Review: Sweet Pastries and Sourdough at the Little Duck Pond Cafe, by Rosie Green

Sweet Pastries & Sourdough

 

About the book Sweet Pastries and Sourdough at the Little Duck Pond Cafe

SWEET PASTRIES and SOUR DOUGHLDPC_FRONT_RGB150dpiEllie’s brand new enterprise, the True Loaf Bakery, is finally open and classes are due to start. But when Katja’s ski-ing holiday ends in disaster, a new teacher must be found very quickly. Anita is up for the challenge, but – fresh from a break-up and an operation that’s left her feeling physically and emotionally vulnerable – the last thing she’s looking for when she moves to Sunnybrook is a new relationship. So it’s Sod’s law that she should find herself with not one but two guys vying for her attention. Sven, from Denmark, is a bit of an enigma – but maybe passion lurks beneath his cool reserve? And as for twenty-five-year-old football coach Ross – surely she’d be asking for trouble getting involved with a gorgeous man a decade her junior? (Although her football-mad son Rufus seems to love him.)
Moving in with Bertha proves a real comfort – but can Anita get to the bottom of what’s troubling the older woman?

Anita’s job at the True Loaf Bakery is only temporary, but she finds herself drawn ever deeper into life in the village – especially when she finds a child’s bracelet from long ago, in the rubble of the newly-renovated building. Solving the mystery of who it belongs to takes Anita on a journey of discovery – a journey that might just help her discover what her own heart really needs…

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase | Goodreads


About the author, Rosie Green

Rosie Green Author PicRosie has been scribbling stories ever since she was little.

Back then, they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’.

Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all – unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

Her series of novellas is centered around life in a village cafe.

Connect with Rosie:

Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSweet Pastries and Sourdough at the Little Duck Pond Cafe is the fifteenth Little Duck Pond Cafe Book, but it’s the first I’ve read. Nevertheless, the characters and setting were all so vivid that I felt as though I’d been visiting the cafe for years.

Part romance, part mystery, this novel is the story of a single mother named Anita seeking to redefine herself after a divorce and being a stay-at-home-mom during her son’s early life. It’s such a relatable story – how many women go through such things? – that stepping into the world Rosie Green has created was as effortless as stepping across the street to visit with a neighbor. Anita is a fantastic lead character: smart, funny, and flawed, as well as supremely real. The first person point of view was the perfect choice for her story.

Sven, Bertha, and especially best friend Ellie, as well as the other characters who live and work in Sunnybrook, were all as dynamically drawn as Anita, and felt like just the sort of people you’d encounter in every day life, and I really appreciated the great affection Ellie and Anita showed for each other. Friendships between women are too often depicted as competitions, and this was, refreshingly not the case with these too.

Author Green’s style is fresh and breezy, accessible without being too shallow, and I liked that she used casual language so well in dialogue and for Anita’s narration. As well, she balances romance and mystery elements without going too far with either.

While I had no issue reading Sweet Pastries and Sourdough at the Little Duck Pond Cafe as a standalone novel, a part of me wishes I’d been reading Green’s work from the beginning so I could appreciate the way her talent has grown.

Goes well with: a cheese danish and a mug of coffee.


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Review & Giveaway: Dire’s Club by Kimberly Packard

BNR Dire's Club

 

About the book Dire’s Club

  • Publisher: Abalos Publishing
  • Publication Date: March 23, 2021
  • Pages: 326 Pages
  • Categories: Action & Adventure / Contemporary / Women’s Fiction
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover Hi Res Dire's ClubDying isn’t just hard on the ones left behind, the regret of unfinished lives weighs heavily on the terminally ill. That’s where Dire’s Club steps in, a specialty travel agency that takes a small group of dying people on one final adventure-so they can be free of guilt, be more than a diagnosis, and find a way to confront life … and death.

Life Coach Charlotte Claybrooke built a successful second career guiding people out of grief, but the impending tenth anniversary of her own heart-wrenching tragedy sets her on a journey to find life among the dying.

Staring death in the face was Jimmy Dire’s business. He met it with a warm hug, a kind word, and a smile. Dire’s Club gave the terminally ill one final, bucket-list adventure before passing on, but dying was expensive. The bills, like Jimmy’s lies, were piling up. It’s only a matter of time before he’s forced to face a different type of death.

A rock god, a telenovela star, a grandmother living her life-long dream, and a young tech genius round out this group of strangers facing death together. But when tragedy strikes, their bond is shattered. Lies and fraud surface, forcing the dying to come together to save someone’s life.

