Review: The Storm Girl, by Kathleen McGurl

The Storm Girl

 

About the Book, The Storm Girl

Cover: The Storm GirlThe gripping new historical novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Girl from Bletchley Park and The Forgotten Secret.

A heartbreaking choice. A secret kept for centuries.

1784. When Esther Harris’s father hurts his back, she takes over his role helping smugglers hide contraband in the secret cellar in their pub. But when the free traders’ ships are trapped in the harbour, a battle between the smugglers and the revenue officers leads to murder and betrayal – and Esther is forced to choose between the love of her life and protecting her family…

Present day. Fresh from her divorce, Millie Galton moves into a former inn overlooking the harbour in Mudeford and plans to create her dream home. When a chance discovery behind an old fireplace reveals the house’s secret history as a haven for smugglers and the devastating story of its former residents, could the mystery of a disappearance from centuries ago finally be solved?

Sweeping historical fiction perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Kathryn Hughes and Tracy Rees.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (UK) | Amazon (US) | Goodreads


About the author, Kathleen McGurl

Kathleen McGurlKathleen McGurl lives near the coast in Christchurch, England. She writes dual timeline novels in which a historical mystery is uncovered and resolved in the present day. She is married to an Irishman and has two adult sons. She enjoys travelling, especially in her motorhome around Europe but home is Mudeford, where this novel is set.

Connect with Kathleen:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissThe Storm Girl is my first Kathleen McGurl nsovel, but it won’t be my last.

A dual-timeline story, this book follows Esther, in 1784, beginning with an opening faintly reminiscent of Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman,” though it quickly moves beyond that trope. Our historical heroine is no lovestruck maiden idly braiding her hair in moonlit windows; rather she is a vibrant and dimensional young woman, acting with her own agency.

Similarly, recent divorcee Millie, our present day heroine, is bright and curious, and game for minor adventures. We first meet her as she is rescuing kittens (and a mama cat) from a blocked off fireplace, and her helper Nick, sparks her love of a good mystery when he suggests that said fireplace would be worth restoring (something she was already considering.)

Both women end up tangled in a mystery involving smuggling, which we modern audiences think of as a romantic form of crime, but is really very violent and dangerous, still, the puzzle that begins in the past is resolved in the present in a gripping story that is well plotted and perfectly paced.

What I especially loved about this book was that the author captures the language and tone of each period with great accuracy. You really don’t need to be told the date of each chapter; rather the writing makes it obvious where the story is in time.

I also loved that there were equal parts suspense and romance. Nothing ever got TOO tense or TOO fluffy; instead there was balance, and that made for a delightful read.

I’ve long been a fan of parallel narratives. Now I’m a fan of Kathleen McGurl and The Storm Girl as well.

Goes well with: hot tea and blueberry cobbler with a dash of firelight.

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Review: The Door-Man, by Peter M. Wheelwright

About the book, The Door-Man

• Publisher: Fomite (February 1, 2022)
• Paperback: 388 pages

The Door-ManIn 1917, during the construction of a large reservoir in the Catskill hamlet of Gilboa, New York, a young paleontologist named Winifred Goldring identified fossils from an ancient forest flooded millions of years ago when the earth’s botanical explosion of oxygen opened a path for the evolution of humankind. However, the reservoir water was needed for NYC, and the fossils were buried once again during the flooding of the doomed town.

A mix of fact and fiction, The Door-Man follows three generations of interwoven families who share a deep wound from Gilboa’s last days. The story is told by Winifred’s grandson, a disaffected NYC doorman working near the Central Park Reservoir during its decommissioning in 1993.

The brief and provisional nature of one’s life on earth – and the nested histories of the places, people and events that give it meaning – engender a reckoning within the tangled roots and fragile bonds of family.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Peter M. Wheelwright

Peter-WheelwrightPeter is a writer, architect, and educator. He is Emeritus Professor at The New School, Parsons School of Design in New York City, where he taught design and wrote on matters of environmental philosophy, design theory, and social practices in the built and natural worlds. Peter comes from a family of writers with an abiding affection for the natural world. His uncle Peter Matthiessen was a three time National Book Award winner, and his brother Jeff Wheelwright is a writer of environmental non-fiction. Educated at Trinity College where he studied painting and sculpture, he went on to receive his Master in Architecture from Princeton University. As an architect, his design work has been widely published in both the national and international press. The Kaleidoscope House, a modernist dollhouse designed in collaboration with artist Laurie Simmons is in the Collection of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art.

