Review: We Burned Our Boats, by Karen Jones Gowen

About the book, We Burned Our Boats We Burned Our Boats

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ WiDo Publishing (January 18, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 306 pages

Bruce and Karen Gowen are facing a retirement that neither one wants. Bruce can’t imagine life without employment. Karen wants change, adventure, a chance to spread her wings and fly away after thirty years of raising their large family.

Their opportunity comes in a way they can both helping their daughter and son-in-law with a hotel project in Panajachel, Guatemala.

Never ones to do anything halfway, the Gowens sell everything, including one of their businesses. What they can’t sell, they give away. With their worldly possessions down to two checked bags and two carry-ons each, they fly one way to Guatemala City. Then on to Panajachel, a tourist town on scenic Lake Atitlan, in the southern highlands of Guatemala.

Here they begin their new life, a time filled with incredible experiences, tough challenges, and unexpected adventure in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. A place where the Maya culture permeates the land. A land and people that will transform anyone fortunate enough to encounter the magic of these hills in Guatemala.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Karen Jones Gowen Karen Jones Gowan

Born and raised in central Illinois, Karen attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. She transferred to Brigham Young University, where she met her husband Bruce, and there graduated with a degree in English and American Literature.

Karen and Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing in Panajachel, Guatemala. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Karen’s writing.


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

Many people – me included – fantasize about giving up everything we know and going on a mad adventure in another place. Most of us never do so, but Brian and Karen Gowen did, and their story is chronicled in We Burned Our Boats.

Part adventure-travel memoir, part personal examination, part analysis of a marriage and a life, the Gowens’ story has it all: love, fear, courageous acts, and international intrigue. Okay, maybe more like being intrigued by new customs and habits. It’s an easy read, and very vividly related. Karen’s writing makes you feel like you’re with them on their journey.

I’ve never really considered relocating to Guatemala (my fantasies typically involve Fez or Marrakech), but this book made me almost – almost – consider it.

I recommend We Burned our Boats to anyone who loves memoirs or travel, or travel-memoirs.

Goes well with tostadas and Moza dark lager.

Book Spotlight: SECOND LIVES: The Journey of Brain-Injury Survivors and Their Healers – Now Available as an Audiobook!

BNR Second Lives

 

I’m so excited to be bringing you this spotlight. The authors have brought a personal, informational, deeply important subject to us in an accessible way. And now, it’s also available as an audiobook! Please take a look at

SECOND LIVES: The Journey of Brain-Injury Survivors and Their Healers, by Ralph B. Lilly, MD & Diane F. Kramer, with Joyce Stamp Lilly – Narrated by Loren C. Steffy & Joyce Stamp Lilly

About the book, SECOND LIVES: The Journey of Brain-Injury Survivors and Their Healers

  • Genre: Audiobook / Biography / Medical Professionals / Neuroscience
  • Publisher: Stoney Creek Publishing
  • Listening Length: 6 hours and 21 minutes
  • Publication Date: February 28, 2024

Version 1.0.0“Discharged from a hospital just means you’re not dead.” These words of Ralph B. Lilly, M.D., describe his early struggle to recover from a traumatic brain injury. Lilly was a forty-four-year-old practicing neurologist sitting on his motorcycle at a red light when a drunk driver rear-ended him in 1980. In the ICU, after regaining consciousness and being told what happened, he asked, “What’s a hospital? What’s a motorcycle?” This tragic experience transformed his life and his approach to his neurology practice: doctors treat those with brain injury; but loved ones heal them.

Second Lives: The Journey of Brain Injury Survivors and Their Healers is written by Dr. Lilly and Diane F. Kramer. After his death in 2021, Kramer completed the book with the assistance of Lilly’s wife Joyce Stamp Lilly. This memoir weaves together Ralph Lilly’s experience with a collage of stories about his patients and their healers. After his recovery, Lilly retrained in the emerging field of behavioral neurology, which focuses on behavior, memory, cognition, and emotion after brain injury.

His clinical skills and expert witness testimony were sought by physicians, survivors, families, and attorneys to secure the best “second life” for survivors. His many patients marveled at his uniquely compassionate approach: “What doctor gives you his cell number and says call any time?” Lilly’s pioneering career spanned forty years from Brown University’s Butler Psychiatric Hospital in Rhode Island to Nexus Health System and private practice in Houston, Texas. He treated ER and hospital inpatients whose loved ones were in acute quandary, as well as outpatients who’d long given up finding a doctor who knew how to help. Lilly’s memoir is full of heart, not science, and will provide insight to general readers, family, and friends of patients with brain injury, as well as those who treat them.

His narration is unintentionally poignant, often punctuated by wry humor. He generously incorporates the words of his patients and their families in telling their stories. Their gratitude for his care is profound. As one former patient said, “Without Dr. Lilly, I’d be dead or in jail.”