Everybody dies. The lucky ones have fun doing it.

Buy, read and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Book Trailer

Dire’s Club trailer from Kimberly Walton on Vimeo.


About the author, Kimberly Packard

Author Pic PackardKimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. She began visiting her spot on the shelves at libraries and bookstores at a young age, gazing between the Os and the Qs. Kimberly received a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, and has worked in public relations and communications for nearly 20 years.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found rollerblading, doing a poor imitation of yoga or curled up with a book. She resides in North Texas with her husband Colby, a clever cat named Ollie and Tully, the precocious puppy.

Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors. Other published works by Kimberly include a Christmas novella, The Crazy Yates, and the sequels to Phoenix: Pardon Falls and Prospera Pass, and her stand-alone titles, Vortex and Dire’s Club. She was honored as one of the Top 10 Haute Young Authors by Southern Methodist University in 2019.

Connect with Kimberly:

Amazon | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter Goodreads Bookbub


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellGathering a group of diverse strangers to go on a journey together has been a literary conceit since Chaucer gave us The Canterbury Tales, and there’s a reason for that: it’s a setup that is extremely effective. Kimberly Packard latest novel Dire’s Club, uses a modern twist on that setup, but it does so in a way that is completely new, and results in a story that is fresh, compelling, and surprisingly thought provoking.

The idea of a a club for terminally ill adults to share in each other’s ultimate – and quite literal – “bucket list” item is a fascinating one, and perfect for our health-obsessed modern era. Like a cross between Fantasy Island and Make-a-Wish for adults, Jimmy Dire’s business  is to grant wishes to the terminally ill, and he fits that Mr. Roarke roll well: wealthy, connected, operating legally (mostly), he’s the perfect ringleader, arranging things, but never quite stealing the spotlight. Rather, the first “member” of this group that we meet is the central figure: Charlotte Claybrooke, life coach. Yes, the irony is real. Even more so: Dire has used Claybrooke’s work in his own business.

If Charlotte and Jimmy are the central figures, the other Diers (even the title of the group is a pun) are equally interesting: Levi, the aging rock star, Celeste, a grandmotherly type, Dylan who may or may not be over the proscribed minimum age of 21, and Lourdes, the Mexican telenovela star are all fully realized, though some of their stories are given a bit more depth than others. Truly though, any one of these people could easily be the protagonist in their own novel, and author Kimberly Packard has done her job well, because I want more, of this group, of this concept, of her words.

If all of this sounds a bit grim, especially as you go into this novel knowing that a significant amount of the cast will be dead at the end, fear not. Packard has included a lot of humor into her story. From gallows humor, to sarcasm, to simple organic life moments that make you chuckle, this book is an amazingly lighthearted read, despite the heavy subject.

And then there’s the language. I love it when I encounter language that hooks me, and Packard’s writing did that. The first line that struck me was from Lourdes: “I want to know what it feels like to be alone. To bask in the light of the weaker stars.”  That sentence struck me so hard that I actually texted it to a friend (who just bought the Kindle copy of the book, based on my gushing.)

There’s an old theatre adage, attributed in various forms to the late Edmund Gwenn:  “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” In Dire’s Club Kimberly Packard handles both with grace and aplomb.

Goes well with: Grilled sea bass, sauteed spinach and mushrooms, mashed potatoes with Gouda, and a glass of pinot noir, which actually pairs really well with fish.


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2 Winners: Autographed Paperbacks;
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Spotlight: Stiff Lizard, by Lisa Haneberg

Stiff Lizard Book Blitz

 

About the book, Stiff Lizard

  • Series: A Spy Shop Mystery
  • Publisher: Written Pursuits Press
  • Pages: 364 pages
  • Pub Date: March 13th, 2021
  • Categories: Women Sleuths / Cozy Mystery / Private Investigator / Humor

Stiff Lizard CoverRodent Roger, a popular Galveston Island exterminator, goes missing the day after he tells private investigator and spy shop owner Xena Cali about a concerning uptick in green iguana sightings on the island. They’re crapping in people’s boats and falling from trees. Are the lizards swimming over from Florida to escape the pythons, or is it something more nefarious? Can Xena help untangle the mess before the raucous reptiles take over Galveston?

