Review: Low Water Crossing, by Dana Glossbrenner

BNR Low Water Crossing

About the book, Low Water Crossing

  • Genre: Literary Fiction / Family Saga
  • Series: Sulfur Gap, book two
  • Independently published
  • Date of Publication: July 19, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 476
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Low Water CrossingLow Water Crossing is a tribute to those who endure heartache and nevertheless celebrate, to those who wait—and live full lives while waiting.

A backhoe unearths a human skeleton buried on Wayne Cheadham’s West Texas ranch. The investigation points a grisly finger at Wayne’s first wife. And so begins the wild ride through twenty-five years of love and heartbreak.

Wayne’s a highly eligible bachelor who runs into trouble, first because he’s naïve, and next because, well, life is unpredictable. He’s a loveable guy with a peaceful outlook. Just about anyone wants the best for him, dang it. To cope with sadness, he arranges for an old steel-girded bridge to be placed in the dry pasture in front of his house. Says it helps him adjust his perspective. Others say it’s the world’s largest yard ornament. He takes in stray emus and abandoned horses and becomes a mentor to a loveable little boy without much family. He sits and ponders his plight at a low-water crossing over the creek.

A cast of characters from the fictional small West Texas town of Sulfur Gap—the staff of a high school burger shop hangout on the Interstate, coffee groups at the Navaho Café, hair stylists from the Wild Hare, a local sheriff and his deputies, and the band at the local honky-tonk—knits together the community surrounding Wayne, and all bring their own quirks. People you’d find anywhere, some with thicker Texas twangs than others.

The town, the ranch, and familiar Texas cities such as San Angelo, Abilene, and Austin provide a backdrop for universal themes of love, grief, and loyalty.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Dana Glossbrenner

Dana GlossbrennerDana Glossbrenner has lived in West Texas all her life. She is the author of Women Behind Stained Glass: West Texas Pioneers (non-fiction) and The Lark: Book 1 of the Sulfur Gap Series.

Connect with Dana:

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My Thoughts

While I have not read the first book in Dana Glossbrenner’s Sulfer Gap series, I had no problem jumping into the power and the poignance of Low Water Crossing.

Opening with a first-person narration by Wayne Cheadham, the pivot point around which this whole novel revolves, this story is told in sections, which are then subdivided into chapters, each one depicting a significant moment in that character’s life. Wayne is in every “book” but the three pov characters, Lucy, Cynthia, and Lou, are the three women in his life, their stories told sequentially, chronologically, beginning soon before he entered their spheres.

It’s a structure that means we are a bit distanced from Wayne as we only hear his thoughts during interludes, but it’s also a structure that shows us his character through the eyes of these women. Lucy, his first love, who is just seventeen to his twenty when they meet and marry, is also mentioned throughout the novel, and in many ways it is her story that sets the pace and tone for the others. Cynthia comes next, and it’s through her eyes that we see Wayne come into his own as a man, and as a father. And finally there is Lou, who brings joy back into his life.

But that description makes it seem like this book is a romance, and while there are romantic entanglements, it’s really a broader story, a profoundly human story of love and loss, personal trauma and personal growth, making peace with time and circumstance, and making choices about what one wants vs. what one needs, and finding a balance between the two.

Author Dana Glossbrenner is deft with dialogue and rather sparing with description, giving us just enough detail to let our imaginations fill in the blanks. Her writing has a lyrical quality – simple language about complicated people – that makes you feel the wind in your hair even as you’re wanting to reach out and (alternately) give a character a good shaking or a comforting pat on the back.

Two images in this novel that I found quite profound are the bridge that Wayne had set on his property, so he could go and sit or stand on it and find new perspective, and the low water crossing of the title, which doesn’t refer to low water, but a low place where you might encounter water you must cross. It’s the latter I felt was especially metaphoric, as we have all come to low places in our lives where the only way out was through, but it felt like rushing water was making the journey more difficult.

Over all, this was a satisfying read, one I found myself truly immersed in, and while it isn’t entirely happy, it is both hopeful and full of the kinds of organic humorous moments that come from life.

Goes well with steak salad and iced tea.


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS: 1st winner gets signed copies of both books in the Sulfur Gap Series; 2nd winner gets a signed copy of Low Water Crossing.

