mystery / Woman Sleuth / Romance
  • Publisher: Golden Tip Press
  • Date of Publication: July 20, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 260 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover 70% DarkAn Idyllic Chocolate Shop. An island with endangered species. And a murder.

Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand is bringing in plenty of customers – in part due to the notoriety of the recent murder of one of her assistants, which she managed to solve. Things seem to be taking a turn for the better. Her new assistant, Mateo, even gets along with Carmen, the shop’s barista turned pastry chef. Felicity thinks she’s learning to cope with change – right up until one of her friends gets engaged. Everyone’s expecting her to ask Logan, her former bodyguard, to be her plus one. But even the thought of asking out someone else still makes her feel disloyal to her late husband’s memory — so maybe she hasn’t moved on from her husband’s death as much as she thought.

Felicity isn’t planning to contact Logan any time soon. Only, Felicity finds ANOTHER body right outside her shop – making it two murders at Greetings and Felicitations in as many months. That night, Mateo disappears, leaving Felicity to take care of his pet octopus. The police believe that Mateo committed the murder, but Felicity is convinced that, despite the mounting evidence, something more is going on, and Mateo may actually be in trouble.

When Logan assumes that he’s going to help Felicity investigate, she realizes she’s going to have to spend time with him – whether she’s ready to really talk to him or not. Can Felicity find out what happened to Mateo, unmask a killer, and throw an engagement party all at the same time?

Praise for this book:

“Royer has concocted a sweetly dark confection with 70% DARK INTENTIONS, the second serving in her Bean to Bar Mysteries series…You’ll read this yummy treat late into the night.” –Amy Shojai, author of September Day & Shadow pet-centric thrillers.

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About the author, Amber Royer

Amber 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 blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com. She also teaches creative writing for both UT Arlington Continuing Education and Writing Workshops Dallas. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes.

Connect with Amber:

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Review & Giveaway: Deadly Business by Anita Dickason

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About the book, Deadly Business

  • Pages: 324 pages
  • Publication Date: July 4, 2021
  • Genre: Suspense / Thriller / Crime Thriller
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover Deadly Business by Anita DickasonA Texas Multi-Billion Dollar Lure!

Following a tactical raid at an Oklahoma farm, a phone call sends U.S. Deputy Marshal Piper McKay rushing back to the East Texas cattle ranch where she grew up. Her grandmother, Jennie Layton, is near death from a crushed skull. When local authorities claim the cause of the injury was an accident, Piper isn’t convinced.

Who wants Jennie dead and why? Is the reason connected to a dubious contract Piper finds in Jennie’s desk?

Piper realizes her grandmother isn’t the only one in danger when she barely escapes a deadly attack. Thrust into the middle of a high-stakes, high-risk shell game, Piper’s become the target. The case takes a bizarre turn when Piper unknowingly crosses paths with a Special Ranger. If he can’t derail her investigation, it could cost him his life.

With millions of dollars on the line, nothing will stop a ring of cold-blooded killers, including the murders of a U.S. Marshal and a Special Ranger.

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About the author, Anita Dickason

Author Pic DickasonAward-winning Author Anita Dickason is a twenty-two veteran of the Dallas Police Department. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics detective, advanced accident investigator, tactical officer, and first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.

Anita writes about what she knows, cops and crime. Her police background provides an unending source of inspiration for her plots and characters. Many incidents and characters portrayed in her books are based on personal experience. For her, the characters are the fun part of writing as she never knows where they will take her. There is always something out of the ordinary in her stories.

In Anita’s debut novel, Sentinels of the Night, she created an elite FBI Unit, the Trackers. Since then, she has added three more Tracker crime thrillers, Going Gone!, A u 7 9, and Operation Navajo. The novels are not a series and can be read in any order.

As a Texas author, many of Anita’s books are based in Texas, or there is a link to Texas. When she stepped outside of the Tracker novels and wrote, Not Dead, she selected Meridian, a small community in central Texas for the location.

Connect with Anita:

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI was privileged to participate in a cover reveal for this novel, Deadly Business, last month, and I was so intrigued by the premise that I begged to review it. I’m glad I did, because this book was literally “unputdownable,” keeping me enthralled from the first page to the last.

Dropping the reader into the middle of a high-stakes action sequence at the very beginning, Anita Dickason could very easily have kept up an unrelenting pace, and this still would have been an entertaining read. Instead, she shows off her range and skill by resolving the initial situation, and then radically changing the tone, sending lead character Piper McKay home to her grandmother’s Texas ranch, where the old woman was found thrown from a horse.

