Review and Giveaway: Sunrise, by Susan May Warren (Sky King Ranch #1)

BNR Sky King Ranch

 

About the Sky King Ranch series

Meet the boys of Sky King Ranch! The Kingston brothers are back in town, and you can read their stories in the Sky King Ranch series books Sunrise, Sunburst, and Sundown by USA Today bestselling author Susan May Warren.

About book one: Sunrise

  • Series; Sky King Ranch
  • Christian Fiction / Romance
  • Publisher: Revell
  • SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

Sunrise: (Publication Date: January 4, 2022, 352 pgs) Pilot Dodge Kingston has always been the heir to Sky King Ranch. But after a terrible family fight, he left to become a pararescue jumper. A decade later, he’s headed home to the destiny that awaits him.

Praise for the entire series:

  • “Warren proves yet again why she is a master in the genre.”–Booklist, starred review on Sunrise
  • “International intrigue and adventure paired with a simmering romance equals one fast-moving story you won’t be able to put down!”–Lisa Harris, bestselling author of the Nikki Boyd Files series, on Sunburst

Buy, read, and discuss this book (or the others in the series):

Baker Publishing GroupAmazon | Barnes & Noble |  IndieBound | Christianbook.com | LifeWayOther Baker Publishing Affiliates | Goodreads


About the author, Susan May Warren Author Photo Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren is the USA Today bestselling author of nearly 90 novels with more than 1.5 million books sold, including the Global Search and Rescue and the Montana Rescue series, as well as Sunrise and Sunburst. Winner of a RITA Award and multiple Christy and Carol Awards, as well as the HOLT Medallion and numerous Readers’ Choice Awards, Susan makes her home in Minnesota.

Connect with Susan:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon | Goodreads | BookBub

 

XTRA ad Sky King Ranch


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I’m always excited to read the first book of a series, especially when I know at least one sequel is already available. Jumping into Susan may Warren’s Sky King Ranch series with the first book, Sunrise, was the start of a wonderful adventure, that – in this case Alaska – made me want to jump on a plane and visit (though maybe not in winter). In fact, the only real problem I had with this novel was that a plane ticket was not included.

All gushing aside, I was completely hooked from the beginning of this novel to the end. While the focus of this novel is on Dodge Kingston, unwillingly returning to run things while his father cannot, the story is as much about the female lead, Echo, his childhood friend and former girlfriend, herself a rugged Alaskan in her own right, working as a musher (dog sledder) and researcher. It’s also the story of her friend Peyton, in Alaska on a grant to research wolves.

As this is a romance-adventure, I expected it to exist in a heightened reality where the men are more rugged and the women are more daring than people tend to be outside the pages of fiction, and I was not wrong. Heroic actions are frequent, even as the characters – especially Dodge – are adamant that they are not heroes. Still everything was grounded in the kind of emotional truth that makes even the most reluctant reader willing to suspend disbelief. For me, there wasn’t much suspension required, but that’s probably because I grew up on PBS nature films and am addicted to shows like Gator Boys and The Amazing Race, and follow alligator wrestlers and bear wranglers on Instagram.

The romance part of this novel was brilliantly handled. Dodge and Echo (I love that name) have a rocky past, but neither ever got over the other, and  watching them take two steps forward and one step back for most of the meaty three hundred sixty-eight pages of this book was both heartwarming and frustrating – often simultaneously. I really liked that they had issues and tried to deal with them rather than just falling into old patterns, and I felt their relationship with each other and with their respective friends and families really grounded the story, so that bush piloting, dog care, and other danger-fraught situations felt plausible within the world of the novel.

As an animal lover and conservationist, I was as interested in the parts of the book about bears and wolves, as well as the tribulations of owning livestock that is at risk from several kinds of wild animal, as I was in the romance and adventure, and author Warren did an excellent job of integrating the flora and fauna of Alaska into her plot.

This book is marketed as a Christian romance, and as someone who does not identify as Christian, I was concerned that it would feel preachy. Rest assured that it does not. Mentions of faith are organic and feel true to the characters, and struggles with faith are handled honestly. I feel that readers of any background will enjoy this book, and I’m personally looking forward to the next two in the series.

Overall, Sunrise is a masterfully written novel with the perfect balance of sizzling romance and gritty outdoorsy adventure.

Goes well with: venison stew, cooked over an open fire.


Giveaway

GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
ONE WINNER:
Receives a set of the Sky King Ranch Books &
Northern Nights of Alaska Necklace.

(US only; ends midnight, 12/09/22.)

Giveaway Sky King Ranch

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11/29/22 All the Ups and Downs Series Spotlight
11/29/22 Hall Ways Blog BONUS Promo
11/30/22 It’s Not All Gravy Review Book 3
11/30/22 Stories Under Starlight BONUS Review Bk 1
11/30/22 LSBBT Blog BONUS Promo
12/01/22 Shelf Life Blog Review Book 2
12/02/22 Bibliotica Review Book 1
12/03/22 Carpe Diem Chronicles Excerpt, Book 1
12/04/22 StoreyBook Reviews Excerpt, Book 2
12/05/22 Sybrina’s Book Blog Excerpt, Book 3
12/06/22 The Book’s Delight Review Book 1
12/07/22 Reading by Moonlight Review Book 2
12/08/22 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review Book 3

 

 

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Book Review & Giveaway: The Aquamarine Surfboard by Kellye Abernathy

Thumbnail of book cover for The Aquamarine Surfboard - a dark-haired girl in a pink and black wetsuit straddling a surfboard, looking back to shore, on a dark teal background with the title of the book and the words Pop-Up Blog Tour.