 October 6-16 , 2020

(U.S. Only)

Giveaway Low Water Crossing

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10/7/20 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
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Review: Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe, by Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Christmas Tour

About the book, Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot CafeCozy up with a mug of hot chocolate for some festive sparkle from bestseller Jessica Redland.

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely.

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was originally released as Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Now re-released with a new title and new cover, this version has been freshly edited and features several new chapters.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Author PicJessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe is my second visit to the cozy coastal town Whitsborough Bay, and like other fictional small towns (Stars Hollow, CT and Everwood, CO, for example) it remains a place I wish were real, a place I could visit.

As much as I loved the previous novel in this series, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, which I reviewed on September 22nd, I think I connected with this book even more. Maybe it’s because I have a ‘thing’ for cafe novels, maybe it’s because the cafe in the story is a business very like one I’ve always fantasized about running, or maybe it’s just that, having a feel for author Jessica Redland’s writing style, I was able to appreciate more of the nuance as I was reading.

I felt like I really connected with the main character, Tara, and her rabbit, Hercules. (I raised rabbits for 4-H when I was a kid, but I’m a dog person now). Her need to reinvent herself (shown in memories she recounts to her friend Carly, and in private remembrances) is one I think many women can relate to, for we do it throughout our lives as we become wives, mothers, empty nesters, career women, retirees. It’s true that most of us don’t have the same impetus Tara did, but the resonance remains.

I also loved Tara’s gradual opening up first to Carly, then to her staff, and later, to her colleagues. When trust has been abused, it’s really difficult to open your heart and allow yourself to be vulnerable, and Redland showed this in a very real, plausible way, while still making this book a heartwarming holiday romance at its core.

Speaking of romance, this novel is filled with it. Early in the story, Tara’s assistant manager, Maria, asks if she can have her wedding at the cafe. Later, other characters ask about an engagement party, and of course, there’s the enemies-to-friends (and possibly beyond) relationship with Jed, the man who owned the building where the Chocolate Pot now lives, before Tara bought it.

Spanning more than just a single holiday season, this novel is a meaty, satisfying read. It’s a romance, yes, but it’s also about loving your friends and yourself, as much as it is about falling in love.

A visit to Whitsborough Bay is never a bad idea, but a visit to The Chocolate Pot Cafe will make you appreciate all the wonderful things that life has to offer.

Goes well with: salted hot chocolate and those dyed-green leaf-shaped Italian butter cookies with a thin layer of chocolate in the middle.


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Review: Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, by Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Christmas Tour

About the book, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

  • Paperback : 210 pages
  • Publisher : Boldwood Books (August 13, 2020)

Christmas at Carly's CupcakesIt’s the most wonderful time of the year…

It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

A heartwarming, short festive story of friendship and family from bestseller Jessica Redland. You can find out what happens to Carly next through exploring her best friend Tara’s story in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.

This is a new and updated version of Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which has been previously published.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Author PicJessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

It may seem odd to be reading Christmas novels when it’s literally the first day of Autumn (in the northern hemisphere), but Jessica Redland’s pair of novels Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe (which I’ll be reviewing on Friday the 25th) are just what is needed to beat the end-of-summer doldrums and make us anticipate cozy firelit nights with hot chocolate or Irish coffee and a good friend – or lover – for company.

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes was my first visit to author Redland’s Whitborough Bay, a cozy English village that is absolutely contemporary, and made me want to relocate. If only it were real! This novel focuses on Carly and Bethany, sisters and friends. Carly owns a cake shop on Castle Street, and Bethany works for her, but is disastrous at any of the back room activities, though she’s great with customers.

Most of the novel is set against the days leading up to younger sister Bethany’s wedding to Joshua, but Carly is mentioned in the title, and despite Bethany being the bride it’s really about her: how does she cope with an employee who is also family? How does she face attending her little sister’s wedding when the man she longs for is deployed to Afghanistan (and thinks of her as a friend)? How does she help her sister embrace her strengths and overcome her weaknesses?

And did I mention that wedding takes place just before Christmas, adding a heightened emotional state, and a lot of demanding customers to serve into the mix?

Redland marries all of these elements as if she were mixing batter for the perfect cake, bakes them into a coherent, interesting, fun family saga with a romance filling, and frosts them with all the wishes, dreams, and hopes that are part of the holiday season.

