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:

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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.


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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

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GRANDPRIZE (US only):

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Ends midnight, CST, November 8, 2020

 

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10/29/2020 Character Spotlight Chapter Break Book Blog
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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
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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

 

LoneStarLitLife

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:

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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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Quote from Saving Irene

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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: 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 

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LoneStarLitLife

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:

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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

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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
5/4/20 Review Bibliotica
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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Lone Star Lit

Review: The War Beneath, by S. R. Hughes

The-War-Beneath-coverAbout the book, The War Beneath

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Permuted Press (October 1, 2019)

“There is a war going on behind things, beneath them.”

Paul had been a forensic psychologist. But after his daughter’s funeral, he hit the rock bottom of a spiraling addiction. When the spirits of the dead started rasping their wishes in his ears, he fled New York for withering Oceanrest—a flat-broke city barnacled to Maine’s coast. There, he’s spent the last five years scraping by, trying to shake off the burdens of his past, pretending to be a man without context, without history, without the secret ability to speak with the dead. But soon, all of that will be taken away from him.

Deirdre’s spent the past fourteen years as a resident of Squatter City—the most distal and dilapidated of Oceanrest’s gangrenous appendages. Growing and harvesting a hydroponic farm of mystic flora and esoteric plantlife, she’s built a business as a drug dealer and apothecary. After years of relative peace, Deirdre’s life finally seems tenable. But when one of her regular clients double-crosses her, what little serenity she’s discovered quickly unravels.

Deirdre and Paul soon find themselves under attack from criminals and cultists, on the run from Quebecois mobsters, Aryan Nationalists, and a group of young men who seem dedicated to a cause of brutality and destruction on an apocalyptic scale.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads


S.R.-Hughes-APAbout the author, S.R. Hughes

S. R. Hughes inhabits the glittering darknesses between dreams but writes from Queens, NY. He’s been published in Sanitarium, the Wild Hunt eZine, and has had stories featured on several podcasts.

Connect with S.R.

Find out more about him at his website, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


MissMeliss2020My Thoughts

S.R. Hughes’s novel The War Beneath is an excellent choice for anyone who likes paranormal thrillers, but it’s an equally good read for those who don’t require a paranormal element but like their lead characters a bit down at the heels.

In this novel, Hughes weaves the paranormal (protagonist Paul talks to ghosts) into the story quite organically, and the fact that the forensic psychologist doesn’t particularly want his ability adds depth to the entire story. Personally, I like it when authors give us reluctant heroes, and tarnished heroines. In Deirdre, we get the latter, and the fact that isn’t perfect – that neither of them are – is what makes the supernatural factor feel more plausible.

Two things I really appreciated about this book were Hughes’s ear for dialogue, and his descriptions. From the first page I could see Oceanrest, and from the first lines any character spoke, I knew exactly who they were.

The War Beneath is the kind of novel that sucks you in and doesn’t let go until you’ve finished the last page. I read it in a single night, because it was that compelling. Despite it being a quick read, though, it’s not light. Both Paul and Deirdre have to examine the truths of their own lives while they’re dealing with the external events of the story, and that examination is what makes this novel relatable and fascinating.

The War Beneath should be on the top of the TBR pile for fans of paranormal thrillers and “straight” thrillers alike.

Goes well with: cold beer and Maine lobster rolls.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for The War Beneath

Monday, February 10th: Dog-Eared Days of Summer
Tuesday, February 11th: Jessicamap Reviews
Wednesday, February 12th: Bibliotica
Thursday, February 13th: Instagram: @barksbeachesbooks
Friday, February 14th: The Bookish Alix
Monday, February 17th: Instagram: @bookclubwithbite
Tuesday, February 18th: Instagram: @jenabrownwrites
Wednesday, February 19th: Instagram: @colbywilkens
Thursday, February 20th: Crossroad Reviews
Monday, February 24th: love yo shelf

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Covey and JayJay Get Educated, by Shelton L. Williams – with Giveaway

BNR Covey and JayJay GE

About the book, Covey and JayJay Get Educated

  • Genre: Murder Mystery / Social Thriller / Amateur Sleuth
  • Publication Date: September 1, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 209 pages
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

CoverAmateur detectives, Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls, are drawn into a triple murder on the campus of Baker College in West Waverly in the Texas Hill Country. Both end up taking positions at the college: Covey as an adjunct instructor and JayJay as a visiting actor.

Initially they believe that money is the motive for the murders, but over time they learn that the college is a cauldron of political and social intrigue. The college’s new president and his beautiful wife, various staff members, a prominent trustee, and parties not associated with the college have the motives, opportunities, and wacky agendas that might implicate them in the murders. It turns out that a white nationalist group may be using a college house for its nefarious activities, but are they more talk than action?