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Audible | Stoney Creek Publishing | Goodreads

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About the authors, Ralph B Lilly, M.D. and Diane F. Kramer

Ralph B. Lilly, MD Author photo Ralph Lilly

A neurologist for over half a century, Ralph B. Lilly, MD had a passion for learning and teaching. A traumatic brain injury in 1980 shifted his focus from general neurology to behavioral neurology, the study of how brain injury affects behavior. After completing a fellowship in neurobehavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, he served as a clinical assistant professor with the Brown University Program in Medicine in Providence, Rhode Island, consulting with psychiatrists looking for possible neurological causes for their patients’ psychiatric symptoms. In Texas, he worked joined what is now Nexus Health Systems and became a clinical assistant professor at The University of Texas in Houston. Lilly focused his life’s work on treating brain-injury survivors and counseling their families, who were victims in their own right. He saw these “healers” as instrumental in guiding the injured loved one to a “new life.” He practiced in Arizona, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Texas, and wherever he was called to help. Before his death in 2021, Lilly lived in Washington, Texas, with his wife, Joyce, three dogs, six cats, and two horses.

 

Author photo Diane F. KramerDiane F. Kramer

Diane F. Kramer retired from the counseling and psychology departments of Austin Community College in 2008 and began writing personal essays, family histories, and fiction. As a volunteer with the Brenham Animal Shelter, she wrote a weekly column on animal welfare for The Brenham Banner Press. Her writing has also appeared in Alamo Bay Press anthologies and blogs Peace through Pie and Drash Pit. She currently writes website copy and press releases for Brenham Lifetime Learning and the Read of Washington County. She lives with her husband and their rescue dog and cat in rural Texas.

Connect with Stoney Creek Publishing:

Website | Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube | X (Twitter) | Facebook


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Review: Prairie Man: My Little House Life & Beyond by Dean Butler

I recently had the chance to read the digital ARC of Dean Butler’s forthcoming book, Prairie Man: My Little House Life & Beyond.  As someone who grew up watching the series (it was appointment viewing for our family) and eventually married a real Prairie Man of my own, I was excited to read this book. Thanks to Kensington Publishing Corp. and NetGalley for the opportunity.

About the book, Prairie Man: My Little House Life & Beyond Prairie Man Cover

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Citadel (June 25, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 288 pages

An illuminating, insider’s journey through the world of Little House on the Prairie and beyond, from Dean Butler, who starred as Almanzo Wilder, the man Laura “Half Pint” Ingalls married—on the iconic show still beloved by millions of fans as it reaches its 50th anniversary.

With a foreword from Melissa Gilbert (Laura) and Alison Arngrim (Nellie)!

Cast just before his twenty-third birthday, Dean Butler joined Little House on the Prairie halfway through its run, gaining instant celebrity and fans’ enduring affection. Ironically, when the late, great Michael Landon remarked that Little House would outlive everyone involved in making it, Butler deemed it unlikely. Yet for four decades and counting, Butler has been defined in the public eye as Almanzo Wilder—a role he views as the great gift of his life.

Butler had been cast as a romantic lead before, notably in the made-for-TV movie of Judy Blume’s Forever, opposite Stephanie Zimbalist. But Little House was, and remains, one of the most treasured shows in television history. As the eventual husband of Laura “Half-pint” Ingalls—and the man who would share actress Melissa Gilbert’s first real-life romantic kiss—Butler landed as a central figure for the show’s devoted fans.

Now, with wit and candor, Butler recounts his passage through the Prairie, sharing stories and anecdotes of the remarkable cast who were his on-screen family. But that was merely the beginning of a diverse career that includes Broadway runs and roles on two other classic shows—Moondoggie in The New Gidget and Buffy’s ne’er-do-well father, Hank, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Coming of age during a golden era of entertainment, Butler has evolved along with it, and today enjoys success and fulfillment as a director and producer—notably of NBC Golf’s Feherty—while remaining deeply loyal to Little House.

The warmth, heart, and decency that fans of Laura and Almanzo fell in love with on Little House echo through this uplifting memoir, a story, in Butler’s words, about “good luck, good television, and the very good—if gloriously imperfect—people who made it so.”

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Pre-Order from Amazon | Pre-Order from Barnes & Noble | GoodReads


About the author, Dean Butler Dean Butler by Michael Roud(1)

Dean Butler is an actor, writer, director, and producer best known to television audiences all over the world for his portrayal of Almanzo Wilder on the long‑running series Little House on the Prairie, based on the iconic Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. On the other side of the camera Dean produced 80 episodes over 10 seasons of NBC Golf Channel’s Emmy nominated series, Feherty. Dean currently lives with his family in California.