Carly is a wonderful protagonist, kind, smart, patient, and truly caring. Bethany, in anyone else’s hands, would be a ditz, but instead Redland has given us someone who means well and always tries, but hasn’t quite found her niche. Together these sisters make a compelling pair of women to read about, and their stories are twined together with the sweetness and freshness of the red and white stripes of a candy cane.

Bethany’s fiance Joshua is equally dimensional, even though we don’t see each other, and the sisters’ parents are supportive and lovely, as all parents should be.

And then there’s Liam… the childhood friend we all needed, who returns from his deployment just in time to be Carly’s date to the wedding. The boy we meet in memories has become a caring man, and he fits into the world Redland has created as if he were part of the story from page one.

This novel is satisfying, sweet, and supremely real, with characters who may make cupcakes, but are absolutely not cookie-cutter copies of anyone.

Goes well with chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and Irish coffee.


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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: Christmas at Lock Keeper’s Cottage, by Lucy Coleman

Christmas at Lock Keeper's Cottage

 

About the book, Christmas at Lock Keeper’s Cottage Christmas at Lock Keepes Cottage Cover

  • Paperback : 334 pages
  • Publisher : Boldwood Books (September 3, 2020)

Join us for Christmas in the Cotswolds in this perfect festive escape, from the bestselling Lucy Coleman.

Imogen Tolliman never knew her mother. And when an accident robs Immi of her father too, she goes to live with her grandfather, Tollie, in his picturesque lock-keeper’s cottage by the Aysbury marina.

Tollie is the star of the Santa Ahoy Special each Christmas – a festive boat ride along the canal that enthralls both children and adults alike. And as Immi grows up, she starts to appreciate the magical community she is lucky enough to live in.

When Immi meets Gray Adams, she instantly realises he’s someone special. And as their relationship gets serious, they start to plan for the Christmas to beat all Christmases.

But as the day approaches, and the romantic snow showers turn into blizzards, their dream of a Christmas to remember, looks set to be one they’ll never forget – for all the wrong reasons. Can they salvage the festivities, or will old secrets that are finally uncovered turn Immi’s life upside down forever?

Let Lucy Coleman transport you away to a dreamy Cotswolds Christmas full of snowflakes and secretslog fires, mistletoe, friends and much-loved traditions. Perfect for all fans of Trisha Ashley, Holly Martin and Sue Moorcroft.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Lucy Coleman Lucy Coleman

Lucy Coleman is a #1 bestselling romance writer, whose recent novels include Snowflakes over Holly Cove. She also writes under the name Linn B. Halton. She won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award and lives in the Welsh Valleys.

Connect with Lucy:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Dear Santa,

Thank you so much for the early Christmas present you sent in the form of this lovely novel, Christmas at Lock Keeper’s Cottage, by Lucy Coleman. This story hit all my favorite holiday buttons: a plausible romance, a cozy setting near the water, a beloved older relative, a bit of family drama, and a weather disaster.

And it even opened with a letter to you!

Santa, I really loved the main character of Immi – Imogen. She was so realistically written with such a big heart but without being at all naive. Her  partner, Gray, was also a wonderfully dimensional creation. Tollie, Fisher, the innkeepers, and all the other townsfolk felt like the kind of people you really would run into in a cafe or a pub, serve on committees with, and interact with in any number of ordinary ways. So vibrant a picture did author Coleman draw, that I wanted to step into the book, and be a part of the festivities.

I’m a sucker for a good Christmas story, and this novel is a great story for the season, with a narrowboat tricked out for the holiday, and little kids getting to sail with Santa Claus, but this was hardly Hallmark fare. Rather, it was a compelling parallel drama – Immi looking for truths about her mother, and Gray facing truths about his father – that were made all the more compelling because of the time of year, and festive background.

If you want a holiday romance with adult characters who feel like real people, one with a bit more depth than the usual Christmas fluff, this novel, Christmas at Lock Keep Cottage – should be the first thing on everyone’s list, Santa.

It would go well with a locally brewed beer and and a hearty stew or chili.

Thanks again for putting this novel on my radar, Santa. Looking forward to seeing you this December.

Don’t forget my pony.