About the book, The Aquamarine Surfboard

  • Middle Grade / Magical Realism / Fantasy
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Page Count: 290 pages
  • Publication Date: November 22, 2021
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

“Age never matters; these things are about bravery and heart.”

Thirteen-year-old Condi Bloom’s dream is to learn to surf, but her laid-back beach town isn’t what it used to be. Big resort owners are taking over the cove. Worse, someone’s harassing the Beachlings, the mysterious old women living in the cliffs off Windy Hollow, a lonely tower of rock that people say is haunted. When a new surfer boy named Trustin shows up in town and invites Condi to a forbidden surfing spot, she’s swept into an extraordinary underwater adventure, where a surprising encounter with Koan, the Riddlemaster of the Sea, changes her life. Along with Trustin, his quirky twin and a mystical aquamarine surfboard, Condi learns the untold stories of the Beachlings, uncovering the timeless secrets of Windy Hollow.Ebbing and flowing between reality and magic, times past and present, The Aquamarine Surfboard by Kellye Abernathy is a riveting beach tale about opening up to mystery, building community when and where you can — and discovering the ocean is filled with magic—the really BIG kind—the kind that changes the world.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon  *  Barnes and Noble * IndieBound  *  Bookshop.orgBooks-A-Million * Goodreads


 

About the author, Kellye Abernathy

Kellye Abernathy’s passions are writing and serving trauma survivors as a yoga teacher and practical life skills advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Kansas. Her home is in land-locked Plano, Texas—where she’s dreaming of her next trip to the sea!

Connect with Kellye:

Website * Instagram * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads * Amazon

 

 


My Thoughts MissMeliss

As someone who was almost born on the beach and was swimming before I was walking, this book, The Aquamarine Surfboard, felt like it was written for my childhood self. From the opening chapter, where the protagonist, Condi, meets the mysterious Trustin, and tells him about the Beachlings, a group of free-spirited old women who are unhoused, but make their home in the caves by the sea, I was drawn into the world that author Kellye Abernathy created – a beachfront town that could be almost anywhere in the world – Hawaii or New Zealand feel most likely – that has cliffs overlooking the sea.

Thirteen-year-old Condi is a fabulous character, very much a real girl, who is living with the tragic loss of her parents.  Despite this, she’s reasonably happy, finding pleasure in salt, sand, sea, and surfing – well, in the idea of surfing – because when we first meet her she’s just voicing her determination to learn. While she doesn’t have a ton of friends, those she does have are loyal, and the boys they share space with are written like real young teenagers – eager, oblivious, exuberant – sometimes all at once.

This book isn’t just a surfing story, although it would be a satisfying read if that’s all it was. Rather, it’s a magical trip from childhood to the cusp of young womanhood, filled with sea beings who aren’t necessarily mermaids (Koan, their leader, seems like a combination of Poseidon and Gandalf, and completely works as the Voice of Reason who never gives you the answers, just the clues you need in order to find them. There’s also local history woven throughout the novel, and rumors of hauntings.

Like the best adult books with the magical realism tag, this book rides the line between pure fantasy and purely realistic events, with dimensional characters, settings one would love to visit (well, I would, anyway) and a plot that’s easy enough for middle-grade readers to comprehend, while also bring complex enough for adult readers.

I especially liked the author’s use of simple, but evocative, language. I felt like I could hear the waves between each line of text. The way she dropped in snippets of Robert Frost’s work (and other poets) was perfect for the tone of the book, and felt very organic.

Overall, The Aquamarine Surfboard is an enchanting story that leaves you feeling like there’s sand between your toes and saltwater drying in your hair – in the most wonderful way, of course.

Goes well with: Italian ice treats in lemon or watermelon. Preferably purchased from a food truck or beachside snack bar.

 

 


Giveaway

Three winners receive signed copies!

(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/16/22)

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Review: Dangerous Blues, by Stephen Policoff

About the book, Dangerous Blues: Kind of a Ghost Story DangerousBlues

• Publisher: Flexible Press (October 3, 2022)
• Paperback: 257 pages

Dangerous Blues explores a dark yet comic storm of family relationships laced with a buzz of the supernatural, where the fleeting light of the present must constantly contend with the shadows of the past.

Paul Brickner and his 12-year-old daughter Spring are subletting an apartment in New York City. They came to escape the sorrow of their empty house in upstate New York after Nadia, Paul’s wife and Spring’s mother, dies.

Spring quickly takes to her new Manhattan middle school life, including making a new friend, Irina. Through that connection, Paul meets Irina’s mother, Tara White, a blues singer, and perhaps just the spark Paul has been missing.
But Paul begins to fear that he is being haunted by Nadia, who appears to him in fleeting images. Is he imagining it, or is she real? Tara, who grew up in the inscrutable New England cult known as the Dream People, is haunted, too, hounded by her very real brothers to return to the family, and to give back the magical object—a shamanic Tibetan vessel—which they claim she stole from them.

Paul’s cousin Hank, a disreputable art dealer, becomes obsessed with this object. Meanwhile, Paul’s father-in-law, an expert on occult lore, tries to steer Paul toward resolution with Nadia’s ghost.