Connect with Dean:

Website | Cameo | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

As a lifelong fan of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder (though my first loyalty is to the books), the television show Little House on the Prairie was an important part of my childhood, partly because I share a first name with two of the leads, and partly because I have fond memories of watching it with my mother. (I was born in 1970 -years before the show – so, no, I was NOT named after either of those two famous Melissas). I remember being giddy with joy when the character of Almanzo Wilder was finally added to the show, and, as I’ve shared with more than one person, I remember getting permission from my mother to do my homework in front of the TV (during commercials) so I wouldn’t miss a minute of the two-part episode where Laura and her “Manly” get married.

Needless to say, I’ve read all of the memoirs from various cast members, all women – until now – and I was excited to learn about this memoir.

I was not disappointed. Author Dean Butler is honest in the way he shares his story, and the tone is down to earth. Early in the text he mentions that a common attitude in his family is that of “modest pride,” and that really fits Butler – at least as he portrays himself here – perfectly.

If you’re expecting a salacious tell-all, this is not the book for you. Butler says himself that not all stories need to be told. So when discussing the relationship that ended in his first marriage, he withholds the woman’s name. I respect him for that.  He’s not a saint. He’s made human mistakes and has human flaws. And yet, he’s one of the good guys.

A through-line of Butler’s story is that his role as an actor -and in life – is to be the guy who supports a young actress, and it’s a role he’s particularly good at. From Forever (yes, there was a movie based on Judy Blume’s infamous young adult novel), to Little House, to The New Gidget, and even to Buffy the Vampire Slayer Dean made his name as the good guy the heroine could count on. (We don’t count the nightmare version of Hank Summers – that was fiction within fiction.)

When his career turned from being in front of the cameras to being a documentarian, writing, narrating, producing, and editing, it seems as if Butler found his true niche. He’s been a champion of the real Almanzo Wilder’s story, carried the torch for the Laura Ingalls Wilder legacy, and become half the heart of contemporary Little House fandom (Alison Arngrim is the other half).  He spent years producing a talk show for the Golf Channel. He comes across as a thoughtful, self-aware man who has access to an incredible platform, and uses it for good.

They say that you should never meet your heroes. Butler himself recounts more than one encounter with someone he admired that did not go well. I haven’t met him, but if this book is anything to judge by, Dean Butler is exactly the person he seems to be. If you want to read a memoir that will shock you with secrets and harsh truths, go read anything Carrie Fisher wrote – she was candid and hilarious in her writing. If you want a fairly accurate portrait of one of Hollywood’s genuine “nice guys,” especially if you’re a fan of Little House on the Prairie, you’ll find Prairie Man a satisfying read.

Goes well with: cinnamon chicken (but personally I prefer shawarma).

 

 

Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by the Elemental Dragons by Sybrina Durant

BNR Magical Elements...Dragons

 

About the book, Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by the Elemental Dragons  Cover Magical Elements Dragons

  • Series: Magical Elements of the Periodic Table, Book 2
  • Genre: Children’s Picture Book / STEM / Chemistry
  • Publisher: Sybrina Publishing
  • Page Count: 44
  • Publication Date: March 9, 2024
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

In this unique alphabet book, members of the Elemental Dragon Clan present 26 Magical Elements of the Periodic Table in alphabetical order. Each member of the clan has an element tipped tail. They also have magical powers based on the properties of their metals. There are no more perfect groups than unicorns and dragons to familiarize yourself with elements from the Periodic Table. Their theme is: “No Metal — No Magic. . .and No Technology.”

In this book, Antz starts out the book by introducing the very necessary metal, Antimony on his element page. Zora rounds out the alphabet by presenting scientific facts and other fun information about the metal, Zirconium, on her elemental page. In all, readers will get some great insight into the properties of 26 elements from the periodic table. Each page is full of amazing facts and tons of FUN. There’s a Magical Elemental themed periodic table, too!

This unique book will help tweens, teens and anyone else quickly absorb the elements of the Periodic Table.

REMEMBER. . .
No Metal,
No Magic…
And No Technology.
It’s Techno-Magical!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Paperback eBook Hardcover | Goodreads


About the Author, Sybrina Durant Author Photo Durant

Sybrina Durant is a unicorn author and entrepreneur. In addition to books, she offers unicorn-themed activities, t-shirts, and more. Plus, she has pulled together a collection of nearly all the unicorn books available today from hundreds of authors. They are categorized on her website by Little Kid, Middle Kid, and Teen Unicorn Books.

Connect with Sybrina:

Website | Newsletter |  Facebook | LinkedIn | Amazon | Instagram | X (Twitter) | Pinterest | Goodreads | BookBub | LibraryThing


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by the Elemental Dragons is the second book in the Magical Elements series. It is not necessary to have read the first one to appreciate this volume.

 

Aimed at kids in the middle grades, this book provides an in-depth look at 26 elements of the periodic table (well, really 25 plus an isotope) each presented by a magical dragon whose name shares the element’s first initial and whose power is defined by what the element does. It’s a clever way of disseminating real information without making it seem intimidating or overwhelming.

