Spotlight: Stiff Lizard, by Lisa Haneberg

Stiff Lizard Book Blitz

 

About the book, Stiff Lizard

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

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

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

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

Praise for This Book:

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

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

Buy, Read, and Discuss This Book:

Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

Spy Shop Mysteries


About the author, Lisa Haneberg

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

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

Connect with Lisa:

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

 

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Review: Alfie Carter, by BJ Mayo – with Giveaway

BNR Alfie Carter

 

About the book, Alfie Carter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Skyhorse Publishing | Goodreads


About the author, BJ Mayo

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

Connect with BJ:

Website


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Giveaway

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THREE WINNERS each receive an

autographed copy of ALFIE CARTER.

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2/23/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
2/23/21 BONUS Promo All the Ups and Downs
2/23/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
2/24/21 Review Missus Gonzo
2/24/21 Review The Clueless Gent
2/25/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
2/25/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
2/26/21 Review Jennie Reads
2/26/21 Review Jennifer Silverwood
2/27/21 Review Bibliotica
2/28/21 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
3/1/21 Review Book Fidelity
3/1/21 Review That’s What She’s Reading
3/2/21 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
3/3/21 Review Forgotten Winds
3/3/21 Review Librariel Book Adventures
3/4/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
3/4/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen

 

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Review: A Brush with Death, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Cosy Mystery Series

 

About the book, A Brush with Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Fiona Leitch

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

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with: hot tea and saffron buns.


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Review: Murder on the Menu, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Mysteries

 

About the book, Murder on the Menu

  • Publisher : One More Chapter (January 15, 2021)
  • Publication date : January 15, 2021
  • Language : English
  • Series: Nosey Parker Cozy Mysteries

Murder on the Menu coverThe first book in a NEW cozy mystery series!

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing like having your first job back at home to be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride, Cheryl, vanishes Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realizing that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers…

With a missing bride on their hands, there is murder and mayhem around every corner but surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?

The first book in the Murder on the Menu cozy mystery series. Can be read as a standalone. A humorous cozy mystery with a British female sleuth in a small village. Includes one of Jodie’s Tried and Tested Recipes! Written in British English. Mild profanity and peril.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | My Book | Goodreads


About the Author, Fiona Leitch

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

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellFiona Leitch’s Murder on the Menu, the first of her Nosey Parker novels, is one of those books that feels like it should be something you see on television. Here in the U.S. it would be a perfect member of the PBS “Mystery” series, or for more contemporary viewers something you stream on BritBox.

Labeled as a cozy mystery, this novel certainly lives up to it’s niche. The main character, Jodie “Nosey” Parker is a former cop and a single mother who moves back to her hometown to give her daughter a life free from worry over her mother’s job. She’s smart, funny, engaging, and I really loved watching her code-switch, speaking proper English to people like the (hot) DCI Nathan Withers but switching into the local vernacular when speaking to people like the local cops her father (a former Chief Inspector) recruited to the small-town force, or the townsfolk, many of which have known her since birth. The use of dialect in this book is one of the things I really appreciated because it’s used both sparingly and organically.

Jodie Parker’s choice to become a caterer after leaving the police behind is something I identified with because I always find catharsis in cooking. (Spoiler alert: there’s a recipe at the end of the book, and I plan to try it!), but it was also amusing to watch her reactions to DCI Withers, first annoyance at his handling of the case (a death at her childhood’s friend wedding which she is catering, and later the recognition that he’s attractive in general, finally, getting a bit flirty.

Jodie is more than flirty though, she’s still got being a cop (though not a detective) in her blood, and it’s hard to stifle a lifelong need to know things.

While the murder mystery is gripping and fast paced, the character interactions are just as fascinating. Jodie’s mother and daughter often act as a sort of Greek chorus for her, while her friend Tony (the groom in the wedding) and their other childhood friends are equally dimensional.

The Cornish coast is also a character in this novel, with its beaches and meadows – Jodie’s back yard has a wall just high enough to keep the cows from visiting – and the setting, here, is important because it sets a tone, not just of cozy small-town life, but also of a very specific culture.

Leitch’s writing is compelling, and she balances humor and gravity very well.