Driven by Paul’s new circle of odd and free spirited iconoclasts, Dangerous Blues asks the question: when do you let go, and what are you willing to let go of?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Stephen Policoff Stephen Policoff

Stephen Policoff’s 1st novel, BEAUTIFUL SOMEWHERE ELSE, won the James Jones Award, and was published by Carroll & Graf in 2004. His essay about his disabled daughter’s experience in music therapy, “Music Today?” won the Fish Short Memoir Award and was published in FISH ANTHOLOGY 2012 (West Cork University Press, Ireland). It subsequently appeared in KINDLING QUARTERLY and has been widely republished on music therapy sites all over the world. His memoir, SIXTEEN SCENES FROM A FILM I NEVER WANTED TO SEE, was published by Monkey Puzzle Press in January 2014. His 2nd novel, COME AWAY, won the Mid-Career Author Award, and was published by Dzanc Books in November 2014. He teaches writing in Global Liberal Studies at NYU.

Connect with Stephen:

Website | Goodreads


My Thoughts

MissMelissI love a good ghost story, and I love music, so Dangerous Blues was a great match for me. Going in, I didn’t realize this was a sequel to author Stephen Policoff’s earlier works, but it reads very well as a stand-alone novel. I didn’t feel like I had to play catch-up to understand what was going on because it was quite simple: Paul and his daughter Spring need to get away from the house where Nadia (his wife, her mother) died, so they sublet an apartment in New York. I loved the opening scenes showing their arrival in the apartment, and the mix of the owner’s be;longings and the emptiness, as well as the fact that said owner (Rose, Spring’s aunt) left them plates of food for their first night.

What really hooked me on this novel, though, were the details. Paul walks into Spring’s room to find that instead of choosing between two not-very-appealing bunks, she’s bundled up on the floor, early in the novel, and its the sort of scene only a parent would think to write. I also liked that Nadia’s ghost may or may not merely be a dream, a manifestation of Paul’s sadness, though her reality does not change the fact that both father and daughter must grieve and move on.

The entire novel had a very bluesy feeling to it, which tied nicely to the presence of Tara, blues singer, and mother to Spring’s best friend in New York. I felt like each character had a motif – Spring’s was bright and somewhat staccato, Paul’s was slow, told in long saxophone riffs, Irina was almost bop, Tara was the bass line, tying it all together. All four themes were distinct, but blended into something harmonious both with and without Nadia’s quiet melody weaving through it all, and eventually fading. It was this musicality that made me enjoy the book so much – the language, too, was very specific and evocative.

I was expecting a novel about grief to be relentlessly dark, but Policoff is more nuanced that that, and while there is sadness, there are also moments of joy and hope.

Overall, I felt the author’s storytelling was very organic and his characters were interesting and dimensional. I liked this book enough that I want to read the stories that came before it.

Goes well with a proper New York style hotdog, purchased from a sidewalk cart.


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Tuesday, November 1st: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 2nd: Instagram: @on_a_sandbar

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Review & Giveaway: The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch, by Julia Brewer Daily

BNR 5th Daughter of TR

 

About the book, The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch

  • Genre: Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Western / Family Saga
  • Publisher: Admission Press
  • Pages: 322 pages
  • Publication Date: November 1, 2022
  • SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

cover 5th DaughterEmma Rosales is the heiress of the largest ranch in Texas—The Thorn. All the responsibilities of managing a million acres now fall into her fifth-generation hands.

A task Emma could handle with her eyes closed…if The Thorn were any ordinary property.

The Thorn is home to many things. Clear, cloudless skies. Miles of desert scrub and craggy mountains. A quiet disrupted only by whispers of the wind. And an ancient web of secrets won’t let Emma out alive without a fight.

The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is a family saga as large as the state of Texas.

Praise for this book:

  • “A delight to read.” Theresa Kadair, Seattle Book Review
  • “Julia Daily builds a captivating world by letting her imagination lead the way. The result? A unique story that’s a little Wild West, a little old Mexico, a little ancient history, and a lot rebellious.” –Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials
  • “A novel that combines mystery, suspense, adventure, and a romance that neither hardships nor time can erase between the main characters.” –Debra Holt, award-winning, multi-published Texas author of series such as The Tremaynes of Texas and The Lawmen Series.
  • “A dignified, passionate, and layered tale in a rugged yet picturesque landscape… This book testifies to the rewards of fighting for enduring connections between family members and home.” –RECOMMENDED, The US Review of Books

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Watch the Trailer for this Book:

 

 


About the author, Julia Brewer Daily Author Photo Fifth Daughter

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.

She is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas, the Women Fiction Writers’ Association, Women Writing the West, and the Pulpwood Queens Book Club.

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:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website | Goodreads | Amazon

XTRA RecAd1-Fifth Daughter


My Thoughts

MissMelissMy previous experience with Julia Daily’s powerful prose was in the intimate and very serious novel, No Names to Be Given, which I also reviewed. This book, The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is a departure from the other work in tone, and in setting. While it still deals with serious issues – land ownership, animal care, medicine, and culture – it does so by wrapping them in a family saga as vast as the Southwest Texas ranch at the center of the story, then adding in a touch of magical realism and spicing it with a romance.

At the heart of this story is Emma, recently returned from college, where she studied veterinary medicine, and ready (or nearly so) to take on her role as the latest Rosales daughter to become matriarch of Thorn Ranch.  Her parents, Josie and John, are also present in the novel, as are several ranch staff, like Flora and Pedro, and a would-be-suitor, Jeff, all of whom form a tight community, though not everyone sees eye-to-eye about everything. There is a second community that Emma discovers quite by accident, centered around the elderly Chatpa and his adult grandson Kai, but to say more would be to reveal too much about the secrets in this novel – secrets that must be read to be understood.

And of course, the land – Thorn Ranch and the mountains beyond – are as much characters as places, for without Daily’s vividly described landscapes and dwelling spaces, this book would not feel rooted.