 

As a fantasy fan myself, I appreciated the artwork and the use of magic and dragons to make learning the elements more fun. I loved that they each had a unique look and personality. As a science geek, I enjoyed that the author gave some practical uses for each element.

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Also worthy of note is the glossary of terms in the back of the book, and the links to the publisher’s archive of enrichment activities for teachers who use this book in their classrooms.

 

Overall, this is a great way of introducing kids to chemical elements, and I’m a bit envious = where was this when I was in middle school?

 

Goes well with: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cut in triangles, and chocolate milk.


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Signed paperback of Magical Elements of The Periodic Table, Book 2 and 24 x 36 poster of the Periodic Table

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/2/24)

Giveaway Magical Elements Dragons

 

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Review: This Familiar Heart by Babette Fraser Hale

BNR This Familiar Heart

 

About the book, This Familiar Heart Cover This Familiar Heart

  • Genre: Memoir / Relationships / Aging / Grief
  • Publisher: Winedale Publishing
  • Date of Publication: April 2, 2024
  • Number of Pages: 312 pages

In this intimate rendering of a relationship, we learn how deceptive surface impressions can be.

Leon Hale, author of Bonney’s Place, was sixty years old, a “country boy” who wrote about rural Texans with humor and sensitivity in his popular column for The Houston Post and, later the Houston Chronicle. Babette Fraser at thirty-six was a child of privilege, a city girl educated abroad, struggling in her career while raising a young son. No one thought it could work.

Even Hale himself held serious doubts. But it did endure. The interior congruencies they discovered through a long and turbulent courtship knit them tightly together for the rest of his life.

And when he died during the Pandemic isolation period, searing levels of grief and doubt threatened Babette’s understanding of the partnership and marriage that had sustained her for forty years. Had he really been the person she thought he was? Had he kept secrets that would forever change her view of him?

In candid, evocative prose, she explores the distorted perceptions that often follow the death of a cherished spouse, and the loving resolution that allows life to go on.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | TAMU Press | Goodreads


Watch the Trailer for This Familiar Heart


About the author, Babette Fraser Hale Author Photo Hale

Babette Fraser Hale is the author of A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers, 2022 winner of the debut fiction award from the Texas Institute of Letters. Her stories have received notice from Best American Short Stories, 2015 and the Meyerson Award from Southwest Review. In addition to writing fiction, Babette has been a magazine feature writer, columnist, contributing editor, book editor, and publisher. She lives in Texas.

Connect with Babette:

Blog | GoodreadsFacebook | Amazon


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

Reviewing memoirs – especially deeply personal stories like This Familiar Heart – can be tricky. Too easily we fall into the habit of judging the life and choices presented to us. But this isn’t fiction, and cannot be examined the same way.

If this book were fiction, it would be an amazing story. The characters are erudite and earthy at once, and the pace of this love story is perfect. The author draws you in as her tale goes spiraling from a letter to meeting to several more encounters, to sex and love and a partnership that is ended by death and grief.

But since this book, this story, is a memoir, I won’t talk more about the events, but rather the way author Babette Fraser Hale has chosen to present them, which she has done beautifully.

I loved the way she told her origin story with the man who preferred to be called “Hale,” rather than his first name, as a creative non-fiction exercise, interspersed with her notes from the perspective of “after.” The noted are italicized so you cannot mistake them for the narrative, but they do more than add future knowledge. They color the narrative with all the years, experiences, and feelings since the initial occurrences.

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Babette’s (I use her first name to distinguish her from the Hale she writes about) language is also beautiful, full of evocative phrases like, “The day spreads out around them as they walk,” or “His mouth and tongue study her body, but it is in no way enough, and it is also too much,” and “We have been erased, as completely as our house itself, or more completely, perhaps.”

This is the kind of writing that inspires me to wander around the house reading passages aloud to my husband, the dogs, myself – it doesn’t matter. This is the kind of writing that sits with you, long after you’ve finished.

So, while this story, which begins with two people falling in love and ends with love torn apart, covers some decidedly not-beautiful details – death is never pretty – the book itself is beautiful. And brilliant. 

Goes well with: canned soup and candlelight.


Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page for This Familiar Heart for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit each blog directly.

