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

BNR The Big Empty

 

About the book, The Big Empty

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

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

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

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

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

Praise for this book:

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Loren C. Steffy

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

Connect with Loren:

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

Connect with Stoney Creek Publishing:

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My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Giveaway The Big Empty

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Review & Giveaway: The Yes Dare, a Pies, Books, & Jesus Book Club Novel by Kathleen Y’Barbo

The Yes Dare

 

About the book, The Yes Dare

The Yes Dare

  • Genre: Romance / Clean Romance
  • Date of Publication: July 15, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 246 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Have you ever wished for a second chance to fix something you’ve messed up or for the courage to say yes to something that just may change your life? Sometimes saying yes to the last thing you want can mean saying yes to exactly what you need.

Ryan “The Rocket” Sutton’s winning streak is legendary makes him the undisputed best quarterback in the NFL. However, thanks to one dumb mistake, he’s a failure as a husband to Coco, the only woman he’s ever loved. When a judge’s mistake in divorce paperwork means Coco is still his wife, Ryan makes up his mind to fix what he ruined. Ryan’s game plan doesn’t count on an internationally famous movie director’s camera crew following him as he competes for Coco’s love.

After spending most of her adult life as a football wife and mother to twin sons, fashionista Coco Sutton is learning how to be single and fabulous. Emphasis on Fabulous. The sports trophies, memorabilia, and heavy masculine wood furniture in the home she used to share with Ryan have been banished to the attic, and her home is now a cozy haven of plush candle-scented comfort. She’s got big plans that include owning a boutique or maybe an art gallery, but she never planned to take on the biggest challenge of her life: staying single. Then her best friend gives her a copy of a book called The Yes Dare, and all her plans are turned upside down.

From a Hollywood movie to the local spring event formerly known as the Cow Chip Toss Festival and a country crooner with a crush on Coco, will Ryan dodge the obstacles to win back the only woman he ever loved?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the Author, Kathleen Y’Barbo

Author Pic Y'BarboPublishers Weekly bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and bestselling author of more than one hundred books with over two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she is a member of the Texas Bar Association Paralegal Division, Texas A&M Association of Former Students and the Texas A&M Women Former Students (Aggie Women), Texas Historical Society, Sisters in Crime, Faith Hope and Love Christian Writers, and American Christian Fiction Writers. She would also be a member of the Daughters of the American Republic, Daughters of the Republic of Texas and a few others if she would just remember to fill out the paperwork that Great Aunt Mary Beth has sent her more than once.

Kathleen and her hero in combat boots husband have their own surprise love story that unfolded on social media a few years back. They make their home just north of Houston, Texas, and are the parents, grandparents, and in-laws of a blended family of Texans, Okies, and a trio of adorable Londoners.

Connect with Kathleen:

Website | BookBub | Facebook | Instagram | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI was a little trepidatious about starting The Yes Dare, because I’m not really a sports person. (Well, I like the froufrou expensive sports like figure skating), but even though the main character, Ryan, is a professional athlete I found him to be so engaging that the sports stuff wasn’t bogging me down at all. In fact, I was enchanted by the entire story.

So many romances focus on first love or love at first sight. This novel is a refreshing change, because the love story at the heart of the novel, that of Ryan and Coco, is a return to love, with adult characters who have real life experience. As someone who is old enough to be an empty-nester (except that we never had children) I really appreciated seeing mature characters at the center of a really good story.

As engaging as I found the character of Ryan, I found Coco to be even more so, because she’s really discovering who she is both in and out of the roles of wife and mother. I’ve always believed that you cannot be happy in any role unless you’re happy being just yourself, and this woman’s arc really proves that to be true.

Some people may feel that a title billed as a “clean” romance is going to be insipid, but The Yes Dare is absolutely wonderful. The leads are smart, interesting people, the supporting characters are dimensional, and there’s as much humor – the organic “comes from life” kind – as there is personal and family drama.

One thing I really appreciated was the way the author, Kathleen Y’Barbo allowed both Ryan and Coco to acknowledge their own flaws and foibles. It’s often said that the only people who know the truth of a relationship are the people in it. In The Yes Dare we got to peek at the truth of a complicated marriage – one where both parties have made mistakes, and both parties are eager to grow.

Personal growth is a key element of this novel. Every character finishes the story in a better place than where they started, though some of the changes are more subtle than others.

If you’re looking for a sensational romance with heightened emotions and starry-eyed naifs, this is NOT the book for you. If, however, you want a really satisfying read with grown-up characters and heartfelt feelings, you will love The Yes Dare. I certainly did.

Goes well with: Coffee and pie. Definitely pie.


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Grand Prize:
Full PB&J series, autographed by Kathleen Y’Barbo

and the real Bonnie Sue.
Three Winners:
Autographed copy of The Yes Dare
(US only; ends midnight, CST, 11/12/21)

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Review: The Lighthouse by Christopher Parker

About the book, The Lighthouse

Lighthouse_Book

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Beacon Press Limited (October 22, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 368 pages

Amy Tucker is struggling to put her life back together following the death of her mother. The loss has left the eighteen-year-old heartbroken, and she doesn’t know if her world will ever be whole again.