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Review: The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows, by Sharley Scott

Maddie Meadows - Banner

 

About the book, The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows

Maddie Meadows - CoverMaddie Meadows adores her family and loves her work. But she has good reason to keep them separate.

For single mum Maddie, home is a flat on a run-down estate. And family consists of an excitable toddler, a lonely Dad and a younger brother mired in a love triangle.

Meanwhile, professional Madeleine balances a tricky day job, made worse by a jealous colleague. No one at work knows about her other life, and she needs to keep it this way: one of the bosses has made his feelings very clear about single parents and the people on her estate.

Thank goodness for her fun-loving and loyal friends – although Maddie wishes they’d believe her when she insists she has no time for love. Or so she tells herself as she fights to quell her hidden feelings for her gorgeous colleague, Oliver, who comes from the posh part of town.

When her friends line up their ideal man for her – Sean, more beanstalk than Bean – Maddie wishes she’d told them the truth. It’s hard enough juggling two lives. But, with all the added complications, how long will be it be before Maddie’s carefully created world comes crashing down?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Sharley Scott

Sharley Scott is the author of the ‘Devon Seaside Guesthouse’ novels – Bedlam & Breakfast and B&Bers Behaving Madly.

Her latest book ‘The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows’ is being published in early July 2020. The second in the series ‘The Gift of a Rose’ will be available in the autumn.

Sharley is a guesthouse owner in South Devon. She is thankful to have been blessed with lots of amazing and kind-hearted guests, who are nothing like some of the characters featured in the Devon Seaside Guesthouse series.

The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows is a fictional account, but Sharley has never forgotten how interesting life can be with a toddler. Some of the mischief Josh gets up to will be familiar to all parents. Sharley has carried out the threats she made to her son decades ago and now embarrasses him by telling tales to his girlfriend, although he gets her back by recounting stories about his mum.

Connect with Sharley:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI try not to commit to reviewing books in August, because it’s my birthday month and it’s also the month when I’m usually doing a daily podcast project, but I had a few interactions with the author, Sharley Scott on Twitter when this novel launched, and she was so lovely, I couldn’t not review it.

The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows is a light read about serious topics. Part romance, part social commentary, it focuses on a young woman who lives in two worlds, the “posh” world of her corporate job, and the decidedly less-than-perfect one of being the single mother of a toddler, living in a rundown council estate.

Maddie (known as Madeleine at work) is the perfect heroine of the modern age. Her story is a love story, but it’s as much about falling in love with her true self as it as about the men in her life – handsome, co-worker Oliver and down-to-earth Sean.

Scott’s dialogue is excellent, and really differentiates the characters who populate Maddie’s two worlds. Her friends and family are much more casual in their speech, while those she works with speak the bland corporate-ese that masks one’s origins the world over. (Scott gets extra points from me for explaining the code-switching Maddie displays, and acknowledging that everyone does it to some degree.)

What I loved about this novel was that even when Maddie was uncertain about her place in either world, she was still very much herself. She might not be a cookie-cutter mother, but she showed real love for her son, and true devotion to her father and brother.

As an American reader, I found myself re-examining class differences in my own country, even as Maddie was facing them during her life. On this side of the pond, where even millionaires are still middle class, the divisions are harsher, if often less  obvious.

In this novel, Sharley Scott has given us a story about identity and family that also provides a look at life in one corner of the UK, and she has done so with humor and grace. From the first page, I was rooting for Maddie, and I was not disappointed.

Goes well with ice cream cones eaten in a park after feeding ducks.


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Review: The Gulag P-Pa Diaries, by Preston Lewis, with Giveaway

Gulag P-Pa-Diaries-BNR

 

About the book, The Gulag P-Pa Diaries Gulag P-Pa-Cover

  • Genre: Memoir / Christian / Humor / Grandparenting / Family
  • Publisher: CKN Christian Publishing
  • Date of Publication: April 22, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 268
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

As new empty-nesters, Harriet and Preston next looked forward to becoming grandparents. Their journey to assuming the names of Mema and P-Pa, however, took a tragic and unexpected turn.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Preston Lewis Preston Lewis

Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series, The Memoirs of H.H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

Connect with Preston:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads  | Amazon author page


My ThoughtsMissMelissHAT

Part conventional memoir, part Condamant’s (sic) Log from the eponymous Gulag P-Pa, Preston Lewis’s latest offering is both hilarious and heartfelt.