Connect with Peter:

Website | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissUnlike many of the others who have reviewed The Door-Man for this tour, I’m not fameyiliar with Richard Powers. I came to this novel after a re-read of a bunch of Dan Brown novels, and my experience with it was shaped by the writing of John Stilgoe, whose books like Outside Lies Magic teach us to see beyond the surface of our surroundings

The image of bones in the water, from the opening scenes of this book, will haunt me for a long time. It’s such a visceral concept, and even though it exists only in the mind of the main character Winifred Goldring, it’s one that really sets the tone for this novel.

And what a novel it is! Peter Wheelwright has spun a story that combines an imaginative tale, one that speaks to those of us who grew up reading things like Jurassic Park, with just enough real history to lend the whole work an air of verisimilitude. The city of Gilboa, NY,  for example, really did create a reservoir that flooded out some of the world’s oldest trees, moving the town to accommodate the needed water supply.

I’d never heard of Gilboa before reading The Door-Man, but I have always been fascinated by the idea of flooded towns, whether they are actual towns (there’s one in the the Dakotas) or bad B-movies on SyFy.

But Wheelwright’s novel is no b-movie. Rather, it’s a thoughtful, immersive tale of the generations of (fictional) people who were affected by the events in Gilboa, focusing on one family in particular, and moving back and forth in time as it weaves their story into the actual history of the region.

We are introduced to “the men of the family” by Winfred, but the story also introduces us to Piedmont Livingston Kinsolver, who tells us, “I am only a door-man, one of many along Central Park West. No one suspects that it is my considered choice.”

Combining history, science, and family drama, The Door-Man is a novel for those of us who look at the world around us and wonder, “What if?”

Goes well with: clam chowder from an old family recipe, and crusty bread.


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Review and Giveaway: The Sparrows of Montenegro, by BJ Mayo

BNR Sparrows of Montenegro

About the book, The Sparrows of Montenegro

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praise for this book:

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonBarnes and NobleSimon and Schuster | Bookshop.orgIndieBoundGoodreads


About the author, BJ Mayo

Author Pic BJ Mayo

 

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

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

Connect with BJ

WEBSITE  ◆  FACEBOOK  ◆  TWITTER INSTAGRAM ◆  SKYHORSE PUBLISHING


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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About the book, No Names to Be Given

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

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

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

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

Praise for this book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Julia Brewer Daily

Author photo Daily

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

Connect with Julia:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | Amazon | Goodreads

 

 


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Review: Lemons in the Garden of Love, by Ames Sheridan

About the book Lemons in the Garden of Love

Lemons in the Garden of Love

  • Publisher : She Writes Press (May 11, 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 248 pages

It’s 1977 and Cassie Lyman, a graduate student in women’s history, is struggling to find a topic for her doctoral dissertation. When she discovers a trove of drawings, suffrage cartoons, letters, and diaries at Smith College belonging to Kate Easton, founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts in 1916, she believes she has located her subject.

Digging deeper into Kate’s life, Cassie learns that she and Kate are related―closely. Driven to understand why her family has never spoken of Kate, Cassie travels to Cape Ann to attend her sister’s shotgun wedding, where she questions her female relatives about Kate―only to find herself soon afterward in the same challenging situation Kate faced.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | IndieBound | She Writes Press | Goodreads


About the author, Ames Sheldon

Ames SheldonAMES SHELDON: was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and grew up in Wayzata, Minnesota. After graduating from Northrop Collegiate School, she attended Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in English. After graduating, she worked in the legal department of a chemical company, as a reporter at two newspapers, as office manager of a start-up auto salvage business, and eventually as a grant writer and development officer for a variety of nonprofit organizations, ranging from the Sierra Club in San Francisco to the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minneapolis Public Library. She has an M.A. in American Studies and was lead author and associate editor of the groundbreaking Women’s History Sources: A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States (R.R. Bowker, 1979). In the process of working on this monumental reference book, Ames discovered her love of women’s history and of using primary sources for research. Her debut novel, Eleanor’s Wars, won the 2016 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Best New Voice: Fiction. Her second novel, Don’t Put the Boats Away, was published on August 27, 2019, by She Writes Press. Her third novel, Lemons in the Garden of Love, will be published in 2021.