I leapt into reading book two as soon as I finished Murder on the Menu and I fear this series may be my new addiction. It may well be yours, too. Highly recommend.

Goes well with: organic sausages and mashed potatoes.


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Review: Forever 51 by Pamela Skjolsvik

Forever-51-cover-654x1024About the book Forever 51

• Paperback: 332 pages
• Publisher: Fawkes Press, LLC (November 5, 2020)

Immortality’s a bitch.

Veronica is eternally fifty-one years old with a proclivity for problematic drinking. Like most hormonally challenged women negotiating the change of life, she is a hot mess. To retain her sanity, she attends weekly AA meetings and adheres to a strict diet of organic, locally-sourced, (mostly) cruelty-free human blood from the hospice facility where she works. Her life stopped being fun about a hundred years ago, right about the time her teenage daughter stole her soul and took off for California with a hot, older guy. These days, Veronica’s existence is just that – an existence, as flat and empty as her own non-reflection in the bathroom mirror.

When her estranged daughter contacts her via Facebook, Veronica learns that she has one chance to escape her eternal personal summer: she must find and apologize to every one of the people she’s turned into vampires in the last century. That is, if they’re still out there. With raging hormones and a ticking clock, Veronica embarks on a last-ditch road trip to regain her mortality, reclaim her humanity, and ultimately, die on her own terms.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Goodreads


About the author, Pamela Skjolsvik

Forever-51-Pamela-Skjolsvik-APA curious thing happens when you have the audacity to call yourself the death writer; people want to talk to you about death. A lot. This is all well and good for those daring types of writers like Mary Roach or Jessica Mitford, but for me it was initially problematic. Prior to declaring my morbid writing intention of exploring death professions during my first semester of Goucher College’s MFA program in 2008, I had little experience with death or grief, not to mention very little social engagement with the living. It wasn’t until after I finished the two years of research for this book that I was officially diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and went through four months of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy through a research study at Southern Methodist University.

My writing life began in 2005 when I received a fellowship to the San Juan Writers’ Workshop. The instructor, Lee Gutkind, told me not to publish for the sake of publishing, but to publish well. He also informed me that I was a horrible public speaker. Admittedly that stung, but he did like an essay I’d written. It was published in Creative Nonfiction Issue 33 and in Silence Kills: Speaking Out and Saving Lives. In August 2010, I received my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College and read five pages from my manuscript in front of a packed room without passing out.

As part of my therapy, I was encouraged to join a writer’s group where I would have to read regularly in front of a group, as this was one of my main fears. I am happy to say that I am now an active member of the DFW Writers Workshop in Euless, TX. We meet every Wednesday and I make it a point to read out loud every week.

Connect with Pamela:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhen I first heard about this book, and that the lead character was a vampire who’d been turned in middle age and was eternally menopausal, I laughed out loud, because as someone who just turned fifty in August, I could totally relate. Then I leapt into reading it.

Wow! What a refreshing take on the vampire trope! Veronica Bouchard is middle-aged, crotchety, confident about everything except her body, tand addicted to the red stuff -blood. So much so, that she attends AA meetings in order to help keep herself from killing people for food, and works as a night nurse in a hospice where the deaths she must cause are largely merciful.

When her biological daughter, forever fifteen, and estranged from her since the 1930s, contacts Veronica (via Facebook – how else?) and informs her that she can become mortal again, hijinks ensue, involving a young junkie, and a lot of practice of the ninth step of the Twelve Step program: Make direct amends to [people they have wronged]  wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Through Veronica’s Great Apology Road Trip, we meet the men and women who most impacted her (un)life, and learn her history with each of them. We also see some popular vampire myths completely debunked (garlic, crosses, sunlight, invitations to enter) which causes Veronica to be annoyed, frustrated, amused, and even a little smug when she realizes how much information isn’t shared among her kind.

What I loved about this novel was that the central figure could, except for the specifics of her “addiction,” be any woman entering or experience menopause. The hot flashes, the mood shifts, the dissatisfaction with what she sees (or doesn’t see) in the mirror are all universal, and, to be honest, we all have addictions of some kind or another, though not all require meetings and intervention.