From there, the author interweaves some quintessentially Texan elements like the modern version of cattle rustling, with the universal experiences of worrying about a beloved family member in the hospital, and the intricacies of what happens when U.S. marshals and Special Rangers (which are another Texas-specific element) are not the hunters, but the hunted.

Main character Piper is so vividly drawn that I had to wonder how much of the author herself was in the character. After all, Dickason was the first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team, and “write what you know” seems to be her oeuvre. But even if she’s purely fictional, it doesn’t matter, because she feels real. She’s the kind of person I’d love to sit around a fire pit with and share a drink and trade stories, though admittedly, my stories are far less action packed.

The somewhat elusive Special Agent Cade Tanner is equally vividly drawn, as is Piper’s grandmother, Jen, who is the heartstring that connects everything and everyone. (I would read a whole novel just about Jen. Just saying.) Some of my favorite scenes were between Piper and Cade, and I’d love to see more of their interactions.

Overall, this novel is a suspense-filled adventure grounded by human stories (with a special nod to Leopold the Bull) crafted with great care and is b. oth gripping and satisfying.

A word to the wise: don’t skip the “story after the story” at the end of the book, where author Dickason gives a short history of cattle thievery and special rangers. It’s not crucial to the plot, but makes a richer experience.

Goes well with: smoked brisket and Shiner bock.


Giveaway

FOUR WINNERS:
1st: Autographed hardcover copy + tote back, mousepad, pen, & bookmark;
2nd: Tote bag, coaster, pen, & bookmark;
3rd & 4th: eBook copy.

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, July 30, 2021) 

 

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE for direct links to each tour stop, updated daily. Or visit the blogs directly:

7/20/21 Review Bibliotica
7/20/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
7/21/21 Notable Quotable Missus Gonzo
7/21/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
7/22/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
7/23/21 Author Interview That’s What She’s Reading
7/24/21 Video Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
7/25/21 Video Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
7/26/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
7/27/21 Guest Post The Plain-Spoken Pen
7/28/21 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
7/29/21 Review Forgotten Winds
7/29/21 BONUS Review Jennie Reads

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Mini Review: Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe

About the book, Beach House Reunion

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Gallery Books (May 22, 2018)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 22, 2018
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 401 pages

Beach House ReunionThe New York Times bestselling author and “skilled storyteller who never lets her readers down” (Huffington Post) returns to her beloved Beach House series with this “authentic, generous, and heartfelt” (Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author) tale of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Comforting in its familiarity, it is still rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara let go of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new career and love.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate with an uncertain future, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is free to join the turtle team, learn to surf, and fall in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In “this tender and openhearted novel of familial expectations, new boundaries, and the power of forgiveness” (Booklist), three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

The Beach House series has long been a favorite of mine, and this is no exception. Well written with dynamic characters and vivid descriptions of both people and places, this novel is a satisfying read for anyone who loves family stories and beachy settings.

One of the things I love about Mary Alice Monroe is that her books often weave together similar experiences from different generations of the same family. In this case the through-line is sea turtles, and their conservation, and I liked the way the protection of the turtles echoed the maternal protection between the characters.

If you’ve seen the Hallmark movie “The Beach House,” this is the book it was based on. The movie was cozy and entertaining. The book is rich and rewarding.

You will not be disappointed.

Review: Blooming Murder by Simon Whaley

Blooming Murder

About the book, Blooming Murder

Blooming Murder ebook coverMURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.

Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.

This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.

It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.

So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.

Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Simon Whaley

Blooming Simon Whaley squareSimon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

Connect with Simon:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI love getting into a series when it’s brand new. I get to meet all the main characters and then look forward to their returns in future novels. I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you, I’m really looking forward to seeing where Simon Whaley’s new “Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries” go from here.

But let’s talk about the beginning. Blooming Murder is the opening novel of what I hope will be a series of many books. Whaley’s writing style is straight-forward and hooks you instantly, and his plot builds steadily from there. Aldermaston, the Marquess, is one of the first characters we meet, of course, and it’s clear that he’s going to be our POV character, after all, it’s “his” series.

Characters abound in this novel, many of whom are involved either in local (village) politics, or in the politics of a gardening club, or both, and Whaley describes them vividly (dainty feet stuck in my head) and writes them with just as much care. This novel takes place in Wales, and the author doesn’t write in dialect, but he still manages to convey where each character hails from and how they sound, as much as how they look.