04/16/24 Jennie Reads Review
04/16/24 Hall Ways Blog BONUS Stop
04/17/24 Chapter Break Book Blog Book Trailer
04/17/24 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
04/18/24 The Real World According to Sam Review
04/19/24 Book Fidelity Review
04/20/24 It’s Not All Gravy Review
04/21/24 StoreyBook Reviews Excerpt
04/22/24 Bibliotica Review
04/23/24 Boys’ Mom Reads Review
04/24/24 Carpe Diem Chronicles Review
04/25/24 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review

 

 

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Review: Kookaburras, Cuppas, and Kangaroos

Kookaburras Cuppas & Kangaroos

 

About the Book, Kookaburras, Cuppas, & Kangaroos: Adventures of a Yorkshire Lass Down Under in the ’60s Cover Kookaburras

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (December 12, 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 260 pages

 

Fueled by her spirit for adventure and with her £10.00 ticket in hand, Elizabeth Isle leaves 1960s England, determined to see it all, not just Australia and New Zealand, but as much as she can on the way, too. She surrenders her passport to the Australian government and must find work to support herself on the other side of the world from her family and friends.

There can be no going back for two years. Join this intrepid young woman on the adventure of her lifetime. Share her amazing experiences, discover what exotic animals await, get travel tips and meet her new friends through her letters home and over plenty of cups of tea.

Beware – the travel bug might prove infectious!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the Author, S. Bavey Sue

Sue Bavey (writing as S. Bavey) a British mother of two teenagers, now living in Franklin, Massachusetts, having moved to the US in 2003. Writing as S. Bavey, she won a gold award from Readers’ Favorite for her grandfather’s biography: Lucky Jack (1894 – 2000), which she wrote during COVID lockdown. She also has a number of non-fiction stories published in various anthologies.

Kookaburras, Cuppas & Kangaroos is the story of her late mother’s emigration from Yorkshire to Australia in 1960 for three years, told via airmail letters and travel diary entries.

A free prequel to Kookaburras, Cuppas & Kangaroos”, called “A Yorkshire Lass: The Early Years” is available for free download from www.suebavey.com.

Connect with Sue:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | X (Twitter)


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

This memoir-once-removed tells the story of the author’s mother, Elizabeth Isle who participated in the Assisted Passenger Program which encouraged emigration to Australia in the 1960s.

Told mainly in epistolary format, the writing of which were sustained by endless cups of tea,  it’s a delightful tale of a wide-eyed young woman on her first travel adventures, from innocence to awareness personally and culturally.

I enjoyed reading about the universal experiences that Elizabeth had – driving her (affectionate) uncle’s car, searching for a job that would be fulfilling but also allow time and money for explorations, and making new friends.

I also appreciated the glimpses of what life was like in the Australia of the 1960s. As someone from a similarly “young” country, the parallels and differences between the United States and Australia have always fascinated me, and seeing the latter through Elizabeth’s eyes was particularly rewarding.

Author Sue Bavey (writing as S. Bavey) has done an admirable job capturing both the excitement and the challenges of moving half a world away from home. I liked that she kept the language period appropriate. It’s slightly more sophisticated than the way young women speak and write today, and the difference really added to the feeling of immersion in Elizabeth’s adventures.

If you, like me, love memoirs in general, and travel memoirs specifically, you will love this book.

Goes well with hot tea and ribbon sandwiches.

 

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Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Porter & Midge: Paws and Playtime by Jennie Chen and Giselle Nevada

BNR Paws & Playtime

 

I’m so excited to be part of this book blitz spotlighting the newest Porter & Midge book, Paws and Playtime. My own dogs, Teddy and Piper give it two tails wagging!

Cover Paws and PlaytimeAbout the book: Porter & Midge: Paws and Playtime

  • Genre: Children’s Picture Book / Pet Care / Dog Training
  • Series: Porter and Midge series
  • Publisher: Raise the Woof Press LLC
  • Page Count: 32 pages
  • Publication date: December 12, 2023
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Discover the enchanting world of Porter and Midge: Paws and Playtime – a rhyming children’s book that follows the heartwarming bond between two furry friends, Mastiff Porter and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Midge, and their devoted companions, CJ and Lora.

On a sunny day, CJ’s thoughtful idea sets the stage for a joyful exploration of new ways to make Porter and Midge’s days even brighter.

Through rhythmic verses, follow their journey as they uncover imaginative games, canine enrichment activities, and thrilling dog sports, all while strengthening their unbreakable connection.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


Watch the trailer for Porter & Midge: Paws and Playtime


About the authors, Jennie Chen and Giselle Nevada

Author Photo Giselle NevadaGiselle Nevada has owned several mastiffs, acquired both from reputable breeders and via rescue. Fostering rescued mastiffs and helping them work through their issues led to a keen interest in socialization as a means of preventing future issues. She loves working with her dogs and has dabbled in carting, conformation, agility, rally, trick dog, nose work, and many other canine sports. Her puppy Porter is a testament to early socialization – he has achieved many performance dog titles and has done commercial work. He also has a role in a movie called Match Me If You Can directed by Marian Yeager.