Meanwhile, in Seabrook, a small town famous for its haunted lighthouse, Ryan Porter lives a simple but busy life, maintaining the ranch which he shares with his father. Separated by hundreds of miles, yet drawn to each other by forces they can’t understand, Amy and Ryan spend a magical day together and quickly forge a deep connection. But all is not what it seems in Seabrook and when strange events begin happening around town, they question if their meeting really was an accident at all.

Trusting in themselves and in each other, they attempt to unravel the mystery of why fate has brought them together, and in doing so they embark on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery, a journey that leads straight to the heart of Seabrook’s mysterious lighthouse where they uncover the most shocking secret of all… a secret that will change the course of their lives forever.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Christopher Parker

Christopher ParkerChristopher Parker was born in Takapuna, a seaside suburb in Auckland, New Zealand, where he currently lives with his daughter. Having loved writing stories growing up, it was a walk along Takapuna beach and a chance glimpse at a distant lighthouse that made him want to revisit his childhood passion and try his hand at producing a novel. Nearly 10 years on from that fateful stroll, he is proud to finally share his story.

Connect with Christopher:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’m a sucker for lighthouses, and have even visited several, so when Simone from BooksForward PR offered me the chance to read Christopher Parker’s debut novel, The Lighthouse, I was happy to accept. I’m glad I did, because this haunting, hopeful story was just what I needed this fall, and while it’s not really scary, it has enough supernatural touches that it is perfect for a rainy-day read… especially in October.

I loved that all the major characters in this novel are flawed. Amy Tucker, age eighteen, is grieving for the mother she recently lost to a car accident. Her father, Kevin, a state police detective, is grieving the loss of his wife, and the apparent disconnection between himself and Amy. Then there’s Ryan, who is caring for his ailing father and trying desperately to save his horse ranch, which is in dire straits.

While Kevin disappears for the bulk of the story, his influence is felt throughout the tale. Amy is always concerned that something dangerous has happened to her father, clearly caring for him despite the communication issues the two have. I really liked how plausible Amy felt. Moody, grieving, acting out in small ways but still essentially a good kid, she tries to help herself, and ends up helping others.

Similarly, Ryan, with all he has to deal with, is still a good person. His love of animals is beautiful to see, and his distress over a missing horse is palpable.

Author Christopher Parker has created a cozy (with ominous undertones) village in Seabrook, making the coastal locale a character in its own right. He’s also very deft with dialogue and has created very real, dimensional characters whom the reader roots for from the very beginning.

Haunting, sometimes even spooky, but also cozy hopeful and full of love, The Lighthouse is a fast read defining its own genre: the cozy neo-gothic.

Goes well with: hot chocolate and pbj sandwiches (need not be deep-fried)

Review & Giveaway: Since You’ve Been Gone, by Tari Faris

BNR Since You've Been Gone

 

About the book, Since You’ve Been Gone

  • Genre: Fiction / Christian / Contemporary Romance
  • Publisher: Revell
  • Date of Publication: September 7, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 336 pages
  • Series: Restoring Heritage
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Cover Hi Res Since You've Been GoneWith her vision and his know-how, this thing just might work . . .

Leah Williams is back in the quaint town of Heritage, Michigan, and ready to try again to make her business a success. But blank slates are hard to come by, and a piece of her past is waiting for her there. Heir to the Heritage Fruits company, Jonathan Kensington is the guy who not only made Leah’s past difficult, but he also seems determined to complicate her present as well.

In order to avoid forcing a buyout of Leah’s building, Jon will have to strike a compromise. Can the two of them work together? Or will their troubled past set the tone for their future?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | ChristianBook.com | Other Affiliates | Goodreads


About the author, Tari Faris

Author pic FarisTari Faris is the author of You Belong with Me and Until I Met You. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers and My Book Therapy, she is the projects manager for My Book Therapy, writes for learnhowtowriteanovel.com, and is a 2017 Genesis Award winner. She has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and lives in the Phoenix, Arizona, area with her husband and their three children. Although she lives in the Southwest now, she lived in a small town in Michigan for 25 years.

Connect with Tari:

WEBSITE FACEBOOK  TWITTER   AMAZONGOODREADS◆  INSTAGRAM BOOKBUB


My Thoughts

MissMeliss2021Love abounds in Heritage, MI, in Since You’ve Been Gone, the latest addition to Tari Faris’s engaging “Restoring Heritage” series of romances.  There’s love between old friends, new friends, a treasured family business, and even love for the town itself, and it’s all wrapped in a package that manages to be sincere without being sickly-sweet.