Several reviewers have compared this novel to Outlander and Yellowstone, two disparate properties that do bear superficial resemblances to some of the details in this book, but The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is really its own genre-defying tale, mixing a western adventure, Mexican-American and Indigenous People’s history, family drama, and romance into a cohesive whole that draws you in and keeps you enchanted by excellent storytelling and perfect pacing. The author has left the story open-ended enough that a sequel would be possible, should she choose to write it, but it also has a satisfying – and even happy – resolution.

I really loved the way the Rosales family had Spanish words peppered into their mostly-English language, and the subtle nuance that it was the women’s family name that was associated with Thorn Ranch.

I would saddle up a horse and take a ride through another of Daily’s creations any day, and I’m looking forward to learning what she writes next.

Goes well with:  Arrachera tacos and Indio beer.


Giveaway

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ONE WINNER:

Receives a $100 Amazon or Bookshop Gift Card

(U.S. only; ends midnight, CDT, 11/11/22.)

 

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11/01/22 Hall Ways Blog Bonus Promo
11/01/22 Julia Picks 1 Review
11/02/22 Sybrina’s Book Blog Notable Quotables
11/02/22 The Book’s Delight Review
11/03/22 Jennifer Silverwood Review
11/04/22 The Clueless Gent Author Video
11/04/22 It’s Not All Gravy Review
11/05/22 Jennie Reads Review
11/06/22 All the Ups and Downs Scrapbook Page
11/07/22 Shelf Life Blog Excerpt
11/07/22 Bibliotica Review
11/08/22 Rox Burkey Blog Character Interview
11/09/22 StoreyBook Reviews Review
11/09/22 Reading by Moonlight Review
11/10/22 Rainy Days with Amanda Review
11/10/22 Boys’ Mom Reads! Review

 

 

 

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Review: Where the Echo Calls by Steve N. Lee

Where the Echo CallsAbout the book, Where the Echo Calls (Books for Dog Lovers #3)

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Blue Zoo (October 14, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 283 pages
  • Series: Books for Dog Lovers

He’d lost so much he wanted to die. But a stray dog changed everything.

Left for dead in the gutter, Rio struggles to his feet and lurches into the shadows for a place to hide. Life has always been brutal, thanks to a monster of an owner, but at least he’d had food, a bed, a place to call home. Now…?

Ben’s life ended when he lost his family. Drink no longer dulls the pain; therapy is a joke; friends have moved on. He’d had everything, yet now…?

But when the broken man meets the broken dog, they discover something neither had ever dreamed could exist… a reason to go on.

In a story as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking, Where the Echo Calls explores how hope can be found in the most unexpected of places if only we have the courage to look for it.

Praise for the Books for Dog Lovers series:

  • “Emotional, heart-wrenching and heartwarming. I was lost in this story from the very beginning. It’s beautifully written and will stay with me for a long long time.” Curled Up With A Good Book (book blog)
  • “So Tear Jerkingly Beautiful” Janice Kujawa, Amazon
  • “A great story with a beautiful, heartwarming ending.” Tom Kiker, Amazon
  • “Thought provoking and well written. [I] loved it so much I’ve bought 2 paperbacks to give as Christmas presents! It’ll break your heart and rebuild it again.” C. Johnson, Amazon
  • “A story that is equal parts intense beauty and heart wrenching agony… I know I’ll still think of this story years down the road.” Insatiable Readers book blog
  • “A heartwarming, touching, and poignant novel about the love between a dog and a young girl.” Paula, Amazon
  • “A perfect book for dog lovers. It is a story of courage, determination and love.” Library Lady, Amazon
  • “I almost laughed myself into an asthma attack during certain scenes and cried at the end of this book, all the while wondering if this is how my own dog perceives me.” Kathy Banfield, Goodreads
  • “[I] highly recommend it especially if you like books like Marley and Me, The Art of Racing in the Rain, and similar stories.” Storeybook Reviews book blog

Purchase and discussion links for this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Steve LeeAbout the author, Steve N. Lee

Steve has three passions: anti-heroes, animals, and travel. To date, he’s visited 60 countries and has adopted five homeless cats, but he’s yet to prowl the streets in the dead of night to beat up bad guys (though he still daydreams about doing so, but who doesn’t?).

In pursuit of adventure, he’s cage-dived with great white sharks, sparred with a monk at a Shaolin temple, and explored exotic locales such as Machu Picchu, Pompeii, and the Great Wall of China.

Fortunately, his passions fuel his fiction. He loves to pepper his action-packed thrillers with the exotic places he’s explored and the unusual encounters he’s experienced, while his dog stories glow with the love and companionship that will warm the heart of any animal lover.

More recently, while on his travels, Steve came across two true stories from the Holocaust which moved him so deeply, he has based two novels on them, both of which will be released in 2023.

He lives in the North of England with his partner, Ania, the great-granddaughter of the 1924 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and two stray black cats who visited their garden one day and liked it so much, they moved into the house. Luckily, they graciously allowed Steve and Ania to carry on living there, even allowing Steve to continue paying the mortgage to give him a sense of purpose.

If you love stories of four-legged heroes, tales from histories darkest hour, or books with pulse-pounding action, you’ll love Steve’s three series. He wrote them for book lovers just like you!