Author Photo Jennie ChenJennie Chen is a homesick Austinite who founded Keep Austin Dog Friendly. Over the last 20 years, Jennie has owned Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs and Lowchen. She has earned numerous titles in conformation, competitive obedience, rally, herding, animal assisted therapy, and more. She is passionate about the relationship people build with their beloved canines, and she has been an advocate for people living with disabilities who need a service dog to live independently. She is active in various dog clubs and can be seen on AKC.TV from time to time.

Connect with Giselle and Jennie:

Website | Facebook | Instagram

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Pawtographed hardcover copy of Porter and Midge: Paws for Safety

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Good Talk… Good Talk, by Ginny Andrews – Book Review and Giveaway

BNR Good Talk

 

About the book, Good Talk… Good Talk Cover Hi Res Good Talk

  • Genre: Nonfiction / Humor / Comedy / Essays
  • Publisher: Ginny Andrews Comedy, LLC
  • Date of Publication: October 5, 2023
  • Number of Pages: 171 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Raise your hand if you have ever run into a mannequin in a store and apologized. Continue to keep your hand raised if you want to pre-write thank you notes to those whom you anticipate attending your funeral because you suffer from chronic “way too nice” syndrome. Keep it up high if you have ever farted in church or yoga class. Man, my arm is getting tired!

Most people are awkward during the middle school years, grow out of it, and blossom into mature, well-functioning human beings…I’m still waiting for this to happen. Awkwardness is my hidden talent, although most who know me would tell you it isn’t hidden—it’s written on my forehead. My daily life is filled with epic failures. Sometimes I feel like I’m one big malfunction! As I have gotten older, I just try to embrace it.

After you read this collection of essays, hopefully you will be able to accept your imperfections too! Nope, probably not because I’m still not there! However, maybe my comedy will stick with you like that hemorrhoid you can’t seem to get rid of, like ever—Good Talk. . .Good Talk.

Praise for Good Talk. . .Good Talk:

“Reading Ginny Andrews’s Good Talk. . .Good Talk is a lot like hanging out with that girlfriend that invariably makes you laugh until you cry.” —Lauren Cassel Brownell, author of Zen and the Art of Housekeeping and Dying to Donate

Good Talk. . .Good Talk is a laugh out loud winner, filled with quirky stories reminiscent of Patrick McManus.” —J. Andersen, author of The Breeding Tree, The Gene Rift, and Legacy’s Impact

“Anyone with anxiety will totally relate to Ginny Andrews’ humorous tales of the struggle of day-to-day life in today’s world.” —John A.B., Amazon Reviewer

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Click to Purchase | Goodreads


Watch the trailer for Good Talk… Good Talk


About the author, Ginny Andrews Author Photo Andrews

Ginny Andrews is a former high school teacher and coach, who is now an aspiring comedian, speaker, and writer. She would greatly appreciate it if you purchased her book! Door Dash, dog-sitting, used car sales, lawn mowing, and selling random items found in her house aren’t high paying gigs!

Connect with Ginny:

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Amazon | X/Twitter

TikTok | YouTube | Goodreads | BookBub

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

Ginny Andrews’s new book, Good Talk… Good Talk, is the perfect antidote to the rather dour early November. It’s breezy, it’s candid, it’s relatable, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

Presented as a series of essays – monologues, really – about everything from attempting meditation to fitness classes to an epic BenGay overload and beyond, and she does it all with self-deprecating humor that makes you empathize with her plight, murmur, “Same, girl, same,” and dissolve into hysterical laughter, often at once.

And yet, beneath the humor there’s a very real, very flawed (as are we all) human being trying her best to navigate a world that changes daily, seems to mock us as we age, and didn’t come with any kind of a manual. From her childhood experiences with religion to her confession that “Andrews is awkward,” there is a poignance that grounds her stories in the emotional truth of being a single woman in her forties. As she writes, “It’s cute to compare your ten-year-old self to your twenty-year-old self, but anyone thirty and above… it doesn’t fare well for us.”

If you like your humor with a side of insight, you will appreciate Good Talk… Good Talk. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and realize that, yes, you have bumped into store mannequins and apologized, that horror movies kept you awake at night as a child, and that you do take longer than others to catch on to the latest fads (or just basic household skills) you will not merely love this book, you will identify with the author.

Run, carefully lest you trip, to the nearest bookstore (or, let’s be honest, the nearest computer or tablet) and buy a copy of Good Talk… Good Talk. You will begin the month of November with a smile on your face, secure in the knowledge that you are not alone – Ginny Andrews is there to make sure.

Goes well with: Pizza, possibly a whole one, and Dr. Pepper.


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ONE WINNER:

Signed paperback of GOOD TALK. . .GOOD TALK

+ $25 Amazon gift card

(US only; ends midnight, CST, 11/10/23)

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit each blog directly.