While Veronica is the  most vividly drawn figure, her daughter Ingrid, her (current) husband Frank, and her adopted tag-a-long happy meal with legs, Jenny the junkie, are all equally dimensional, and the characters we encounter are all well crafted, too. I’m not sure if my favorite was Desmond, Ingrid’s maker (and also a waiter and a morgue attendant) or Knud, one of Veronica’s first post-death partners, who reminded me of a deeper, more in-touch version of Olaf the Viking from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

At turns funny, sad, frustrating, and poignant, Forever 51 is a fast-paced adventure of personal transformation and discovery, and one that you can really (forgive the obvious pun) sink your teeth into.

Goes well with a bacon cheeseburger, garlic fries, and a Bloody Mary, naturally.


TLC Book ToursVisit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Thursday, November 5th: Instagram: @kara.bookstagram

Friday, November 6th: Instagram: @jenguerdy

Monday, November 9th: Becky on Books…and Quilts

Tuesday, November 10th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Thursday, November 12th: Bewitched Bookworms

Monday, November 16th: Instagram: @hooked.by.books

Tuesday, November 17th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, November 18th: Instagram: @mixed_matched_socks

Thursday, November 19th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews

Saturday, November 21st: Instagram: @mommaleighellensbooknook

Monday, November 23rd: Books and Bindings


Bonus Chapter

Pamela Skjolsvik is hosting a challenge on her Twitter. Tag her (@pamelaskjolsvik) with an image of yourself doing one of the things in the image below, and she’ll send you a bonus chapter:

Forever-51-cover-bonus-chapter

 

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

Spotlight: Saving Irene, by Judy Alter

BNR Saving Irene Blitz

About the book, Saving Irene, a Culinary Mystery

  • Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuths
  • Publisher: Alter Ego Press
  • Date of Publication: September 10, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 208
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Cover hi res Saving IreneIrene Foxglove wishes she were a French chef. Henrietta James, her assistant, knows she is nothing more than a small-time TV chef on a local Chicago channel. And yet when Irene is threatened, Henny tries desperately to save her, wishing always that “Madame” would tell her the truth—about her marriage, her spoiled daughter, her days in France, the man who threatens her. Henny’s best friend, the gay guy who lives next door, teases her, encourages her—and maybe loves her from afar. Murder, kidnapping, and some French gossip complicate this mystery, set in Chicago and redolent with the aroma of fine food. Recipes included.

Praise for Saving Irene:

“A nicely convoluted murder mystery and a glorification of America’s diverse cuisines, played out against the attractions of a lovingly drawn Chicago.”—Fred Erisman, In Their Own Words: Forgotten Women Pilots of Early Aviation

“You’ll find yourself cheering for Henny James as she works beyond her job description as prep assistant to save her boss, Irene Foxglove, glamorous local French-ish TV chef.”—Kaye George, Deadly Sweet Tooth (Vintage Sweets Mysteries Book 2)

“Get lost in the beauty of Chicago and the intrigue of a Texas girl making her way in the world . . . You won’t see the end coming.”—Mary Dulle, avid cozy fan

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads


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About the author, Judy Alter

Author Pic Judy AlterAfter an award-winning career writing historical fiction about women of the nineteenth-century American West, Judy Alter turned her attention to contemporary cozy mysteries: the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and Blue Plate Café Mysteries. Her avocation is cooking, and she is the author of Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and BooksGourmet on a Hot Plate, and Texas is Chili Country.

Born in Chicago, she has made her home in Fort Worth for over fifty years. Judy is also a proud Scot, a member of Clan MacBean. One trip to the Highlands convinced her that is where her heart is, and she longs to write a novel set in Scotland.

Judy is an active member of Sisters in Crime, Guppies, Story Circle Network, Women Writing the West, and the Texas Institute of Letters. When she is not writing, she is busy with seven grandchildren and a lively poodle/border collie cross.

Connect with Judy:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Judy’s Stew | Gourmet on a Hot Plate


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSaving Irene was my first introduction to the work of Judy Alter and the fact that I found myself talking back to the characters (Sorry, Henny, but no legit Italian cook adds oil to pasta unless they’re making aglia e olio) says a lot for how real they felt to me.