Connect with Steve:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissI’ve been a foster-mom to more than twenty-five dogs, and all the dogs I’ve ever kept have been rescues, so it’s no surprise that I’m a sucker for a good dog story. Where the Echo Calls is not merely a good dog story, though; it’s a fantastic dog story that really puts you inside the head of the dog at the center of the book. Rio (nee  Razor) is a shepherd mix used as a fighting dog. When we meet him his owner is abandoning him on the streets. We travel with him through his confusion, heartbreak, and steadfast determination. We get to learn about the “messages” dogs leave in their p-mail. Hope finally comes when he’s brought to an animal shelter, only to have his first adopter betray him. Back at the shelter, Rio, like many dogs in similar situations – and I’ve seen this first-hand – Rio begins to shut down.

Finally Ben comes into the story and Rio is safe, but it’s not that simple. Like Rio, Ben has a tragic history. Not only does he have to learn to trust Rio, but Rio must learn to trust him.

I really loved seeing the inner workings of Rio’s brain. I’ve heard that well-trained, well-socialized dogs have an understanding of human vocabulary roughly equivalent to a human five-year-old, but we really never think about the fact that our pets are bilingual, in a sense, because their first language is one that combines scent, body language, and vocalizations (barks, growls, yips – my bigger dog is part Catahoula, and he sings.). They learn our language, and adapt to our lives. We don’t do the same.  But Steve Lee gets it. And he writes the path to doggy comprehension amazingly well. Rio learns that “pocket-meat” (bacon) is for treats, and then he learns how to get it.

While much of this novel deals with serious things – depression and loss for both man and dog – there are some fantastic light moments that not only break the tension, but also warm the heart. Rio loves chin-tickles but pretends to only “allow” them in order to protect his tough-dog persona, and the bit with him eschewing, then secretly using, his “princess” bed is just hilarious.

I should note that though this is the third novel in a series, and characters from previous stories have cameo appearances, it’s absolutely self-contained, and readers should not worry if they haven’t read the first two. (That said, go read the first two, as they’re equally wonderful.)

Overall, this is a totally plausible, thoroughly engaging story told (mostly) from the dog’s perspective, and a copy of this novel should appear on every dog-lover’s bookshelf or e-reader. I laughed and cried and had to stop reading more than once to cuddle my own dogs. You will, too.

Goes well with: Bacon! And cool drink of water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Big Bad, by Lily Anderson

About the book, Big BadBig Bad - Cover

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hyperion Avenue (September 27, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • Also available in audio and digital

Demondale, Callifornia, 1999…Like Sunnydale, but whole lot more evil.

Step into this alternate reality, where chaos reigns supreme. The Mayor’s sun-shade has created permanent darkness over Sunnydale, fully opening the Hellmouth once and for all. Now the newly christened Demondale has become a safe haven for vampires, beasts, and all types of ruffians. It’s never been better to be bad.

Aspiring supervillains (and super nerds) Jonathan and Andrew attempt to hold their own in a town full of monsters, while three-hundred-year-old vengeance demon Anya is just looking for something to give her life purpose again, spending her days working at an evil juice bar. But soon word gets out that there’s a new Big Bad on the scene, one more powerful and more destructive than anyone who has come before. She, of course, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she’s hell-bent on rooting out all of this reality’s evil by any means necessary.

Now Jonathan, Andrew, and Anya must recruit a team of Demondale’s most notorious villains—including Angelus, Spike, Drusilla, and even Ripper the malevolent magic shop owner—in order to save their world. But it’ll be no easy feat to put their pride and differences aside and stop the worst thing that has ever come to town: good.

Written by acclaimed author and Buffy super fan Lily Anderson, this novel brings together Buffy’s most devious and beloved villains from the Trio to the Whirlwind to Anya, Glory, and Vampire Willow. This is one apocalypse Buffy fans are not going to want to miss!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Lily Anderson Author - Lily Anderson

Lily Anderson is the author of THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU, NOT NOW NOT EVER, and UNDEAD GIRL GANG. A former school librarian, she is deeply devoted to Shakespeare, fairy tales, and podcasts. Somewhere in Northern California, she is having strong opinions on musical theater.

Connect with Lily:

Website


My ThoughtsMissMeliss

“I wish!”

They’re the words required to invoke the “genie rules” and as with most fairy tale lore, they’re loaded with more danger than the wisher ever expects.

They’re also the device that gives us this novel. A wrong wish, a misplaced word, and suddenly everything is… other.

It’s often said that every villain is the hero of their own story. In Lily Anderson’s new novel Big Bad, the villains aren’t only the protagonists of the story, they’ve got their own universe, and the “big bad” coming after them is none other than Buffy, the vampire slayer.

Set in an alternate version of the BuffyVerse where the Mayor completed his ascension, popped a sun-shade over the town, and renamed Sunnydale to Demondale, this novel is a romp through the universe we all love, but with a twist. In this town, the Hellmouth is completely open, vampires and demons roam freely, and “there’s never a line at Starbucks because almost everyone in town drinks blood.”  It’s a monster free-for-all, with the Evil Trio of Warren, Jonathon, and Andrew among the few remaining human residents, and even that was meant to change until a small blonde girl crashed their Ascension Day party and “makes” Jonathon aim his shrink ray at Warren.

Revenge, of course, must be had. And that’s where the fun begins.

It’s also where author Lily Anderson shows how much of a fan she really is, because not only does she offer details about the trio that feel official – they were Sunnydale High School’s inaugural Klingon club – but she nails the portrayal of every other character who shows up: Anya is blunt and loves money, Spike is jealous every time Drusilla focuses her attention, Angellus is a habitual flirt, Drusilla is still as a mad as birds, and Vamp!Willow is as badass and chillingly evil as she ever was in the television show. Even better, this motley crew works really well as a group, grudgingly united to protect their town – and themselves -from the Slayer. (It’s worth noting that Buffy, herself, is a bit off in this story, as she’s basically Quantum Leaping from Hellmouth to Hellmouth in a desperate quest to rid the multiverse of enough evil that she’ll be sent home.)