The West Waverly police are little to no help in the investigation, and Covey himself has to depart the college to deal with his father’s death. JayJay takes over and makes a critical breakthrough. Upon Covey’s return, the couple must rely on deception, a bit of luck, and martial arts skills to solve the crimes and to try to prevent a high-profile assassination.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Shelton L. Williams

Author Pic Shelton WilliamsShelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the BloodSummer of 66, and now Covey Jencks. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

Connect with Shelly:

Facebook ║ Twitter ║ Amazon Author Page


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI did a spotlight on the first Covey Jencks novel last year, so the name of the amateur sleuth was not unknown to me, and neither was his creator, Shelton L. Williams, but all I had time to read at the time was the excerpt I posted in the spotlight. While I’m sure reading book one would have benefited me, jumping into book two, Covey and JayJay Get Educated, didn’t make me feel lost or confused at all.

In fact, I was delighted by Williams’s storytelling and his funny, smart, snarky characters from chapter one, where Jenks muses, “How many lawyers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? I don’t know. How many can you afford?”

No, I was more than merely delighted. I was hooked. This story has everything… drama, romance, a murder mystery (as Jay Jay, Jencks’s “partner in business and in life” asks when she first steps onto the page, “Does everyone you know get murdered?” (Apparently not quite…)), the politics of academia, and of course humor.

I’ve read a lot of mysteries over the years, but this is the first book in a long while that has felt so refreshing. Yes, Covey and JayJay are handling serious issues, but they do it without ever taking themselves too seriously.

Author Williams is deft with language, and even better with using his characters to comment on culture and regional idiosyncrasies. Examples include a remark about JayJay being black, and whether that’s an issue for Covey in their town of Odessa, Tx, and JayJay commenting about never having seen a basement. (Having lived in Texas for fifteen years now, I can vouch for the latter: basements here are a rare thing. I can’t speak to the climate of Odessa, though, I’ve never been there.)

But there are other characters beside those listed in the title. Jencks has associates, and there’s a b-plot with M.A. and her partner Beth that is easily as interesting as the main story. As well, this story is incredibly relevant to real life, as it addresses white nationalism as part of the on-campus mystery Covey and JayJay must solve.

Along with his skill at writing dialogue, Williams is adept at pacing, as well. As much as I enjoyed the banter between Covey and JayJay, it was the mystery they had to solve that kept me reading. Each twist and turn was well plotted, and when the ending came, as much as I was satisfied with a well-told story, I also wanted more time with these characters. (I know, I know, I can go back and read book one.)

If you love a mystery, and also love banter worthy of a classic Hepburn and Tracy film, Covey and JayJay Get Educated should be your first choice. Unless you haven’t read book one. Then buy both.

Goes well with: a barbecue bacon burger and a Shiner bock.


Giveaway

GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

FOUR WINNERS!GRAND PRIZE: signed copy of each of the author’s books

SECOND PRIZE: signed copy of both Covey Jencks and

Covey and JayJay Get Educated

THIRD PRIZE: Audio book of Covey and JayJay Get Educated

FOURTH PRIZE: Kindle version of Covey and JayJay Get Educated

DECEMBER 10-20, 2019

(U.S. Only)

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Check Out the Other Blogs on this Tour

12/10/19 Notable Quotable Texas Book Lover
12/10/19 Notable Quotable Kelly Well Read
12/11/19 Review Librariel Book Adventures
12/12/19 Author Interview The Page Unbound
12/13/19 Review KayBee’s Book Shelf
12/13/19 Playlist Chapter Break Book Blog
12/14/19 Review Bibliotica
12/14/19 Excerpt Part I The Clueless Gent
12/15/19 Excerpt Part II All the Ups and Downs
12/16/19 Review Forgotten Winds
12/16/19 Notable Quotable Hall Ways Blog
12/17/19 Review That’s What She’s Reading
12/18/19 Scrapbook Page StoreyBook Reviews
12/19/19 Review Book Fidelity
12/19/19 Review Reading by Moonlight

 

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Lone Star Lit

Review: A Friend in Deed, by G.D. Harper – with Giveaway for UK Residents

A Friend In Deed

About the Book, A Friend in Deed

 

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Troubador Publishing (October 18, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • Scroll Down for Giveaway

A Friend In Deed CoverBritain: a few years from now. A new populist political party has won the recent general election.

Duncan Jones, freelance political journalist and blogger, loses his weekly column at a national newspaper and turns to investigative reporting. The chance remark of a friend leads him to suspect that the Russians are directing the new British government’s policies and decisions. As he visits Moscow and Ukraine to discover more, scandal follows intrigue, dark forces attempt to silence him by whatever means possible and he turns to an unlikely ally for help.

A Friend in Deed is a fast-paced psychological thriller set in an all-too-believable near future. It is also the story of how one man confronts the traumas in his past and works out how to resolve them.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the Author, G.D. Harper

I was placed third in the 2015 Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.

In 2017, I was one of twelve authors selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.

I worked in Russia and Ukraine for ten years, which gave me the ideas for the plot and setting that I used in A Friend in Deed.