Feisty, funny, Texan Henny with her grumbling asides really engaged me, while Madame Irene (as she prefers to be addresses) was a closed-mouthed mystery in herself, with only bits of her history being revealed through the conversations of others.

While I might have quibbled with some of the cooking tips, I enjoyed the characters aside from the main two (attention must be paid to Henny’s neighbor Patrick… there’s got to be something going on there) immensely. Madame Irene’s daughter, Gabrielle, and husband are the two that come to mind, but even the ancillary characters were well-drawn, and I enjoyed their interactions.

I’m a long-time fan of culinary mysteries, and this genre is one of the reasons I always suggest a meal or snack pairing in my reviews. Food and books just go together for me, and this novel proved why by having food as an integral component.

This reads like a standalone novel, but there’s certainly room for a sequel (hint, hint) should the author be so inclined. Meanwhile, I’ll be checking out her earlier titles.

Goes well with: Croque madame and sparkling water with a twist of lime.


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LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Review: The Ancestor, by Lee Matthew Goldberg

About the Book, The Ancestor

The Ancestor• Paperback: 348 pages
• Publisher: All Due Respect (August 20, 2020)

A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike except for his own beard. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he’s certain they do not exist in modern times—but from his life in the late 1800s.

After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow’s life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he’d been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis’s wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can’t be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.

A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future.

The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice…

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Down & Out Books | Goodreads


About the author, Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lee Matthew GoldbergLee Matthew Goldberg is the author of THE DESIRE CARD, SLOW DOWN and THE MENTOR from St. Martin’s Press. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The second novel in The Desire Card series, PREY NO MORE, is forthcoming. THE ANCESTOR will be out from All Due Respect books in 2020 along with a reissue of his debut novel. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, Essays & Fictions, The New Plains Review, and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series(guerrillalit.wordpress.com). He lives in New York City.

Connect with Lee:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe Ancestor is one of those novels that isn’t easily categorized. It’s sort of a fantasy, in that one of the main characters is introduced to us when he wakes up after being frozen into the Alaskan ice for the better part of a century, but it turns into a thriller/suspense novel once he encounters Travis Barlow and decides they must be related, and that Barlow’s family is the key to his own identity and purpose. More than any of these, though, the language and imagery in this novel elevate it to literary fiction.

Lee Matthew Goldberg grabbed me by the scruff of my neck from the very first chapter, when Wyatt, cold, hungry, confused, still manages to kill, skin, and eat a wolf with little more than his bare hands and sheer determination. This, however, is just one of many visceral scenes that really make it seem as though we readers have stepped into the Alaskan wilderness (without appropriate gear) and must survive.

The juxtaposition of Wyatt’s needy desperation with Travis’s cozy (but realistically imperfect) family life, really kept me hooked, and the interconnected relationships of the Barlows, Wyatt, Travis friend Gray, and the rest of the population of the funky frontier town (well, it FEELS like a frontier town) grounded the story with the sense of place and time that the main character lacked.

Goldberg excels at descriptions, of people and places, and at times I had to check my city-girl squeamishness. At the same time, his depiction of gold rush culture took me back to my childhood in the mountains of Colorado, where panning for gold has become a tourist attraction near more than one Rocky Mountain creek.

Overall, I found this both fascinating and compelling. Perhaps because I read it very quickly, I felt like I experienced a lot of the action with the characters, but I recommend The Ancestor to anyone who likes their adventure tales married to searches for identity, and no small amount of soul.

Goes well with: a stew made of game meat – venison or caribou – and a strong red table wine.


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Review Stops

Tuesday, September 8th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, September 9th: Bibliotica

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Monday, September 21st: Openly Bookish

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Tuesday, September 22nd: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

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Thursday, September 24th: Instagram: @readinggirlreviews

Monday, September 28th: Books, Cooks, and Looks

Tuesday, September 29th: Welcome to Nurse Bookie

Wednesday, September 30th: She Just Loves Books

 

Review: Gates of Mars by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays – with Giveaway

Gates of Mars - Banner

About the Book, Gates of Mars

  • Series: The Halo Trilogy (Book1)
  • Genre: Science Fiction / Detective (hard-boiled)
  • Publisher:  Pumpjack Press on Facebook
  • Date of Publication: June 16, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 336
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Gates of Mars - CoverIN THE AGE OF SURVEILLANCE, HOW CAN A PERSON GO MISSING? 