What I really loved about Blooming Murder is that the murder in question felt really organic, not just shoved in as a plot contrivance. I also appreciated that there are touches of humor throughout the book, lightening some of the more serious moments. (A character hoping the body won’t be in frame for a photo opp is just one example.)

Overall, Blooming Murder is a charming, engaging novel, and I am looking forward to the series continuing.

Goes well with: a glass of Prosecco and a salad that includes edible flowers.


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Cover Reveal: The Road from Cromer Pier, by Martin Gore

The Road From Cromer Pier - Cover Reveal

About the book The Road from Cromer Pier

Coming July 17, 2021

It’s ten years on from The Road to Cromer Pierand Summertime Special Show Director Karen Wells has two potential headliners, but both have issues. Dare she take the risk? And Karen herself is at a crossroads. Will her mother Janet ever retire and allow her to run the pier theatre?

Meanwhile Janet’s nemesis, businessman Lionel Pemrose still has designs on the pier theatre, but he is facing growing financial problems. Bank manager Peter Hodson is haunted by a past indiscretion, and calls in recently widowed turnaround expert Tom Stanley. Can he keep the indiscretion a secret?

Tom is bereaved and has recently been made redundant from his own firm. He is too young to retire, and after years of long hours, suddenly finds himself unemployed. He pours his energies into the assignment, which could be his last hurrah.
Old enmities, loyalties and past mistakes surface as the future of the pier theatre is once again under threat, and those involved must deal with unresolved issues in their lives.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Martin Gore

The Road From Cromer Pier Author PhotoI am a 63 year old Accountant who semi-retired to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing. Jaguar, Triumph, Talbot, Rolls Royce, Courtaulds, Massey Ferguson were the major employers, to name but a few.

When I was nine year’s old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a Playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.

I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.

The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written eight. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, is now available on: https://www.silverbirchingtonplays.com/product-page/he-s-behind-you-by-martin-gore

Pen Pals was my first novel, and a second, The Road to Cromer Pier, is now available in all three formats. It was. officially launched on Cromer Pier itself, coinciding with the new season of the Summertime Special Show.

I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.

Connect with Martin:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


The Cover: The Road from Cromer Pier

The Road from Cromer Pier12

 

Series Review with Giveaway: El Paso Sunrise & El Paso Sunset by Louis Bodnar

BNR El Paso

 

About These Books, El Paso Sunrise & El Paso Sunset

  • Publisher: Morgan James Fiction
  • Pub Date: September 24th, 2019 | January 5th, 2021
  • Pages: 292 | 238
  • Categories: Thriller / Terrorism / Conspiracy
  • Scroll down for giveaway

Cover Book 1 El Paso SunriseEl Paso Sunrise

From a Constitutional Republic to a Marxist Dictatorship led by a Muslim President in a Second American Civil War 

“Kill him,” the gravelly voice said on the speaker to the cream of the Russian and Muslim terrorist assassination squad infiltrating America from Canada and on their way to El Paso to kill lawyer Steven Vandorol.  Steven was leading the Texas prosecution of Federal government corruption and with national implications before the fall presidential election.

El Paso Sunrise is the first of two stand-alone novels that together tell a grand story of love, passion, intense hate, violence and horror all brought keenly alive against the intentional radical transformation of America in a Second American Civil War by progressives, Muslim radicals and the American Left from a Constitutional Republic.  It is also a portrayal of a future with the literal choking of Canada, Great Britain, Europe, the Middle East, particularly the sovereign State of Israel by Islamist radicals, ISIL, Hezbollah, Hamas and the spreading cancerous malignancy of a worldwide Muslim Caliphate.

Steven Vandorol had it all but lost everything when he fell hard from grace in the ultra-rich Sunbelt.  Escaping to Washington, D.C., he found himself embroiled in evil, corruption, sexual obsession and addiction but, confronting his own demons, found peace and serenity in El Paso.

Then stunning Vanessa Carson, Steven’s attorney friend and confidant amid the evil of D.C. brings her sunshine smile back into his life in El Paso and together as one, face their worst nightmares or rape, kidnapping and murder during the ultimate crises of a second American civil war started by powerful forces and only Steven and Vanessa stand in their way . . .

While El Paso Sunrise is a graphic story of evil in this world, it is also a timeless love story about goodness, faith, grace and friendship blossoming during a national emergency — a clarion call to the world to remember what truly matters — asking the question . . .