Connect with Ames:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

As a woman who was given my mother’s vintage original copy (then little more than a pamphlet) of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and as a woman who has fought for reproductive rights my entire  adult life (often with my mother beside me) I was eager to read Lemons in the Garden of Love when it was offered to me for review. This, I thought, was a story I could really relate to.

The parallel stories of Cassie, a grad student in the 1970s, and her aunt Kate, several decades earlier, are compelling reading. Both women were intellectually curious, passionate, and trapped in marriages to cold men. Both women found themselves facing a similar challenge. And both women had to deal with family members who were slaves to conservative views of gender roles, at best, and generally dreadful, at worst.

What I loved about this novel, was that you could tell that author Ames Sheldon had a personal investment in the story. Indeed, she is so committed to reproductive rights and  women’s healthcare that fifty percent of the proceeds from this novel are being donated to Planned Parenthood. That’s an amazing legacy, but so is this novel, which captures the very different experiences of women in the earlier and more recent twentieth century. As well, I really appreciated the technical knowledge that Sheldon included in her story, like how to make your own diaphragm from liquid latex and a darning ring, as many of our great-grandmothers had to do.

Beyond the technical detail, however, I liked how distinctive the two main characters’ voices were. Cassie is very much a contemporary woman, even if the seventies are considered “historical” now (as someone born in 1970 I have difficulty with that), and Kate’s words in her journals are stiffer, and more formal, really cementing her in the early twentieth century.

Overall, I feel Lemons in the Garden of Love is an important read. We must know where we came from as we face an increasingly autocratic future. We must take care not to repeat the worst parts of our history, and honor the best. Most importantly, we must continue to tell our stories, our mothers’ and grandmothers’ stories, and those of our sisters in spirit.

Goes well with grilled chicken, asparagus, and sauteed mushrooms.

 

Spotlight: The Takeaway Men, by Meryl Ain

BNR The Takeaway Men

 

About the book, The Takeaway Men

  • Publisher: SparkPress
  • Pub Date: August 4th, 2020
  • Pages: 265 pages
  • Categories: Historical / Jewish Literature / Sibling Fiction / Holocaust

Cover Med Res Takeaway MenWith the cloud of the Holocaust still looming over them, twin sisters Bronka and Johanna Lubinski and their parents arrive in the US from a Displaced Persons Camp. In the years after World War II, they experience the difficulties of adjusting to American culture as well as the burgeoning fear of the Cold War.

Years later, the discovery of a former Nazi hiding in their community brings the Holocaust out of the shadows. As the girls get older, they start to wonder about their parents’ pasts, and they begin to demand answers. But it soon becomes clear that those memories will be more difficult and painful to uncover than they could have anticipated.

Poignant and haunting, The Takeaway Men explores the impact of immigration, identity, prejudice, secrets, and lies on parents and children in mid-twentieth-century America

Praise for this book:

“At a time when the darkness of the Holocaust is being whitewashed, Meryl Ain’s remarkable debut novel illuminates the postwar Jewish American landscape like a truth-seeking torch. An emotionally rich and lovingly told saga of survivors, with great sensitivity to what was lost, buried, and resurrected.” Thane Rosenbaum, author of The Golems of Gotham, Second Hand Smoke, and Elijah Visible.

“The author’s tale is sensitively composed, a thoughtful exploration into the perennially thorny issues of religious identity, assimilation, and the legacy of suffering.” Kirkus Reviews

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Meryl Ain

Author Photo AinMeryl Ain’s articles and essays have appeared in Huffington Post, The New York Jewish Week, The New York Times, Newsday and other publications. In 2014, she co-authored the award-winning book, The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last, and in 2016, wrote a companion workbook, My Living Memories Project Journal.  She is a sought-after speaker and has been interviewed on television, radio, and podcasts. She is a career educator and is proud to be both a teacher and student of history. She has also worked as a school administrator.