It’s a year-by-year recounting of his life as a temporary caregiver (with his wife Harriet) of his grandchildren – four girls and one boy when the story opens, though as a three-month-old, the boy really isn’t a true “inmate” of the gulag, and it masters the emotional combination of laughter-through-tears from the very first page.

(“Condamant,” by the way, is one of the granddaughter’s malapropism; she meant “Commandant.”)

But, this book, The Gulag P-Pa Diaries, is more than just a reminiscence of life with growing grandchildren. It’s also a reflection on the nature of parenthood. “The first step toward becoming a grandparent is having a family of your own, of course,” Lewis writes in chapter three, one of the traditional memoir chapters, and then goes on to describe his courtship of his wife.

Written in alternating chapters of memoir and diary, this book is a look at the very real lives of a typical American family, and while some of the events and family jokes (like the “poople heart” earned for dealing with dramatic diaper incidents) are often silly, the real thread holding everything together is love.

We are given a glimpse of a sweet man who is literally lovesick as he gets to know his eventual wife, and we are shown how even the most contrary three-and-a-half year old can be incredibly charming.  We see the expected difference between how woman (Camp Mema) and men (Gulag P-Pa) handle discipline and structure, and we cry (or I did) when the author mentions his first grandchild who died before he ever got to hold or know him.

If your grandparents are still alive, this book will make you pick up the phone to call or Facetime with them. If they have left this world, this book will leave you wistful, and perhaps a little weepy. Either way, this is a charming, funny, very real story, made even better by being true.

Goes well with: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk.


Giveaway

1ST PRIZE

Book signed by P-Pa (the author), Mema, and The Grands
2ND PRIZE

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AUGUST 4-14, 2020
(US ONLY)

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Check Out the Whole Blog Tour at THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE  or Visit Them Directly:

8/4/20 Review Bibliotica
8/5/20 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
8/6/20 Notable Quotables Texas Book Lover
8/7/20 Review Book Fidelity
8/8/20 Top Tips & Fails That’s What She’s Reading
8/9/20 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
8/10/20 Review Hall Ways Blog
8/11/20 Scrapbook Page The Clueless Gent
8/12/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
8/13/20 Review Reading by Moonlight

 

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

LoneStarLitLife

Review: A Sunset in Sidney, by Sandy Barker

A Sunset In Sydney - Banner

About the book, A Sunset in Sydney

 

  • Publisher: One More Chapter (July 3, 2020)
  • Publication Date: July 3, 2020
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

A Sunset in Sydney CoverHow far would you go in the name of love?

Sarah Parsons has a choice ahead of her. After the trip of a lifetime she’s somehow returned home with TWO handsome men wanting to whisk her away into the sunset.

Pulled in two directions across the globe, it’s making life trickier than it sounds. Her gorgeous American, Josh, wants to meet Sarah in Hawaii for a holiday to remember. Meanwhile silver fox, James, plans to wine and dine her in London.

It’s a lot to handle for this Aussie girl, who had totally sworn off men!

Join Sarah after her adventure in One Summer in Santorini, for the heart-warming and uplifting third novel in The Holiday Romance series.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Google Play | Kobo | Waterstones | Goodreads


About the author, Sandy Barker

A Sunset in Sydney - Author Photo Sandy BarkerSandy Barker is an Australian writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list and a cheeky sense of humour. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.
Many of Sandy’s travel adventures have found homes in her writing, including her debut novel, a contemporary romance set in Greece, which was inspired by her true-life love story.

Connect with Sidney:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATWhen the world around you is in turmoil, and all your travel plans have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, a light, happy romance is practically medicinal.

Sandy Barker’s third entry into her Holiday Romance series, A Sunset in Sydney, fills that prescription perfectly. It’s light but not too fluffy, keeps you entertained, and has really engaging characters, as well.

Sarah, our protagonist, opens the novel with a complaint many of us wish we’d had when we were young and single: two love interests. James a “silver fox” she meets while sightseeing, and Josh, whom she meets on the same vacation, on a ten-day sailing trip, and whom she immediately has what she calls a “Ross and Rachel, will they / won’t they” relationship.