Can Steven force his own country and government to face their own demons before it’s too late?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

*Louis Bodnar | AmazonBarnes and Noble | Goodreads

Cover Book 2 El Paso SunsetEl Paso Sunset

Within El Paso Sunset, Steven and his friend, Vanessa Carson, face their worst nightmare of rape, kidnapping, and murder during the ultimate crisis of a Second American Civil War started by dark, sinister, and shadowy forces and only Steven and Vanessa stand in the way. El Paso Sunset is the second and continuation of two stand-alone novels that together make a story of love, passion, obsession, intense hate, pure evil, violence, and horror, all brought keenly alive against the panorama of the radical transformation of the great American Constitutional Republic.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

*Louis Bodnar | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

*Note: There is a special discount if you buy both books from Louis Bodnar’s site.

 


About the author, Louis Bodnar

Author Pic BodnarLouis Bodnar is a retired attorney currently living in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, with his wife Joan.  As a naturalized American citizen, he was born in Vilshofen, Germany, immigrated to Brazil with his mother and brother, and came to America in 1958.

He was educated in the United States in Oklahoma, receiving an undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University, a Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, and was a candidate for an LLM in International and Comparative Law at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.

Connect with Louis:

Website Amazon | Facebook | Twitter  | BookBub | Instagram


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellAs the characters in these books share a political ideology that does not mesh with mine, I read Louis Bodnar’s pair of books, El Paso Sunrise, and El Paso Sunset, with an even more critical eye than usual. But the thing is, a good story is a good story – I don’t share the same worldview as the characters in Tom Clancy’s work, either, but I’m a massive fan of his writing – and Louis Bodnar wrote not one, but two, really good stories.

Each of the El Paso books can be read as a stand-alone novel without the reader feeling confused or ill-informed. (I actually read the opening chapters of book two first, just so I could confirm that.) Reading them in order, however, is a much richer experience because you get to watch Steven and Vanessa develop individually and as friends. As well, you get to watch the way the events of book two result from some of the events in book one.

What I loved about these books was that Bodnar has an ear for dialogue. Lawyers sound like actual lawyers, rather than television approximations, and when dark characters are represented (heavies) the sense of malice and danger are strong. As well, Bodnar’s use of structure, and particularly the device of having another character talk about the main character, is both intricate and deftly crafted. The plots of both novels were well-paced, and the attention to detail was impeccable.

Of course, the El Paso setting of the stories was also a selling point. Bodnar is a man who clearly knows and loves the city, and that region of Texas, and he really does make it another character in both novels, in much the way the Dallas and Red October submarines were characters, as much as places, in Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October which I’ve recently re-read. In fact, I found Bodnar’s writing style to be reminiscent of Clancy’s at times – I think because they both rely on deep research and have analytical brains.

What struck me about El Paso Sunrise, specifically was the opening line. “Kill him,” the hushed, gravelly, almost hoarse voice said on the speaker to the four assassins slouched around the rough-hewn oak table, three of them sipping Stolichnaya vodka straight, while the fourth drank hot tea.” Not only did this sentence set the tone for the entire story to follow, but it also dropped me right into the scene. I could feel the table-top, smell the tea, hear the click of glasses being put down and picked up. It’s an extremely catchy opening, and the rest of the story is equally compelling.

What struck me about El Paso Sunset is that it didn’t feel like a sequel, so much as another story in the same universe. It opened with a rather grim scene, that involved a deliciously creepy rendition of the Beatles’ “Michelle,” that made me shiver and squirm. Immersive storytelling at its finest!

Overall, this pair of novels is jam-packed with espionage, terrorism, and conspiracy theories in a fast-paced format full of bigger-than-life characters and situations. Definitely worth the read.

Goes well with:  a vodka martini and a grilled t-bone steak. 


Giveaway

ONE WINNER receives autographed copies of the two-volume set of the El Paso books.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, July 2, 2021)   

Giveaway El Paso Books

 

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Check out the other great blogs on this tour!

(Visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page for direct links.)

 

6/22/21 Excerpt Book One Texas Book Lover
6/22/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
6/23/21 Review Book One Forgotten Winds
6/24/21 Guest Post It’s Not All Gravy
6/25/21 Dual Review Bibliotica
6/26/21 Excerpt Book Two StoreyBook Reviews
6/27/21 Excerpt Book Two Chapter Break Book Blog
6/28/21 Review Book Two The Clueless Gent
6/29/21 Author Interview Hall Ways Blog
6/30/21 Dual Review Reading by Moonlight
7/1/21 Series Spotlight Missus Gonzo

 

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