Ultima Penelope Roger is a best-selling writer of romance novels. The Lizard Liquidators have set up shop on Galveston Island. Herpetologist Quintana Flores, PhD, works on a bizarre cruise ship that sails out of the Port of Galveston. Sasha Barlow is a driven junior reporter who’ll do anything to get the story. Ned “The Pelican Man” Quinn writes a column about bird necropsies. Captain Ethan Slaughter is the head of the Major Crimes team at the Galveston Police Department. Xena and her team will have to partner with and/or battle this cast of characters and others to solve what becomes a disturbing murder investigation.

Stiff Lizard is the third full-length book in the Spy Shop Mystery series. If you like fast-paced crime novels, clever satire, and gritty beach towns, then you’ll love Lisa Haneberg’s humorous and contemporary cozy caper.

Praise for This Book:

“Lisa Haneberg has a wicked sense of humor. She can also write a fast-moving, totally original mystery.” — Alan Rinzler

Lisa Haneberg’s newest entry in the Spy Shop Mystery Series lives up to its predecessors. A good number of laughs, lots of intrigue, a bit of titillation, lots of interesting information, and lots of mystery make for a good read.” – Verified purchaser from Amazon

Buy, Read, and Discuss This Book:

Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

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About the author, Lisa Haneberg

Author Pic HanebergLisa Haneberg loves to explore Galveston Island’s gritty back streets, stellar seafood joints, magnificent natural areas, and all points in between. In addition to the Spy Shop Mysteries, she’s a blogger, and has authored over a dozen nonfiction books. She earned an MFA degree from Goddard College and a BS in Behavioral Sciences from the University of Maryland.

Before writing crime fiction, she was a seasoned human resources professional with a strange attraction to gnarly internal investigations. She lives with her husband and dog in Lexington, Kentucky. Lisa once owned a home on Galveston Island and is a frequent visitor.

Connect with Lisa:

FacebookBlog | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page

 

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Review: Alfie Carter, by BJ Mayo – with Giveaway

BNR Alfie Carter

 

About the book, Alfie Carter

  • Published by Skyhorse Publishing
  • Pages: 288
  • Published: January 19th, 2021
  • Categories: Southern Fiction / Rural Fiction / Mystery
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Alfie Carter med resThe seemingly never-ending Cabinda War (1975—) has left multitudes dead in its wake and thousands of children homeless and orphaned.

Jackaleena N’denga, a young Angolan girl, has become the sole survivor of one specifically brutal village massacre carried out by a band of guerrilla boy-soldiers.

Jackaleena’s resilience leads her to an orphanage on the west coast of Africa, known as Benguela by the Sea, where she and other children are taken in and protected. Her brilliant mind and endless questions capture the heart of her mentor, Margaret, who ensures her that her survival thus far—especially being the survivor from her village—must mean she has big things ahead of her. When the opportunity arises, she must find her purpose.

Not without a plan, Jackaleena stows away on a mercy ship that has made its yearly visit to the orphanage and is now preparing to return to America. Her journey takes her across the ocean, into the arms of New York City’s customs officials, and finally into placement in a temporary foster home in Texas.

Enter Alfie Carter—a workaholic, small-town detective who is also battling memories of his past. His life is forever changed when he meets a young African girl looking for her higher purpose.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Skyhorse Publishing | Goodreads


About the author, BJ Mayo

BJ MayoBJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. He spent the first few years of his life living in a company field camp twenty-five miles from the closest town. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola West Africa. He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years with two grown children. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.

Connect with BJ:

Website


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAlfie Carter is one of those novels that should be on everyone’s reading list, because it’s such a well-crafted, compelling story. Actually, it’s two stories that become entangled at the end of the book, but even though Jackaleena’s story begins in Africa and involves some horrific scenes of the type typically only seen in 30-second clips on CNN, and Alfie’s begins with him climbing a mountain to spend some time camping in order to get out of his own head, the themes are the same: identity, purpose, and faith.

As we open, both characters are adults. Jackaleena is an attorney known for her toughness. Alfie is a gritty detective. But the narrative very quickly goes back in time to give us the history of these two powerful characters, and author BJ Mayo handles the time changes and perspective changes with a deft hand. Interestingly, he chose not to begin the novel from the title character’s point of view. Readers don’t encounter him until slightly later. But the reality is that it might be Alfie Carter’s name in the title, but this story really has dual leads.

What I loved about this book was the specific use of language. When Jackaleena is a child in Africa, her thought processes and speech are young, and even though there’s no written dialect, it’s obvious that this isn’t a kid whose first language is English. The rhythm and cadence of her words is different than it is years later when she has largely assimilated into American culture.

