Review and Giveaway: Comfort Zone, by Kimberly Fish

BNR Comfort Zone

 

About the book Comfort Zone

  • Genre: Contemporary / Second Chance Romance / Women’s Fiction
  • Publisher: Fish Tales Publishing
  • Date of Publication: November 1, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 289 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Comfort ZoneThe award-winning author of Comfort Songs, Comfort Plans, and Comfort Foods digs into the life of single-mom Anna Weber, an appraiser who gives value to other people’s found treasures. On assignment to research a handwritten sheet of music, Anna helps a stranded motorist, only to discover she’s rescued retired NFL quarterback Jack Moses. His confidence and fascination for solving problems makes him impossible for Anna to ignore even as they both dart along separate deadlines to save the finances at an inner-city school. Little does Anna know that as she wrestles with secrets from her past and a suspicious approach to people, Jack is running too—dodging women, pro athletes, and a future with no definable end zone.

As a nemesis threatens Anna’s young daughters, these two unlikely partners discover that it’s in stepping back from years of self-sufficiency that Anna and Jack can find the best treasure of all: a series of sweet, second chances.

Praise and Awards for this book:

“Kimberly Fish’s Comfort books are wonderful, charming stories set in the Texas Hill Country. Fans of small towns family relationships will enjoy these feel-good books. Two thumbs up!” – Jan Moran, USA Today bestselling author of Seabreeze Inn. 

Comfort Zone is a Literary Titan Gold Award winner and a Reader Views Bronze Award winner in romance. It was also a runner-up in the regional fiction category of the New England Book Festival awards.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Kimberly Fish

Author Photo FishKimberly Fish has been a professional writer in marketing and media for over thirty years, with regular contributions to area newspapers and magazines. As an accidental historian, she wrote two novels, The Big Inch and Harmon General, both based on factual events  in Longview, Texas that changed world history. Kimberly also offers a set of contemporary women’s fiction, based in the Texas Hill Country, that reveal her fascination with characters discovering their grit and sweet, second chances; all four of these novels have won distinguished awards

Connect with Kimberly:

Website | Facebook  |  Twitter I  Amazon  |  Goodreads | YouTube | Instagram | Pinterest | BookBub


XTRA Comfort Zone series graphic

My Thoughts

MissMelissOpening a new Kimberly Fish novel – especially a Comfort Stories novel – is more than just the beginning of a good read. It’s a road trip back to the fictional home town we all wish we were from. It is, as described in this latest installment, Comfort Zone, “a town of free-thinkers,” full of entrepreneurial spirit, a love of art and nature, and kind hearts.

In this visit to Comfort, TX, we meet Anna, an appraiser of relics and treasures, and Jack, a retired NFL football player. It would be easy to predict that a gift to the local school brings them together and things progress from there, but that would be a gross simplification of this story,  which is more than a second-chance romance, but a nuanced character study of two people who have been banged about a bit by life and circumstance.

I really loved getting to know Jack and Anna (and her two daughters). Anna’s job, especially, fascinated me. Part detective, part storyteller… I’d love to spend an hour or two just hearing the tales she might tell. All four of these new characters were as real and dimensional, with plausible flaws and anxieties, as anyone you might meet at a local coffee shop (or taco truck, or lavender farm), and I especially appreciated the way Anna observed her friend Lacy’s romance with local celebrity chef Rudy, which relationship was the focus of the previous entry into the Comfort Stories collection, Comfort Foods.

My favorite character, however, has got to be Comfort itself. It’s a slightly idealized small town, and it’s not difficult to imagine the various women (and men) in Anna’s friend-circle getting together to share their overlapping lives and businesses. Comfort is one of those places you just know has wide sidewalks, friendly dogs, excellent coffee, a decent bookstore, and real mail in the mailboxes.

If you enjoy romances between working adults, stories where there’s enough mystery to keep the plot going without being a whodunnit – mysteries of discovery and self-discovery – and a cup or two of cozy life, then the Comfort series as a whole, and this novel, Comfort Zone, specifically, will satisfy your heart and mind. More than that, you’ll feel like you’ve visited the hometown you were never actually born in.

Goes well with: a farmhouse breakfast – dark roast coffee, toast, eggs, and bacon.


Giveaway

 ONE WINNER!

Autographed copy of Comfort Zone,
hand-painted note card from artist Elaine McMillan,
and NFL official Silver Series football signed by Jack Moses.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 4/29/2022)

 

Giveaway Comfort Zone

 

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4/19/22 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
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Review & Giveaway: The Bones of Amoret, by Arthur Herbert

BNR Bones of Amoret

About the book, The Bones of Amoret

  • Genre: Mystery /Suspense
  • Publisher: Stitched Smile Publications
  • Date of Publication: April 1, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 323 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Bones of AmoretIn this enigmatic follow up to his critically acclaimed debut novel The Cuts that Cure, Arthur Herbert returns to the Texas-Mexico border with this saga of a small town’s bloody loss of innocence.