10/31/23 Chapter Break Book Blog Notable Quotables
10/31/23 Hall Ways Blog BONUS Stop
11/01/23 Bibliotica Review
11/01/23 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
11/02/23 Reading by Moonlight Guest Post
11/03/23 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
11/04/23 Carpe Diem Chronicles Author Interview
11/05/23 The Real World According to Sam Excerpt
11/06/23 A Page Before Bedtime Review
11/07/23 The Page Unbound Scrapbook
11/07/23 Forgotten Winds BONUS Review
11/08/23 StoreyBook Reviews Review
11/09/23 Reading by Moonlight Review

 

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Book Review and Giveaway: Mumentous by Amy J. Schultz

BNR Mumentous

Cover MumentousAbout the book, Mumentous
(Original Photos and Mostly-True Stories about Football, Glue Guns, Moms, and a Supersized High School Tradition That Was Born Deep in the Heart of Texas)

  • Genre: Nonfiction / Photo-Driven Memoir / Women’s History / Pop Culture / Texana
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Page Count: 178 pages
  • Publication Date: April 25, 2023
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

The closest you’ll ever get to seeing someone actually wear their heart on their sleeve is in Texas, every fall, at the local high school homecoming game.

They’re called homecoming mums. They are as bodacious as football, as irresistible as a juicy rumor, and as deep as a momma’s love. Over a hundred years ago when the custom began, mum was short for chrysanthemum, a typical corsage that boys gave to girls before taking them to the big football game. But through the decades, mum went from a simple abbreviation to a complicated shorthand for an eye-popping tradition that’s as ingrained in the culture as it is confounding to outsiders.

Through her original photography and collection of stories from across and beyond the Lone Star State, Amy J. Schultz takes us deep in the heart of mum country. You’ll meet kids who wear them, parents who buy them, and critics who decry them as just another example of consumerism gone wild. But mostly, you’ll discover that just like every ritual which stands the test of time, someone is keeping the tradition alive. Someone like Mom.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonPowell’s BooksBookshop.org | Barnes & NobleTarget | Goodreads


About the author, Amy J. Schultz Author Photo Schultz

Amy J. Schultz is an author and award-winning photographer who explores unique aspects of modern culture that hide in plain sight. When she isn’t talking about homecoming mums, Amy is writing, taking photos, working on other creative projects, traveling, snort-laughing, or vacuuming up dog fur.

Connect with Amy:

Website | Instagram | Amazon | BookBub | Goodreads | Newsletter | Facebook

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

I’m not a parent and I didn’t attend high school in Texas, so I’m very much not in the target audience for Amy J. Schultz’s new photo-memoir Mumentous, and yet, reading it I found myself laughing, crying, and finding new appreciation for my own mother, who never had to help me make anything like a homecoming mum, but sewed costumes for plays and Halloween, showed up with cupcakes whenever I had a school function that required them, chaperoned our orchestra tours, and drove me (and my friends) to numerous lessons, rehearsals, and other activities during my adolescence, all while working full-time.

But I digress.

In this book, author Schultz is celebrating the Texas tradition of homecoming mums, and while chrysanthemums are commonly used in homecoming mums throughout the country, everything really is bigger in Texas, and they’ve gone way – WAY – beyond simple floral corsages. But it isn’t the actual mums that’s the most fascinating part of this book. Rather it’s the glimpses into young love, awkward first relationships, family traditions, school traditions, and the power of mothers to pull off seemingly impossible tasks with poise, graciousness, and no small amount of glitter that really make this collection of photos and stories sing.

One thing that stood out for me was the idea that these homecoming mums are exchanges between the two young people attending the game – and the dance afterward – together. One partner, usually a girl, receives a homecoming mum corsage (and that is a very loose term for an ornament that can have the same diameter as a pizza) while the other, typically a boy, receives a decorated garter to wear on their sleeve. It’s the exchange part that really moved me. On one level, it’s a competition to see who can be the most creative, but on the other, it’s instilling a sense of etiquette and fairness in young people in a very practical way.

Another theme I appreciated was the author’s description of crafting parties as bonding sessions. Imagine groups of girls getting together to decorate those garters for their escorts, or decorating corsages for each other for said escorts to present. In a world where girls and young women are set up to compete with each other, I liked that this tradition was subtly infusing these Texas teenagers with a sense of sisterhood.

Perhaps the anecdote that reaches “peak Texas” is the chapter titled “Guns for Mums,” which relates an exchange of a different sort (no, no one was wounded in the writing of this book).  I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s funny, heartwarming, and so incredibly specific to Texas that I both laughed and shook my head while reading it.

Overall, this is a fantastic collection of memories, anecdotes, and shared traditions, with tons of photos to really help the reader understand what homecoming mums really are, and how homecoming moms so often save the day. It’s the kind of book you can read in spurts, but at only 178 pages, it’s easy enough to zip through the whole thing very quickly.

I hope the author continues to write. Her style is breezy and accessible, and I thoroughly enjoyed this trip down -er – Mumery Lane.