The Takeaway Men is the result of her life-long quest to learn more about the Holocaust, a thirst that was first triggered by reading The Diary of Anne Frank in the sixth grade. While teaching high school history, she introduced her students to the study of the Holocaust. At the same time, she also developed an enduring fascination with teaching about and researching the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case. An interview with Robert Meeropol, the younger son of the Rosenbergs, is featured in her book, The Living Memories Project. The book also includes an interview with Holocaust survivor, Boris Chartan, the founder of the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, New York.

Meryl holds a BA from Queens College, an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an Ed.D. from Hofstra University. She is a lifetime member of Hadassah and an active supporter of UJA-Federation of New York.  She lives in New York with her husband, Stewart. They have three married sons and six grandchildren. This is her first novel.

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Review: All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone, by John J. Jacobson – Giveaway

BNR All the Cowboys Ain't Gone

 

About the book, All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone

  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • Pages: 352
  • Date of Publication: February 23, 2021Cover All the Cowboys Ain't Gone 1 0223
  • Categories: Historical Fiction / Action Adventure / Western
  • Scroll for the Giveaway!!

All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone is the rollicking adventure story of Lincoln Smith, a young Texan living at the beginning of the twentieth century, who thinks of himself as the last true cowboy. He longs for the days of the Old West, when men like his father, a famous Texas Ranger, lived by the chivalric code. Lincoln finds himself hopelessly out of time and place in the fast-changing United States of the new century. When he gets his heart broken by a sweetheart who doesn’t appreciate his anachronistic tendencies, he does what any sensible young romantic would do: he joins the French Foreign Legion. On his way to an ancient and exotic country at the edge of the Sahara, Lincoln encounters a number of curious characters and strange adventures, from a desert hermit who can slow up time to a battle with a crocodile cult that worships the god of death. He meets them all with his own charming brand of courage and resourcefulness.

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About the author, John J. Jacobson

John J. JacobsonThough John J. Jacobson didn’t join the French Foreign Legion after being jilted by a girlfriend, or over his displeasure of missing the last great cattle drive, he has, borrowing Churchill’s phrase, lived a rather variegated life. He was born in Nevada, grew up in the West, surfed big waves in Hawaii, circled the world thrice, survived the sixties and seventies, corporate America, and grad school. Among other degrees he has an MA in Renaissance literature from Claremont Graduate University.

Connect with John:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads / BookBub


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI don’t read a lot of westerns but the description of All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone really hooked me, so I asked to review it, and wow! What a fantastic adventure this book is!

Protagonist Lincoln Smith is introduced to us as a young man with a vivid imagination, and a dislike of trains. In fact the first time we meet him, he’s “attacking” one with his pint-sized bow and arrows. Very quickly, we see that while be may balk (as many children and teens do) at being in formal school sessions – run by his mother – he’s inquisitive, intelligent, and interested in the world around him, albeit a version of the world that is already disappearing when the novel opens in 1888.

What follows are a series of adventures that pit Lincoln against the ever changing American – and world – culture and technology, as well as his own dreams and desires. From the open spaces of his native Texas to the exotic locales seen after he really does join the Foreign Legion, Lincoln’s real antagonist is himself, and that story is fascinating.

What I loved about this novel was the language. I could hear the accents in Lincoln’s speech and his mother’s corrections of his phrasing. “Dern” may not technically be cussing, as he points out in an early scene, but his mother doesn’t want him using it anyway. Those organic conversations are universal – what parent hasn’t had such a chat with their child? – and for me they really “sold” this story, grounding it in emotional truth.

Author Jacobson has a knack for vivid description, as well, and I never had a problem visualizing  any setting.

At times funny, poignant, hopeful, and somewhat resigned, All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone makes you wistful for a period in American history long since past, but one that still lingers in the shadows of our imaginations, where we can still slap on a Stetson hat, climb onto an (imaginary for most of us) horse, and keep the modern world from encroaching too far, too quickly.

Goes well with: a bottle of sarsaparilla and leftover brisket in a sandwich.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS each receive a print copy of

All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone.

(US Only. Ends midnight, CDT, March 19, 2021.)