The year is 2187. Crucial Larsen, a veteran of the brutal Consolidation Wars, is working as a labor cop on Earth. The planet is a toxic dump and billions of people are miserable, but so what? It’s none of his business. He’s finally living a good life, or good enough. But then Essential, his beloved kid sister, disappears on Mars. When Halo—the all-powerful artificial-intelligence overseeing Earth and Mars on behalf of the ruling Five Families—can’t (or won’t) locate his sister, Crucial races up-universe to find her.

In the Choke, the frigid, airless expanse outside the luxury domes, Crucial uncovers a deadly secret from Essential’s past that threatens to shatter his apathetic existence … and both planets. Blending science fiction with the classic, hard-boiled detective story, Gates of Mars is a page-turning, futuristic thrill-ride featuring a gritty, irreverent anti-hero, Crucial Larsen. The first book of the Halo Trilogy, Gates of Mars is the eighth novel by award-winning authors, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall.

Praise for this book:

“An indelible introduction to an interplanetary saga and its sublime characters.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The authors’ imaginations again run wild, this time a science fiction/detective series looking at what our lives may hold in the not too distant future if everything that can go wrong does go wrong. And they’ve done it with their trademark undercurrent of humor that lifts an otherwise dreary future into something resembling—do I dare say?—hope. Their best work to date. And the giraffes? You’ll have to read Gates of Mars to find out. I’m already wishing they could write faster.” —Renee Struthers, East Oregonian newspaper

“With twists and turns true to some of the best noir detective pieces—but with an other-world setting and futuristic society—along with psychological insights and connections, Gates of Mars is a riveting, unexpected story, filled with intrigue and change. Sci-fi and detective story readers alike with find Gates of Mars one of a kind, worthy of avid pursuit.” —Midwest Book Review

Buy, read and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the Authors, Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

Gates Of Mars - AuthorClark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.

Gates of Mars is their eighth co-authored book.

Connect with Clark and Kathleen:

Facebook ║ Instagram

Connect with Kathleen:

Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter

Connect with Clark:

Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI’ve been a science fiction fan for as long as I can remember, and I have a special fascination with Mars, so this novel, the first in a new trilogy, was a perfect fit for me.

In Gates of Mars authors Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays give us dystopian future for Earth, with the additional information that anyone who’s anyone has packed up and relocated to our reddish neighbor. This basic premise is the center of everything that happens, but it’s also the start of some serious world building, for the future which Crucial Larsen inhabits is both grim – a significant portion of the population is unemployed and lives in portable pods – and fascinating – you can buy immersive scenarios to sleep in, but they can be interrupted by work, or family, calling you.

Because this is the first book in a planned trilogy, it would have been easy to make the plot secondary, to let the world building dominate the story, but McFall and Hays didn’t do that. Rather, the intricacies and details of Crucial’s world came from the plot, so we, as readers, are never flooded with backstory or exposition, rather, we discover it as Crucial lives it.

But fantastic details (like cloned giraffes on Mars!) aside, this is also a detective story. War veteran-cum-labor cop Crucial must track down his missing sister, while staying off the grid as much as possible, because HALO is watching everything (think of HALO as a cross between Orwell’s Big Brother and Star Trek: Discovery‘s Control).

It takes a lot of talent to combine a detective plot with a sci-fi setting, and make us care about the characters even when their flaws are all too visible, but McFall and Hays have that talent. They also infuse their work with just enough wry humor to keep things from being overwhelming.

If you want a gritty space saga that’s also a compelling neo-noir mystery, look no further than Gates of Mars. You won’t be disappointed, but you will be left wondering: how long must we wait for book two?

Goes well with any food that doesn’t come in tube. (I recommend a BLT on multigrain bread and a tall glass of sweet tea.)