Both men are engaging, witty, attractive. James is in London, where Sarah’s sister Cat also is, so she uses her time there to meet up with him, and Josh, the “cute American” has made plans to meet her in Hawaii four months after their initial sailing trip.

What follows is typical romance novel fare, made distinctly original by Barker’s handling of both comedy and flirtation. Instead of a cookie-cutter story, we are treated to a tale about people who are all searching for what they truly want out of love and life, with trial and error, doubts and insecurities, misfires and marvelous encounters, all wrapped up in a package of well-written dialogue, and characters you truly enjoy spending time with.

This was my first introduction to Barker’s work, but I’m hooked and can’t wait to read the other novels in this series, as well as her other writing.

Overall, this is the perfect light read, for summer, for quarantine, or just for a murky, damp weekend when you want to escape into someone else’s life for a while.

Goes well with grilled tequila lime shrimp and a margarita on the rocks.


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Review: The English Wife, by Adrienne Chinn

About the Book, The English Wife

The English WifeTwo women, a world apart.

A secret waiting to be discovered…

VE Day 1945: As victory bells ring out across the country, war bride Ellie Burgess’ happiness is overshadowed by grief. Her charismatic Newfoundlander husband Thomas is still missing in action.

Until a letter arrives explaining Thomas is back at home on the other side of the Atlantic recovering from his injuries.

Travelling to a distant country to live with a man she barely knows is the bravest thing Ellie has ever had to do. But nothing can prepare her for the harsh realities of her new home…

September 11th 2001: Sophie Parry is on a plane to New York on the most tragic day in the city’s history. While the world watches the news in horror, Sophie’s flight is rerouted to a tiny town in Newfoundland and she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged aunt Ellie.

Determined to discover what it was that forced her family apart all those years ago, newfound secrets may change her life forever…

This is a timeless story of love, sacrifice and resilience perfect for fans of Lorna Cook and Gill Paul.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the Author, Adrienne Chinn

Adrienne ChinnAdrienne Chinn was born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, grew up in Quebec, and eventually made her way to London, England after a career as a journalist. In England she worked as a TV and film researcher before embarking on a career as an interior designer, lecturer, and writer. When not up a ladder or at the computer, she can usually be found rummaging through flea markets or haggling in the Marrakech souk. Her second novel, The English Wife — a timeslip story set in World War II England and contemporary Newfoundland — is published in June 2020. Her debut novel, The Lost Letter from Morocco, was published by Avon Books UK in 2019. She is currently writing her third novel, The Photographer’s Daughters, the first of a 3-book series, to be published in 2021.

Connect with Adrienne:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI’ve been obsessed with the musical Come From Away, which tells the story of how the people of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed the “plane people”  – the travelers of the thirty-seven international flights that were diverted away from U.S. airspace after the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001.

The English Wife is not connected to the musical, and yet, because I know the play, the contemporary parts of this wonderful novel felt very familiar to me, as they also take place in Gander, Newfoundland, beginning on September 11th, 2001, and continuing from there, as one of the many vibrant female characters in the story, Sophie, is one of the “plane people.”

But, not all of the novel takes place in Gander – half the story is set in England during World War II, where we meet Ellie and Dottie, sisters living with daily fear of bombings, as well as the thrill of being young women (well, Dottie is really just a girl when we first meet her) in the first blushes of young love.

The story is a sweeping family drama, with three strong women at the center – Ellie and Dottie in the distant past, and Sophie in the recent past – but there are also male characters who add to the tale, for they are the love interests, the people who gently push the women to greater achievements, and the quiet presences who balance their partners.

Thomas and George, in the WWII sections, and Sam in the more contemporary parts of the story are those central male figures, and they are each as interesting and dimensional as the women with whom they interact.

Rounding out the story is a host of supporting characters, most importantly Emmett (Emmy), Florie, and Becca (Sam’s daughter, who is deaf.)

Author Adrienne Chinn weaves the historical and contemporary parts of her tale together with great aplomb, and her craft is really highlighted by her use of the Newfoundland dialect and the way she describes people using sign language with Becca. (As an aside, I’m now curious as to whether Newfoundlanders use ASL or BSL or something specifically Canadian.) Her skill with dialogue does as much to tell us about her characters as their physical descriptions do.