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Check out the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Or visit the Lone Star Literary Life tour page for All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone

3/9/21 Review Book Bustle
3/9/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
3/9/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
3/10/21 Review The Clueless Gent
3/10/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
3/11/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
3/11/21 Review Julia Picks 1
3/12/21 Review Bibliotica
3/12/21 Review Book Fidelity
3/13/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
3/14/21 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
3/15/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
3/15/21 BONUS Promo All the Ups and Downs
3/16/21 Audio Review KayBee’s Book Shelf
3/16/21 Review Forgotten Winds
3/17/21 Review Jennifer Silverwood
3/18/21 Review Missus Gonzo
3/18/21 Review Tangled in Text

 

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Review: Strong from the Heart, by Jon Land – with Giveaway

Strong from the Heart

About the book, Strong from the Heart

  • Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • Date of Publication: July 28, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 368 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Cover-Strong from the HeartCaitlin Strong wages her own personal war on drugs against the true power behind the illicit opioid trade in Strong from the Heart, the blistering and relentless 11th installment in Jon Land’s award-winning series.

The drug crisis hits home for fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters nearly dies from an opioid overdose. On top of that, she’s dealing with the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night.

When Caitlin realizes that these two pursuits are intrinsically connected, she finds herself following a trail that will take her to the truth behind the crisis that claimed 75,000 lives last year. Just in time, since the same force that has taken over the opiate trade has even more deadly intentions in mind, specifically the murder of tens of millions in pursuit of their even more nefarious goals.

The power base she’s up against―comprised of politicians and Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors―has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they’ve never had to deal with the likes of Caitlin Strong before and have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.

At the root of the conspiracy lies a cabal nestled within the highest corridors of power that’s determined to destroy all threats posed to them. Caitlin and Cort Wesley may have finally met their match, finding themselves isolated and ostracized with nowhere to turn, even as they strive to remain strong from the heart.

Praise for this book:

“A time-jumping, savory Tex-Mex tale, seasoned with all the ingredients of a great thriller.”―Brad Meltzer, New York Times bestselling author

“A mind-blowing tale that takes a flamethrower to our psyches to warm the chill it leaves up our spines. Seething with energy and replete with wondrously staged set pieces, this is thriller writing that defies genre even as it reminds us why we love to read.”―NYK Daily

“Exceptional…. Snappy one-liners, plausible dialogue, and lots of nonstop action, Land delivers another riveting, believable thriller.”―Press-Republican

“Caitlin Strong is one of the strongest female characters ever to hit the page, and Jon Land is the king of the intelligent thriller, continually pushing his own writing to new levels.”―New York Journal of Books

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Jon Land

John LandJon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty books, eleven of which feature Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. The critically acclaimed series has won more than a dozen awards, including the 2019 International Book Award for Best Thriller for Strong as Steel and the 2020 American Fiction Award for Best Thriller. He has also authored six books in the MURDER, SHE WROTE series and has recently taken over writing Margaret Truman’s CAPITAL CRIMES series. A 1979 graduate of Brown University, Land lives in Providence, Rhode Island and received the 2019 Rhode Island Authors Legacy Award for his lifetime of literary achievements.

Connect with Jon:

FACEBOOK    TWITTER AMAZON    GOODREADS  ◆  BOOKBUB ◆ WEBSITE


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellStrong from the Heart is book number 11 in the Caitlin Strong series, but the first of these that I’ve read, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m hooked, but then, I’d be hooked on any story that starts (well, after a prologue featuring a traumatized mailman wandering in the desert) with a woman facing down ICE, Texas Ranger or not.

Still Caitlin Strong is a breathtaking character: competent, compassionate, and evidently the kind of person who seems to get caught up in trouble. As she points out more than once, “I haven’t shot anyone today,” and that last word tells us everything about her.

In this story, Caitlin is both solving the mystery of the death of the entire population of a small town, while also juggling with the fact that her lover’s son has overdosed on opioids obtained illegally at school. As the story expands, she tries to remain a Texas Ranger first, and a woman second, and it’s that dichotomy that really made me fall in love with the character.

Jon Land’s talent for believable dialogue only made this entire novel seem more vivid, and I love the fact that so many of his characters are just a little bit bigger than life. This book takes place in a heightened version of our own reality – different enough to clearly be fiction, but similar enough to make it seem plausible. Riding that line takes a special talent, and Land’s balance work is impeccable.

As someone who really isn’t a fan of westerns, I was a little leery when I realized this was a double-timeline story, half of it an incident from 125 years before, that had been related to Caitlin by her great-grandfather, also a Texas Ranger. That part of the story involves some very famous figures from American and Mexican history – western history – and even I was familiar with the names, grinning when the first was revealed.