Similarly, Alfie Carter feels exactly the way one expects a lifelong Texan to be – I felt like I could hear a rough voice with a slight drawl even when what I was reading were his thoughts and observations.

At times a difficult read, especially because of Jackaleena’s childhood experiences (though Alfie is certainly no stranger to rough times), this novel is one that is grounded in the individual faith of both main characters. It’s never preachy, and there are moments of humor to break up the serious nature of the main story, but that faith, and each characters relationship with it, helps drive the story and should not be overlooked as an integral element of the novel.

Overall, Alfie Carter is the kind of novel that sticks with you long after you’ve finished it, and makes you think about your own reactions, beliefs, and assumptions.

Goes well with: steak cooked over an open fire and a slug of whiskey.


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Review: A Brush with Death, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Cosy Mystery Series

 

About the book, A Brush with Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Fiona Leitch

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

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with: hot tea and saffron buns.


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Spotlight: Trust Me, by Candace Hutton – With Giveaway

Trust Me Banner

 

About the book, Trust Me

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

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

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

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

Buy, read and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


Trust Me - Candace Hutton AvatarAbout the author, Candace Hutton

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

Connect with Candace:

Twitter


Read an Excerpt from Trust Me

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

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

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

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

“Perfect.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organizer and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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Review: Comfort Foods, by Kimberly Fish – with Giveaway

BNR Comfort Foods

About the book, Comfort FoodsCover Comfort Foods

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Kimberly Fish About the author, Kimberly Fish

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

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

Connect with Kimberly:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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GRANDPRIZE (US only):

Signed copy of COMFORT FOODS +

Ina Garten’s MODERN COMFORT FOOD

Ends Midnight, CST, January 22, 2021

Comfort Foods Giveaway

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

or visit the Lone Star Literary Life tour page

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

 

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

BNR Black-Marketer's Daughter

 

About the book, The Black-Marketer’s Daughter

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

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

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

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

Praise for this book:

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

 


Author Pic MallickAbout the author, Suman Mallick

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

Connect with Suman:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | AMAZON | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts

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

And all that in less than two hundred pages!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

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

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

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Cover Reveal: River, Sing Out, by James Wade

BNR River, Sing Out Blitz

About the book, River Sing Out

  • Categories: Contemporary / Literary Fiction
  • Rural Fiction / Crime Fiction / Coming-of-Age
  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • Date of Publication: June 8, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 315 pages

Cover Hi Res River, Sing Out_rectangle“And through these ages untold, the river did act as the lifeblood of all those things alongside it.

Jonah Hargrove is celebrating his thirteenth birthday by avoiding his abusive father, when a girl named River stumbles into his yard, injured and alone. The teenager has stolen thousands of dollars’ worth of meth from her murderous, drug-dealing boyfriend, but lost it somewhere in the Neches River bottoms during her escape. Jonah agrees to help her find and sell the drugs so she can flee East Texas.

Chasing after them is John Curtis, a local drug kingpin and dog fighter, as well as River’s boyfriend, the dangerous Dakota Cade.

Each person is keeping secrets from the others—deadly secrets that will be exposed in violent fashion as all are forced to come to terms with their choices, their circumstances, and their own definition of God.

With a colorful cast of supporting characters and an unflinching violence juxtaposed against lyrical prose, River, Sing Out dives deep into the sinister world of the East Texas river bottoms, where oppressive poverty is pitted against the need to believe in something greater than the self.

Pre-order this book:

Blackstone Publishing | AmazonBooks-a-Million |Indie Bound | Downpour | Hudson Booksellers

Watch the trailer for this book:

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River, Sing Out – Book Trailer from AV FILMS on Vimeo.


About the author, James Wade

James WadeJames Wade lives and writes in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Jordan. He has had twenty short stories published in various literary magazines and journals. He is the winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest and a finalist of the Tethered by Letters Short Fiction Contest. All Things Left Wild is his debut novel.

Connect with James:

Website | Blog | Facebook | YouTube | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

Connect with Blackstone Publishing:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 


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VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE 

FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS BOOK BLITZ.

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Spotlight: Christmas at the Marshmallow Cafe, by CP Ward

Christmas at the Marshmallow Cafe

 

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase | Goodreads


About the author, CP Ward

CP Ward is an author from Cornwall in the UK.

Connect with CP:

Facebook Discussion Group


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