Aside from characterization, author Anderson excels at making this dark-mirror version of Sunnydale its own entity. In Demondale, the only birds left are owls, and the perpetual nighttime means the town is also over-populated with bugs. This is a world that is as rich with detail as it is with blood and danger.

Well-paced, with a good balance of nostalgic references and original concepts, Big Bad is a big treat for anyone who loves the BuffyVerse, and the perfect story for a crisp October evening.

Goes well with: red wine and an onion blossom.


Tour Stops

00-tlc-tour-hostCheck out the other great participants on this tour.

Wednesday, September 28th: Instagram: @meghan_readsbooks

Saturday, October 1st: Instagram: @thereadingchemist

Monday, October 3rd: Instagram: @everlasting.bookworm

Tuesday, October 4th: Instagram: @biblio.jojo

Thursday, October 6th: Instagram: @teasipsandpageflips

Monday, October 10th: TikTok: @jennthemoodyreader

Tuesday, October 11th: Instagram: @harlequinjunkie

Wednesday, October 12th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, October 13th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, October 14th: Bibliotica

Monday, October 17th: Write – Read – Life

Tuesday, October 18th: Instagram: @itsbibliotherapy

Thursday, October 20th: Instagram: @livingmybestbooklife

TBD: Wednesday, October 5th: TikTok: @secullabooktok

 

 

Review: The Deep Translucent Pond, by James Shelley

Deep Translucent PondAbout the book, The Deep Translucent Pond

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Adelaide Books (February 5, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 192 pages

In The Deep Translucent Pond, a 40 year old attorney, Jerome Konigsberg, and 30 year old nurse, Natalija Gasper, are winners of poetry fellowships which allow them rare access to a once famous, now reclusive poet with the nom de plume, The Black Magus. At their first meeting the Black Magus “hijacks” the fellowship, proclaiming it the final piece of a secretive ten-year project known as the Triangulum, its goal: The re-enchantment of the world.

The key to re-enchantment is The Deep Translucent Pond which the Black Magus has identified as “a hideout of the fugitive gods.” If he can reach into it—as placid as a reactor cooling pool—and retrieve a mysterious object from the bottom, re-enchantment will be ignited. He elaborately recruits his two fellowship “students” to help. For their part, they accommodate his severe eccentricities in exchange for flashes of insight into their lives and a feeling that he is guiding them to a higher place.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | BookSirens | Goodreads


James ShelleyAbout the author, James Shelley

James Shelley has spent his professional life shifting between the underworld and higher places. He’s been a psychiatric attendant, land surveyor, arts critic, mental health case worker, archivist for the Rockefellers, and a bagpiper playing at the funerals of men and women he’s never met. As an educator, his innovative work at an Ohio college supporting at-risk male students has attracted national media attention, including The Atlantic and NPR.
As a writer, Shelley started out writing plays for experimental theatre before shifting to fiction, early efforts earning him an Ohio Arts Prize. In his poetry and fiction, he has always been fascinated with how prosaic moments can unexpectedly transcend, expanding into spaces that were not there before.

Connect with James:

Website | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads

 

 

 


My Thoughts

MissMelissI’m woefully late in posting this review, but it’s because my life has been chaotic lately. The Deep Translucent Pond is an engaging and interesting novel that explores the process of writing, but also shows us how writing helps us process change and growth as well. Three characters: The Black Magus (not his real name, obviously) is an aging recluse who was once a famous poem. Every year he takes on two students and in this year the lucky two are Jerome, an attorney, and Natalija, a nurse. The three meet initially at a local cafe, but subsequent meetings are at the Magus’s home, where they sit in the shape of a triangle.

When the Magus called attention to an image of The Last Supper, I was very concerned this novel would be an imitation of The DaVinci Code, but it was not. Instead, that image was used to show off the power of triangles and pyramids, which continues to be a theme throughout the story. “A pyramid cannot be pushed over,” the Magus states, and what is implied is that the three of them will, over the course of their work together, form a cohesive whole.

In addition to the physics and metaphysics of triangles and pyramids, this novel explores the concept of finding our purpose – our true calling – in life, and how engaging that purpose can change – or in this case enchant the world. Similarly, author James Shelley enchants his readers. His use of dialogue is specific and appropriate to each character, and he has also created the poems (dubbed writings) of each character as well. Shelley has also chosen different focal characters for each chapter, which gives us different perspectives on the other two. In a way, the setup is reminiscent of Sartre’s No Exit, except that this novel is set on contemporary earth, and these characters genuinely like each other. Perhaps, then, every such triangle – or Triangulum – will have such a superficial similarity.

Where this book shines most is with the exploration of the writer and their writings, and how each informs the other. It’s a worthy read for artists, writers, and anyone who appreciates both.

Goes well with: piping-hot mugs of hot tea, and anisette toast.

 

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: The Flower Engima by Charles Breakfield & Rox Burkey

BNR Flower Enigma

 

About the book, The Flower Enigma

Cover Flower EnigmaBook 5 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles

  • Small Town Mystery / Suspense / Amateur Sleuths
  • Publisher: ICABOD Press
  • Pages: 198 pages
  • Publication Date: August 20, 2022
  • SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

Imagine a romantic getaway in the Texas Hill Country

JJ, a cyber guru, whisks his girlfriend, Jo, away for a vacation. No paparazzi. Magnolia Bluff is the perfect destination. Flower B&B is prettier than the pictures on the website.