Giveaway

Gates of Mars - Giveaway

TWO WINNERS: One Winner: First edition copy of A Very Unusual Romance 

One Winner: All four books in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection 

June 29-July 8, 2020

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6/29/20 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
6/29/20 Review Forgotten Winds
6/29/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
6/30/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
6/30/20 Review Sybrina’s Book Blog
7/1/20 Author Interview StoreyBook Reviews
7/1/20 Review Book Bustle
7/2/20 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
7/2/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
7/3/20 Review Books and Broomsticks
7/3/20 Review Bibliotica

 

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LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Review: A Firm Place to Stand, by Lori Altebaumer – with Giveaway

BNR A Firm Place to Stand

About the book, A Firm Place to Stand

  • Genre: Christian / Romantic Suspense
  • Independently published
  • Date of Publication: January 25, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 321
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Cover Med Res A Firm Place to StandShe’s either being stalked or losing her mind.

A job at a camp in the rustic and often rugged landscape of West Texas offers Maribel Montgomery a chance to escape both, especially if she makes sure no one knows she’s there. But when the body of a woman washes up in the river on her first morning, her hopes of a safe place to start over are swept away.

The suspicion that she’s being watched follows her to her new home, and Maribel is forced to take a stand or keep running. Does she have the courage to face the danger stirring at the Pool of Siloam Camp? If she doesn’t, another girl might die. If she tries and fails, it could be her.

Circumstances force her into the acquaintance of Conner Pierce—a man with secrets of his own. Can Maribel risk working with him in order to save the next victim and find a missing girl? Or is he the killer?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | BookBaby | BookShop | GoodReads | Lone Star Literary Life


About the author, Lori Altebaumer

Author Pic Lori Altebaumer HeadshotA life-long Texan, Lori lives in a small community not far from the rugged West Texas landscape she loves to write about. The mother of now-grown twins, she has learned that the secret to survival is a well-developed sense of humor and an active prayer life. After years spent working in the insurance business, Lori now uses her time to educate, inspire, encourage, and entertain through the written word.

Connect with Lori:

WEBSITE ║ FACEBOOK ║ TWITTER ║ INSTAGRAM  || GOODREADS ║ AMAZON ║ BOOK BUB


My Thoughts

MissMelissWhile I’m not a particular fan of fiction labeled “Christian,” I dove into this book with an open mind. What I found was that the author, Lori Altebaumer, is brilliant at dialogue and description – if you’ve never experienced  a Texas summer day in reality, you will completely understand what one feels like after this novel. Similarly, you will believe that Maribel, Conner, the sheriff, and all the supporting characters are real people, because they talk like real people.

The opening of this thriller was strong. I was hooked from the first paragraph. The ending gave us enough closure of the mystery to be satisfying – something that not all thrillers accomplish –  while also leaving enough open that we can make delicious speculations about Maribel and Conner’s futures. Where I felt Ms. Altebaumer got a bit muddled was in the middle, when the action slowed and Maribel’s personal, spiritual journey took center stage.

Admittedly, I’m not the target audience for Christian literature,but I admired the skill it took the author to make the story Biblically-based without feeling contrived or preachy. This was not a religious treatise. It was a compelling thriller where the main character’s faith was integral to the story. And Altebaumer deftly wove all the components of her story into a cohesive whole that I thoroughly enjoyed.

If you want a gripping story with authentic characters, A Firm Place to Stand is a worthy choice.

Goes well with: a smothered burrito and sweet tea.


Giveaway

Giveaway A Firm Place SMALL

THREE WINNERS: 

1ST PRIZE

Signed Copy of A Firm Place to Stand + $25 Gift Card to the Texas Indie Bookstore of Choice

2ND PRIZE: Signed Copy of A Firm Place to Stand

3RD PRIZE: eBook of A Firm Place to Stand

APRIL 30-MAY 10, 2020

(US ONLY)

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A Firm Place to Stand Tour Stops

4/30/20 Notable Quotable Texas Book Lover
4/30/20 BONUS post Hall Ways Blog
5/1/20 Review Librariel Book Adventures
5/1/20 Excerpt 1 Reading by Moonlight
5/2/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
5/3/20 Excerpt 2 Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
5/4/20 Review Nerd Narration
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5/5/20 Top 5 Book Fidelity
5/5/20 Review The Page Unbound
5/6/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
5/7/20 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
5/7/20 Review Forgotten Winds
5/8/20 Review Tangled in Text
5/9/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
5/9/20 Review Missus Gonzo

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