Part mystery, part western, part action-adventure, this novel has something for everyone. It’s a decent length at 368 pages, but it’s well-paced, and reads much faster than you might expect. Familiarity with earlier installments of Caitlin’s story might have given me a slightly deeper meaning, but it works as a standalone as well – I never felt lost, or like I was missing connections.

I’m eager to read more of Caitlin’s adventures, and plan to go back and read the first ten novels in this series, but I also hope there’s more to come.

Goes well with carne asada street tacos and Mexican beer – I recommend Indio  or Bohemia.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS 

GRANDPRIZE (US only):

5 Autographed copies

Ends midnight, CST, November 8, 2020

 

Giveaway - Strong from the Heart

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Visit the other Great Blogs on this Tour

(Or find them on the Lone Star Literary Life tour page)

10/29/2020 Character Spotlight Chapter Break Book Blog
10/29/2020 Review Bibliotica
10/30/2020 Top 5 List Hall Ways Blog
10/30/2020 Review Tangled in Text
10/31/2020 Review Reading by Moonlight
11/1/2020 Top 9 List Missus Gonzo
11/2/2020 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
11/3/2020 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
11/4/2020 Top 10 List Texas Book Lover
11/5/2020 Guest Post Forgotten Winds
11/5/2020 Review The Clueless Gent
11/6/2020 Top 10 List KayBee’s Book Shelf
11/7/2020 Review That’s What She’s Reading
11/7/2020 Review Book Bustle

 

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LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Endless Skies

About the book, Endless Skies

  • Paperback : 281 pages
  • Publisher : Sapere Books (July 26, 2020)

Endless Skies - coverAs archaeologist Rachel excavates a World War Two airfield, could a love story from the past hold a lesson for her as well?

After yet another disastrous love affair Rachel has been forced to leave her long-term position for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University. Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out. But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again…

She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney. He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…

As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past. Could a wartime love story have any bearing on her own situation? Could this time be different?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

UK Readers (99p til October 23) | US Readers (Amazon) | Goodreads


About the author, Jane Cable

Jane Cable I write romance with a twist, that extra something to keep readers guessing right to the end. While my books are character driven my inspiration is always a British setting; so far a village in Yorkshire (The Cheesemaker’s House), a Hampshire wood (The Faerie Tree), gorgeous Studland Bay in Dorset (Another You) and rural Lincolnshire (Endless Skies).

I was born and raised in Cardiff but spent most of my adult life living near Chichester before my husband and I upped sticks and moved to Cornwall three years ago.

I published my first two novels independently and have now been signed by Sapere Books. I am an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and contributing editor to Frost online magazine.

Connect with Jane:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Endless Skies was my first introduction to Jane Cable’s writing, and now I’m wondering where she’s been all my life, because her style is both haunting and lyrical, and her descriptions are vivid to the point that I, who have never been to Lincolnshire, or even to England (save for a stopover at Heathrow) felt like I was first, flying home over the area (in the prologue) and later, shopping for antiques with Rachel Ward, our protagonist.

It takes a deft touch and a skilled imagination to create a main character who is abrasive, but still makes you want to follow her journey, and Cable has done that with Rachel. Deliciously flawed, particularly by her taste in men, Rachel, when we meet her is a temporary Archaeology Lecturer at the local university, recovering from her latest love affair gone wrong, and grieving for her dead grandmother. Anyone would be a bit closed off and prickly.

And yet, Rachel remains compelling. Every antique she touches tells a story, and we get to share her attraction to history, and her love of finding why things mattered to the people who once owned them. In this way, we also get to see bits and pieces of her beloved Gran’s own story, which makes this novel all the more interesting.

No story is about a single person, though, and this novel is the richer for three (well, four) of the people whom enter Rachel’s life and stay there. Esther, an elderly woman in a care home, helps her untangle some of the history of the local airfield – the one we first encounter in the prologue. Jem (and his dog Toast) provide a bit of color wrapped in friendship. (Incidentally, Jem lives on a barge, something I’ve always fantasized about.) And Jonathan, a developer Rachel encounters professionally, but who may become the latest in her poorly chosen romances.