Connect with G.D.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

melysse2019.jpgx100A Friend in Deed is set “a few years from now” but it’s eerily close to what we see happening in both the U.S. and the U.K. with the shifts in politics and the way the media is being manipulated.

In this novel, Duncan Jones, aka political blogger Richard Foxe, and novelist Mark Jackson is a middle-aged journalist finding himself a victim of the fading of print media when two things happen at once: his paper downsizes him, basically requiring that every story be a “scoop,” and he meets Tanya, a younger-than-he-is (but not scandalously young) woman from Ukraine.

From this simple setup comes a novel that grips you and doesn’t let go. Duncan is the perfect everyman. He isn’t a hero, he just wants the truth, even if that truth comes with a risk. And risk there is. Part spy novel, replete with an introverted tech genius, and part psychological thriller – are the connections Duncan is making too good to be true? Does his past really inform his present and future? – we follow Mr. Jones down the darkened paths of London, Moscow, and the internet in his attempt to write the perfect political expose and also conquer his inner demons.

I loved the pop culture elements that author Harper included in this novel, from the opening, with Jones staring (and being stared at) by a portrait of Peter Capaldi, to the references to Tanya eventually (maybe) appearing on Strictly Come Dancing. I liked that Jones experienced real fear and trepidation about involving his friends in his… adventures… and I really appreciated the use of the character Nigel to explain the ins and outs of contemporary (ish) hacking and internet security.

One nuance I really appreciated is that Harper writes really good friendships between men and women. Sure, there’s some flirting, but it’s meant in fun. It’s clear that Harper respects his characters and his readers, but that particular bit of craft really mattered to me.

Overall, this is a compelling story that is both an entertaining read and a warning to all of us to be informed citizens of our respective nations.

Goes well with: fish and chips and a microbrew beer.


Giveaway

Giveaway to Win all 3 paperbacks of GD Harper’s Psychological Fiction Trilogy (Open UK Only)

  • Prize features all three books, Love’s Long Road, Silent Money and A Friend in Deed

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

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Review: The Girl Who Loved Ghosts, by K.C. Tansley

The Girl Who Loved GhostsAbout the book, The Girl Who Loved Ghosts

 

  • Series: Unbelievables (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Beckett Publishing Group (September 16, 2019)

She’d do anything to save her friends and family. But will that mean sacrificing the ghosts she’s grown to love?

Kat is trying to settle back into her senior year at McTernan Academy, but destiny keeps getting in the way of schoolwork and friendships. Continuing her magical training means abandoning her best friend, until an attack by a mysterious entity on campus proves that the only place they’ll both be safe is Dumbarton, the ancestral home of the Langley family.

Evan struggles with his coursework, a flirty new housemate, and his daunting responsibilities as the Kingsley heir and new owner of Ravenhurst manor. He tries to hold onto his normal college life, but he knows it’s only a matter of time before he and Kat have to travel into the past again… And Kat is in mortal danger every minute they wait to retrieve the last amulet they need to defeat the Dark One.

As her normal life slips further away, Kat must face the terrible cost that comes with time travel. Completing her quest in the present requires changing the past. She knows that the results of her actions can be disastrous–because the ghosts of her ancestors tell her of their tragic fates. A trip to eighteenth-century Connecticut might change everything. Kat tries to protect everyone she loves, but risks destroying every relationship that matters to her.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


KC TansleyAbout the author, K.C. Tansley

K.C Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, and two quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, time travel—and writes about them.

Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is the first book in her YA time-travel murder mystery series.

As Kourtney Heintz, she also writes award winning cross-genre fiction for adults.

Connect with K.C.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve been reading The Unbelievables series since the beginning, and it’s been a pleasure watching Kat grow up, just as it’s been a pleasure seeing K.C. Tansley’s writing get deeper and more evocative with every novel. Part of that, of course, is that her main character is getting older, but part of that is that when you’ve been writing in the same world for a while it becomes more and more real, just as it does when you’ve been reading it for a while.

At this point, I feel like Kat and her roommate/best friend Morgan, Evan, and even Seth are my friends, not just characters in books – they’re that well-drawn. When Kat feels alienated from Evan because his houseguest is getting flirty, I feel for her as keenly as I did when my own high school crush showed interest in someone else.

But this third installment in The Unbelievables series, The Girl Who Loved Ghosts, isn’t some teen romance. Sure, there are elements of romance in it, but it’s really about Kat’s calling to speak with ghosts, to help them solve their unfinished business, and for her combined work with Evan to unite their families, working with the living and the dead to do so.

This is a gripping adventure through time. It has moments of darkness and danger, but it also has moments of great poignance. It’s about honoring family, but it’s also about being true to yourself.

I loved revisiting Kat at her school, and joining her and Evan (and their friends) on their trans-dimensional trips to Dumbarton, but, as always, I was sad for the visit to end, and cannot wait for book four.

Goes well with beef stew and hard cider.