What I really appreciated about this novel was that every one of the main characters had some kind of flaw or vulnerability. Leah isn’t great at ordered thinking and logical planning, Jon is standing in the shadows of his deceased father, Colby is coming from a professional scandal while Madison dealing with an intense personal situation. This was a refreshing change from the formula romances where everyone is model-perfect and equally plastic. In this novel the characters are believable and dimensional and it’s easy to become invested in their stories and outcomes.

I also liked that there were married couples who were friends of the four single characters. Nate (a pastor) and Olivia along with Hannah and Luke (and less so Leah’s sister Caroline and her husband) offer support and wisdom to the others, but the friendships mix and match and it’s never only married folks or only single folks when there are gatherings.

I haven’t read the previous two novels in this series, but  something notable about this book that I suspect runs through the whole series is that the town of Heritage is, itself, a character. The connections to the town run deep, and many of the characters are passionate about their love for their home. I’ve lived in towns like that, and I hope to live in one again. Sure, the neighbors know everything that’s going on, but there’s something really lovely about it as well.

Well paced and rich in detail, Since You’ve Been Gone is a satisfying treat of a novel.

Goes well with: hot tea and homemade pastries.


Giveaway

ONE WINNER:
A copy of the whole Restoring Heritage series,
a $10 Starbucks gift card,
and a bookish sticker pack!
(
US only. Ends 10/22/21.)

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Review and Giveaway: Trace of Doubt, by DiAnn Mills

Trace of Doubt Banner

About the book, Trace of Doubt

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

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

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

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

Praise for this book:

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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Watch the Trailer for Trace of Doubt

 


About the Author, DiAnn Mills

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

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

Connect with DiAnn:

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


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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FOUR WINNERS
 Each winner receives a $25 e-gift card to winner’s choice of either Amazon or B&N.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 9/3/2021)

 

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Review: Finding Summer Happiness, by Chris Penhall

Finding Summer Happiness

 

About the book, Finding Summer Happiness

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (USA) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Chris Penhall

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Chris:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review & Giveaway: Deadly Business by Anita Dickason

Deadly Business Blog Tour

 

About the book, Deadly Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Goodreads


Watch the trailer for Deadly Business


About the author, Anita Dickason

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

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

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

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

Connect with Anita:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Linkedin | Vimeo | Amazon | Goodreads


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with: smoked brisket and Shiner bock.


Giveaway

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

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

 

Giveaway Deadly Business

 

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

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

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

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Mini Review: Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe

About the book, Beach House Reunion

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

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

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

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

You will not be disappointed.

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

The Road From Cromer Pier - Cover Reveal

About the book The Road from Cromer Pier

Coming July 17, 2021

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Martin Gore

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Martin:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


The Cover: The Road from Cromer Pier

The Road from Cromer Pier12

 

Review: Finding Jo, by Frances Ive

Finding Jo

 

About the book, Finding Jo

Finding Jo Front CoverAt breaking point Jo deserts her dysfunctional family and possessive boyfriend, making an uncharacteristic escape to the Himalayas in a bid for freedom and self-knowledge. The peace she finds there helps her to unravel her turmoil, but unexpected challenges test her new-found equilibrium to the limit.

Finding Jo focuses on relationships between families, lovers and friends, and the resentment and long-held grievances that threaten to destroy them. Jo’s quest for a deeper purpose in life acts as a catalyst to her family, indicating that willingness to change and grow enables people to find happiness.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Frances Ive

Finding FrancesA career as a journalist/PR led to health writing for UK nationals newspapers and consumer magazines. Out of the blue I was inspired to write a novel, Finding Jo, which has taken some years to come to fruition, self-publishing in January 2021. I travelled a lot in my 20s and I have drawn on my three months’ trip to India in Finding Jo.

Connect with Frances:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellMany times during my read of Frances Ive’s Finding Jo, I felt like I was reading a real-life travelogue and not a novel. This is not a bad thing, as it only makes Jo and the rest of the characters feel more dynamic.

At the same time, Ive’s writing puts you smack in the center of every scene. From Jo’s first steps in India as she’s realizing no one is there to meet her,  to her purchase of a train ticket and beyond, I could feel the heat and hear the noise of begging children, rickshaw drivers seeking clients, and vendors offering their wares (do not drink the green juice!),  and at one point I even checked to make sure my own purse was still on the chair in my mother’s guest room. That’s how vivid the writing is in this novel.

But the dialogue is equally well-crafted. Perhaps it’s the author’s experience as a journalist that has helped her recreate dialogue that gives the essence of different languages without resorting to writing in dialect, or maybe it’s just natural talent, but at no time did I have trouble keeping track of who people were or where they were from.

India is a place of extremes… major cities teeming with people, and then the Himalayas, which are unrelenting and unforgiving. Life, itself, can also be full of extremes. In Finding Jo, highs and lows in both landscape and emotion are represented with care and skill, making a compelling novel that lingers with you long after you’ve finished it.

Goes well with: Chicken tikka masala and garlic naan.


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