The evangelizing podcast creators are demanding answers about the town’s newest resident, Mateo Hernandez. The enormous wall he erected has convinced the ladies he’s hiding nefarious activities behind a dubious attorney. Local authorities don’t believe laws are broken and discount the women as meddling gossips.

When the couple checks into Flower, the podcast show-in-progress is interrupted by a cyberattack. JJ, the techno-geek, can’t resist helping. At each subsequent event in the series, he uncovers more serious issues than cyberwarfare.

JJ and Jo can’t avoid this roving series maelstrom. It gets personal when they’re attacked and warned to leave town. No one can conceive the depth of the crimes behind Mateo’s walls.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the authors, Breakfield & Burkey

Breakfield and BurkeyBreakfield is a technology expert in security, networking, voice, and anything digital. He enjoys writing, studying World War II history, travel, and cultural exchanges. Charles is a fan of wine tastings, winemaking, Harley riding, cooking extravaganzas, and woodworking.

Connect with  Breakfield

LinkedIn | Amazon

Burkey is an technology professional who excels at optimizing technology and business investments. She works with customers all over the world focusing on optimized customer experiences. Rox writes white papers and documentation, but found she has a marked preference for writing fiction.

Connect with Burkey:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Amazon

Together these Texas authors create award-winning stories that resonate with males and females, as well as young and experienced adults. They bring a fresh new view to technology possibilities today in exciting stories. Visit their website for more information and free stuff.

Connect with Breakfield and Burkey

The Enigma Series | Twitter | Facebook | Medium | Instagram


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Excerpt and Giveaway: Paper Targets by Patricia Watts

BNR Paper Targets

 

About the book, Paper TargetsCover Paper Targets 1

  • Suspense / Literary Fiction / Women’s Fiction
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Pages: 324 pages
  • Publication Date: May 3, 2022
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

Everyone knew that Roanne never got angry­—until the night she killed her ex-husband and herself.

Roanne, a nice, suburban lady in her sixties who works at a Hallmark shop and volunteers at the Food Bank in Round Rock, Texas, calls her lifelong friend, Connie, confesses to murder, then puts the gun to her own head. Connie, spurred by Roanne’s last words about a lifetime of unspoken rage, sets aside her work as a cozy mystery writer and cupcake shop owner to confront the men who have stolen her dignity while she remained silent, including a bully brother, a rapist, and an ex-spouse. On a journey to reclaim her inner power and to make peace with the loss of her treasured friend, Connie’s mission is to avoid the same tragic path as Roanne, but she takes along a gun, just in case.

With pathos and humor, Paper Targets, by Patricia Watts, calls us to speak our own narratives, even when it is uncomfortable or risky, and shows us the magnificence of a friendship that transcends time.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Patricia WattsAuthor Photo Watts

Patricia Watts worked as a journalist for more than 20 years for newspapers in Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska. Following her news career, she tried her skill as a paralegal and then spent ten years investigating discrimination cases for the Alaska Human Rights Commission. Her novels include: Ghost Light and The Big Empty, crime mysteries co-written with Alaska author Stan Jones; The Frayer, suspense noir; and Watchdogs, a steamy thriller. Her home base is San Diego. She earned her B.A. in journalism at Humboldt State in California. She is the mother of a son and daughter and has eight grandchildren.

Connect with Patricia:

Website | Amazon | BookBub | Goodreads | Reedsy Discovery

 

 


Read an excerpt from Paper Targets

February 2019

A slurp and a gulp. The knock of something solid against the surface next to the phone. Common noises on the other end of the line—she’s taking a drink, setting down a glass.

Then—the ear-splitting boom of a gunshot, the shallow thud of a weight hitting the floor.

I scream her name.

No noises now.

My best friend is dead.

 

XTRA IG 1At Roanne’s funeral reception, the eagerness for answers was thicker than the abundant short ribs set out next to the potato salad and baked beans. The guests had no appetite. They wanted to sink their teeth into why Roanne chose to die the way she did. And they were all looking to me, her closest friend for fifty years.

People had driven to Round Rock from other parts of Texas or from farther away to spend the morning at the church, midday at the cemetery, and the afternoon gathered at the home of Roanne’s sister, Darla.

They leaned out and asked, “Why, Connie?” as I walked through Darla’s living room, taking small, deliberate sips from a glass of iced tea, avoiding eye contact, unable to respond.

Roanne had called me that night, at three minutes after eleven. I’d hit the TV “off” button, was headed to bed; I had stayed up too late again, hooked on my latest Netflix binge. The words we had exchanged played back to me with every shiver and stab to my heart that I had felt then:

“I got the bastard,” she said. From the hollow sound of her voice, I knew her phone was on speaker. “Straight through the balls.” Her words shook.

“Ro? You’re scaring me, girl,” I said. “Got who?”

She was breathing hard, with a sharp, staccato, “Uh, uh …”

“Is someone with you?”

“Not anymore. Just me, myself, and I,” she said between a snicker and a sob.

“Are you at home? I’ll come get you.” My adrenalin was pumping. Something terrible had happened or was about to happen, but what? I could make the ninety-five-mile drive from San Antonio to Round Rock in an hour and ten. I switched my phone to speaker and pulled a pair of leggings on under my nightshirt.

“Don’t bother, I’ll be done soon.” She breathed in, a deep reverse sigh, like she was struggling to find the strength to get the words out. “The anger. You take it and take it, and one day you see there’s no way out. You’re trapped.”