 Goes well with: either pizza and Shiner Bock or quiche and mimosas. You pick.


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS:

First Prize: signed hardback copy + enamel pin; Second Prize: eBook + enamel pin

(US only; ends midnight, CST, 9/8/23)

Giveaway Mumentous

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Book Spotlight with Guest Post and Giveaway: “So Sorry for Your Loss” by Dina Gachman

BNR So Sorry for Your Loss

 

About the book, “So Sorry for Your Loss”

Cover So Sorry For Your Loss

Cover: “So Sorry for Your Loss”

  • Genre: Grief & Bereavement / Love & Loss / Parenting & Relationships
  • Publisher: Union Square & Co.
  • Page Count: 240 pages
  • Publication Date: April 11, 2023
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

A heartfelt exploration about what it means to process grief, by a bestselling author and journalist whose experience with two devastating losses inspired her to bring comfort and understanding to others.

Since losing her mother to cancer in 2018 and her sister to alcoholism less than three years later, author and journalist Dina Gachman has dedicated herself to understanding what it means to grieve, healing after loss, and the ways we stay connected to those we miss. Through a mix of personal storytelling, reporting, and insight from experts and even moments of humor, Gachman gives readers a fresh take on grief and bereavement—whether the loss is a family member, beloved pet, or a romantic relationship. No one wants to join the grief club, since membership comes with zero perks, but So Sorry for Your Loss will make that initiation just a little less painful.

In the spirit of Elizabeth Kubler Ross books like On Grief and Grieving, or C.S. Lewis’s A Grief ObservedSo Sorry for Your Loss is the perfect gift for someone who is grieving. With her blend of personal experiences, expert advice, and just a little bit of humor, Gachman has provided a compassionate and compelling resource for anyone looking for grief books.

Praise for this book:

  • “Gachman perceptively puts words to the uncomfortable realities of loss…and deconstructs its social myths, helping readers feel less alone. Those facing loss will find solace here.” Publishers Weekly
  • So Sorry for Your Loss is a monument to the work of remembering and a testament to the immutable love of family and the grief that forever changes us.” —Lauren Hough, New York Times bestselling author of Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing
  • So Sorry for Your Loss is a meditation on loss that reminds us how to go on living.” —Deirdre Fagan, author of Find a Place for Me and The Grief Eaters

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Goodreads


About the author, Dina Gachman

Author Photo Gachman credit Jessica Comiskey

Dina Gachman

 

Dina Gachman is a Pulitzer Center Grantee and a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Vox, Texas Monthly, and more. She’s a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter, and the author of Brokenomics: 50 Ways to Live the Dream on a Dime. She lives near Austin, Texas, with her husband and son. Photo credit Jessica Comiskey.

Connect with Dina:

Website

Instagram 

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon


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Interview with author Dina Gachman

What was the hardest part of writing “So Sorry for Your Loss”

Since it’s a book about grief, I guess I can honestly say—everything. Intentionally going deeper into my own pain over losing my mom and sister Jackie, day after day, was tough. There were plenty of ugly cries at my desk over the course of eight months. I also interviewed so many people about their personal losses for the book, whether it was losing a parent, a child, a pet. They were so vulnerable and lovely, and hearing their stories was healing, but also emotional of course. There were plenty of weeks where I would get to Friday and think, “I am done with grief for the week. Time to zone out and watch Iron Chef.” 

Do you have any research rabbit-hole stories? 

I love a good research rabbit hole. I have no clue why or how I found it, but I discovered this old tradition and superstition called “telling the bees” where people would have to tell a bee hive that someone had died. If they didn’t, more death would occur or bad luck would come. There are paintings and poems about this tradition, and I found it so odd but also beautiful. When Queen Elizabeth II died, I read that this tradition was still happening, which surprised me. If I had a beehive, I would probably keep that tradition alive. 

Do you have any writing pet peeves?

Using too many exclamation marks, which is something I used to do. They can work occasionally, but I try to go back and strip as many of them away as I can when I’m revising my work. It’s a cheap way to get a response or a laugh. One thing I learned from an editor on a book I was ghostwriting was that I was relying on too many parentheses, so I try to strip those away too. Besides that, don’t try too hard. Being subtle is an art, and Joan Didion was the queen of that skill.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m ghostwriting two new books and always pitching and writing stories. I wrote a story I am thrilled about for a magazine called Mother Tongue which is my first attempt at any sort of investigative journalism, and I loved it. I’m hooked. It’s about uncovering the truth about my great aunt, who committed arson in Fort Worth in the 1940s because her husband was abusive. It’s a wild ride. I’m also brainstorming my third book idea, which relates to the story about my great aunt.


Giveaway

Three winners each receive a signed copy of

So Sorry for Your Loss

(US only; ends midnight, CST, 5/12/23)

 

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