Overall, this was a story rich in cultural and historical detail, family drama, and a plot that had the perfect pace for a novel  that blends history, romance, personal tragedy, and layered relationships into a satisfying and compelling whole.

Goes well with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and a really good ale.

The English Wife Blog Tour

 

Review: The Outlaw’s Daughter, by Margaret Brownley – with Giveaway

The Outlaw's Daughter

About the book, The Outlaw’s Daughter

  • Western / Historical Fiction / Clean & Wholesome Romance
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
  • Date of Publication: May 26, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 384
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

The Outlaw's DaughterHe may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter . . . 

Texas Ranger Matt Taggert is on the trail of a wanted man. He has good reason to believe that Ellie-May’s late husband was involved in a stagecoach robbery, and he’s here to see justice done. But when he arrives in town, he discovers the thief has become a local hero . . . and his beautiful young widow isn’t too happy to see some lawman out to tarnish her family’s newly spotless reputation.

Ellie-May’s shaken by her encounter with the ranger. Having grown up an outlaw’s daughter, she’ll do anything to keep her children safe—and if that means hardening her heart against the handsome lawman’s smiles, then so be it. Because she knows Matt isn’t about to give up his search. He’s out to redeem himself and find proof that Ellie-May’s husband wasn’t the saint everyone claims . . . even if it means losing the love neither expected to discover along the way.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Margaret Brownley

Margaret BrownleyNew York Times bestselling author Margaret Brownley has penned more than forty-six novels and novellas.

A two-time Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist, Margaret has also written for a TV soap and is a recipient of the Romantic Times Pioneer Award. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth-grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.

Connect with Margaret:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI don’t read a ton of romances, but when I do I always enjoy the vicarious thrill of that first meeting between characters you know are destined for a fantastic journey together, and in Margaret Brownley’s third installment in her Haywire Brides series, The Outlaw’s Daughter, we get that, and more.

In Matt Taggert, we get the rugged hero every woman secretly dreams about – he’s handsome, he’s stable, and he’s got a strong moral code that sometimes brings him into conflict with his own family. That’s the kind of dilemma that really intrigues me because it’s typically internal – the character has to work it through on their own, or with the help of one close friend.

In Ellie-May, we are given a strong woman who is smart, compassionate, and kind, but also lives in the real world. She’s a fiercely protective mother, and also a good friend, as her relationship with Anvil demonstrates really well. Sure, he’s an employee, but she never treats him as a lesser being.

The plot was a carefully crafted balance of family drama (the truth about Ellie-May’s dead husband and later, the truth about Matt’s brother) romance (Ellie-May and Matt are a perfectly executed example of the classic will-they/won’t-they dance), leavened by moments of warm humor and cozy homespun scenes.

While this is an historical novel, author Brownley makes the language feel fresh and accessible, and makes her characters jump off the page. They are vivid and dimensional and you can almost smell the saddle oil and the heady aromas of home cooking.

While I haven’t read a lot of westerns, this spring I’ve made myself be more open to the genre, and one of the things I’m finding is that these “period” novels are full of strong women characters who are the kinds of people I’d love to have as friends. In The Outlaw’s Daughter, Margaret Brownley has given us not just a great story, but a heroine worthy of being a friend. Read this book.

Goes well with beef stew and homemade bread.


Giveaway

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TWO WINNERS each receive signed copies of the first two books in the Haywire Brides series, Cowboy Charm School and The Cowboy Meets His Match

May 26-June 5, 2020 (US ONLY)

 

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The Outlaw’s Daughter Blog Tour

Click to visit the LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE  for direct links to each post on this tour, or use the links below to visit each blog directly:

5/26/20 Promo All the Ups and Downs
5/26/20 Review Missus Gonzo
5/27/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
5/27/20 Review Book Bustle
5/28/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
5/28/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
5/29/20 Review Books and Broomsticks
5/29/20 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
5/30/20 Review Book Fidelity
5/31/20 Review Bibliotica
6/1/20 Review The Page Unbound
6/1/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/2/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
6/3/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
6/4/20 Review Forgotten Winds
6/4/20 Review Momma on the Rocks

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