Still, romance is at the heart of this story, and the history running through it only makes it more real and more dimensional. This story is one for the ages, perhaps destined to become a classic. It’s rich and luscious and deeply satisfying.

Goes well with: a hearty fish stew.


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Review: All Things Left Wild, by James Wade – with Giveaway

All Things Left Wild - banner

About the book, All Things Left Wild

  • Genre: Adventure / Rural Fiction / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • Publication Date: June 16, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 304 pages
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

All Things Left Wild - coverAfter an attempted horse theft goes tragically wrong, sixteen-year-old Caleb Bentley is on the run with his mean-spirited older brother across the American Southwest at the turn of the twentieth century. Caleb’s moral compass and inner courage will be tested as they travel the harsh terrain and encounter those who have carved out a life there, for good or ill.

Wealthy and bookish Randall Dawson, out of place in this rugged and violent country, is begrudgingly chasing after the Bentley brothers. With little sense of how to survive, much less how to take his revenge, Randall meets Charlotte, a woman experienced in the deadly ways of life in the West. Together they navigate the murky values of vigilante justice.

Powerful and atmospheric, lyrical and fast-paced, All Things Left Wild is a coming-of-age for one man, a midlife odyssey for the other, and an illustration of the violence and corruption prevalent in our fast-expanding country. It artfully sketches the magnificence of the American West as mirrored in the human soul.

Praise for this book:

  • “A debut full of atmosphere and awe. Wade gives emotional depth to his dust-covered characters and creates an image of the American West that is harsh and unforgiving, but — like All Things Left Wild — not without hope.” — Texas Literary Hall of Fame member Sarah BirdDaughter of a Daughter of a Queen
  • “James Wade has delivered a McCarthy-esque odyssey with an Elmore Leonard ear for dialogue. All Things Left Wild moves like a coyote across this cracked-earth landscape—relentlessly paced and ambitiously hungry.” — Edgar Award finalist David Joy, When These Mountains Burn

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon ┃ BookPeople ┃ Bookshop.orgIndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, James Wade

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

Connect with James:

Website | Facebook | Blog | InstagramYouTube | Goodreads


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATMy first reaction to James Wade’s novel All Things Left Wild was that the writing was both vivid and incredibly lyrical. I could have easily read three hundred pages of James Wade just describing the scenery and been completely satisfied. But this is not a nature guide, it’s a novel, and the story was as powerful as the opening scene-setting was beautiful.

What I liked was the way Wade depicted the pain that Caleb clearly felt. Whether riding a stolen horse through the dry Texas landscape or sharing his theory about why people really wear black at funerals, Caleb’s words express unwritten pain and unspoken longing, though it’s not always explicit what he’s longing for. Conversely, Shelby is much more what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Sure, he’s the older brother and guiding force, but he’s just as broken as his younger sibling, though he expresses it differently. Wade’s craft really shows in both the similarities and contrasts of the Bentley Brothers.

As to the villain of the story, Dawson could easily have been a cardboard figure, only existing to provide the boys with an impetus to run, but in Wade’s care he becomes equally vibrant and dimensional as the boys. His story, of course, is more mid-life crisis than coming-of-age, but it’s still a story of the way environment and experience change us, no matter how old we are, or what our lot in life might be.

Overall, this is a story that has several gritty elements but is elevated to literary fiction by the quality of the writing and the well-paced plot. Wade never lets us get bored, and while he may linger in a scene  from time to time, letting us watch a hawk take flight, or feel the hot and dusty wind, that propensity for description only makes the novel seem more real.

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


Giveaway

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TWO WINNERS: A signed copy of All Things Left Wild

JUNE 18-28, 2020

(US ONLY)

 

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CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE 

Or see below for direct links to participating blogs:

or visit the blogs directly:

 

6/18/20 Author Video StoreyBook Reviews
6/18/20 Excerpt Missus Gonzo
6/19/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/19/20 Scrapbook Book Fidelity
6/20/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
6/21/20 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
6/22/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
6/23/20 Review The Page Unbound
6/23/20 Guest Post KayBee’s Book Shelf
6/24/20 Top Ten The Clueless Gent
6/25/20 Review Book Bustle
6/25/20 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
6/26/20 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
6/27/20 Review Max Knight
6/27/20 Review Bibliotica

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