“You’re angry? With whom?”

“With Johnny, with the whole goddamn male establishment, my daddy, the school bullies, the boss, the superintendent, the judge, the lovers, husband, ex-husband, the smartass at Home Depot, the whole lot of  ’em, every Tom, Dick, and Harry.”

Her words seemed silly and frightening. “That’s a bunch to take on by yourself. Why don’t we talk about it, regroup?” I needed to get between her and whatever it was that was galloping, like my heartbeat, toward her. Couldn’t you find someone’s location on a cell phone? But you had to set that up, and I had had no reason to before.

“Now what would Judd do?” she said.

I pulled the name from the past through my memory to the present. It didn’t fit in the moment. “Judd? Mr. Asher from senior social studies?”

“You know what I really liked about Mr. Asher?”

“He looked like David Cassidy?” Giggle, Roanne. Be okay, Roanne.

“Exactly, that too.” I pictured her smiling through the pain in her voice. “He seemed to have all the answers, didn’t he? Only he wanted us to figure things out on our own.”

I stepped into my running shoes, left the laces untied. “What does Mr. Asher have to do with—”

“Figure it out for yourself. Speak up, Con. Don’t let them have the final say.” Roanne’s words slurred and trailed off. “It’s too late for me, but—”

“Hang on, it’s never too late.” I could feel the bad ending like the anticipation of an icy finger about to touch the back of my neck, raising goose flesh. I picked up my keys and purse. I headed for the garage. Keep talking, Roanne, please keep talking. “Tell me where you are, sweetie.”

Another intake of air. A gap of silence. A gulp. The boom. “Roanne!”

 


Enter a giveaway for Paper Targets

TWO WINNERS:

First Prize: Autographed copies of Paper Targets,

The Frayer, and The Big Empty;

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7/26/22 Bibliotica Excerpt
7/26/22 Hall Ways Blog BONUS Promo
7/27/22 Forgotten Winds Review
7/28/22 The Page Unbound Character Interviews
7/28/22 LSBBT Blog BONUS Promo
7/29/22 Writing and Music Review
7/30/22 All the Ups and Downs Playlist
7/30/22 StoreyBook Reviews Bonus Review
7/31/22 Boys’ Mom Reads Author Video
8/1/22 Jennie Reads Review
8/2/22 It’s Not All Gravy Notable Quotables
8/3/22 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
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Book Spotlight & Giveaway: A Shot in the 80% Dark, by Amber Royer

Banner: A Shot in the 80% Dark

 

About the book, A Shot in the 80% Dark

Cover A Shot in the 80 Percent Dark(Book 4 in the Bean to Bar series)

  • Cozy Mystery / Culinary Mystery /Woman Sleuth
  • Publisher: Golden Tip Press
  • Date of Publication: July 15, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 285 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop is thriving. Despite everything she’s been through with the murders she’s helped solve, Felicity is ready to take on new challenges. So when a local museum offers her a contract to create a chocolate replica of a gigantic sailing ship sculpture for a gala celebrating Galveston’s history, she jumps at the chance to combine chocolate-crafting with art.

The project is fun – right up until there’s not just one but two dead artists on the scene, and Felicity has to change gears back to detective. Logan, Felicity’s business partner and previous bodyguard, and Arlo, Felicity’s ex who is now the cop investigating the case, are split on which victim they think was actually the intended one. Felicity may have to take some chances, both emotionally and in luring out a killer, to determine the truth.

Can she find out how Galveston’s history relates to the murders, unmask a killer, and prepare 2,000 chocolate desserts for the gala all at the same time?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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Watch the trailer for this book:

 

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About the Author, Amber Royer

Author Pic 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 also teaches creative writing and is an author coach.

Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.

Connect with Amber:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter   |  Amazon | Goodreads | Instagram | Youtube

 

Bean to Bar Series


My Thoughts

MissMelissWhether it’s the yellow and green parrot repeating “Allez vous-en, allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!” in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, or Renoir the cockatoo’s rather dire warning, “If you do that, I’ll kill you,” in this fourth installment of Amber Royer’s Bean to Bar mysteries, A Shot in the 80% Dark, talking birds never bode well.

Indeed, within a relatively few pages of her receipt of a copy of Treasure Island, Felicity Koerber, professional chocolatier and amateur detective, has stumbled into another murder.

This book takes place in Galveston, Texas, a touristy island community that Felicity calls home, and that has a rich maritime tradition. (It’s also, I recently learned, one of the major ports immigrants came through in the early twentieth century. But that’s just a random fact.)

As with the other books, this can easily be read as a standalone novel, though reading the earlier books does lend context. The key elements are chocolate (of course), maritime history, pirate lore, the local art scene, and how they merge when Felicity agrees to design and create a chocolate copy of a found-materials pirate ship sculpture for an event at the art museum. Only Amber Royer could take these disparate threads and weave them into a cohesive whole, and she does so with her usual deftness.

Mainly character driven, this story has a love triangle with Felicity, her first love Arlo, and her partner Logan, the latter two of whom have become friends. As well, there is an entire cast of art gallery staffers and artists each with their individual personalities and interpersonal conflicts that mix and match to create conflict, suspicion, and delightful drama.

In A Shot in the 80% Dark, Amber Royer has created a snappy, interesting read that remains unpredictable to the end.

In fact, the only flaw in this novel is that it doesn’t come with a supply of organic chocolate to nibble while reading.

Goes well with: an iced mocha made with unsweetened espresso chocolate.


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Autographed copies of A SHOT IN THE 80% DARK

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