Amoret,Texas, 1982. Life along the border is harsh, but in a world where cultures work together to carve a living from the desert landscape, Blaine Beckett lives a life of isolation. A transplanted Boston intellectual, for twenty years locals have viewed him as a snob, a misanthrope, an outsider. He seems content to stand apart until one night when he vanishes into thin air amid signs of foul play.

Noah Grady, the town doctor, is a charming and popular good ol’ boy. He’s also a keeper of secrets, both the town’s and his own. He watches from afar as the mystery of Blaine’s disappearance unravels and rumors fly. Were the incipient cartels responsible? Was it a local with a grudge? Or did Blaine himself orchestrate his own disappearance? Then the unthinkable happens, and Noah begins to realize he’s considered a suspect.

Paced like a lit fuse and full of dizzying plot twists, The Bones of Amoret is a riveting whodunit that will keep you guessing all the way to its shocking conclusion.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Arthur Herbert

Author Photo HerbertArthur Herbert was born and raised in small town Texas. He worked on offshore oil rigs, as a bartender, a landscaper at a trailer park, and as a social worker before going to medical school. For the last eighteen years, he’s worked as a trauma and burn surgeon, operating on all ages of injured patients. He continues to run a thriving practice.

He’s won multiple awards for his scientific writing, and his first novel, The Cuts that Cure, spent ten days as an Amazon #1 Best Seller.  His second novel, The Bones of Amoret, will be released on April 1, 2022 through Stitched Smile Publishers. Arthur currently lives in New Orleans, with his wife Amy and their dogs.

Arthur loves hearing from readers, so don’t hesitate to email him at arthur@arthurherbertwriter.com.

Connect with Arthur:

WEBSITE  | FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER |  AMAZON  |  GOODREADS | BOOKBUB


My Thoughts

MissMelissI have not read Arthur Herbert’s first novel, and I’m really sorry about that, because this author’s voice caught me from the first page. (I’ve since purchased a the Kindle version.) The Bones of Amoret, which is not a sequel, but a second, stand-alone story, is the kind of thriller that I love to read. It’s gritty and earthy, and there are dangerous acts of questionable legality, but at it’s heart this is a novel about love – between friends, between parents and children, between brothers-by-choice – and it’s also about family and about loss. As well, it’s a pages-long proof that doing what is right is not always easy, and that even good people sometimes do terrible things.

Told from the POV of country (well, US border) doctor, Noah Grady, this book opens with dialogue and description that immediately put the reader in the Southwest Texas landscape. You can feel the heat from the road, and taste the dust in the air, and while the conversation isn’t one most of us would ever be party to – first, the number of people being helped across the border, and then the discovery of another man, seriously dehydrated and carrying quite a lot of cocaine – the cadences of the speakers, casual language about far-from-casual events – are familiar.

As the novel progresses the main plot unfolds – Blaine Beckett has disappeared. It’s difficult to feel sympathy for him, as he’s pretty universally disliked by the community, but his disappearance leads to other, darker events, that do cause anger, tears, frustration, and eventually, satisfaction. It’s this ability to elicit deeper emotional responses from the reader that is author Herbert’s greatest skill, because he  does it with plain prose that is reminiscent of Hemingway seasoned with a dash of Twain.

I also appreciated the author’s commitment to period authenticity. The Bones of Amoret takes place in 1982, when AIDS was still called GRID, and sonogram machines fill half a room. Herbert never hits us over the head with his “vintage” setting, but he also ensures that there are no obvious anachronisms pulling us out of the novel.

Bottom line: If you like stories that are both compelling and compassionate, while also being incredibly relevant, The Bones of Amoret is a worthy choice.

Goes well with: chicken mole, dirty rice, and negra Modelo.


Giveaway

 THREE WINNERS! 

Autographed Copies of The Bones of Amoret
(US Only. Ends midnight, CDT, 4/15/2022.)

yGiveaway Bones of Amoret

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

BNR The Big Empty

 

About the book, The Big Empty

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

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

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

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

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

Praise for this book:

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Stoney Creek Publishing Group (Currently 25% off) │TAMU PRESS │Bookshop.org│ AmazonGoodreads

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About the author, Loren C. Steffy

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

Connect with Loren:

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

Connect with Stoney Creek Publishing:

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | LINKEDIN | INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Giveaway

Giveaway The Big Empty

GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

 THREE WINNERS:
Signed copy of The Big Empty and logo hat.
(US only; ends midnight CST 11/25/21)

 

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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

Giveaway Alfie Carter SMALLER

 

THREE WINNERS each receive an

autographed copy of ALFIE CARTER.

US only. Ends midnight, CST, March 5, 2021.

 

 

 

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And don’t forget to visit the page for this tour at Lone Star Literary Life.

 

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