Review: The Square Root of Texas, by Rob Witherspoon

BNR Square Root of Texas

About the Book The Square Root of Texas

The First Calamity of QED Morningwood

  • Genre: Satire / Humor / Absurdist Fiction
  • Publisher: Independently Published
  • Date of Publication: September 26, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 181 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Hi Res Square RootQED Morningwood is a liar, braggart and teller of tall tales. When he shows up at the domino parlor with a mysterious Russian crate in the back of his pick-up truck, he confides to the players he is a ‘Shadow’ member of the NRA, not on their official membership roll, and has a load of rocket propelled grenades – all lies. The news spreads to the real Shadow NRA, the FBI and Homeland Security. Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Cultural Preservation sends an agent to retrieve the crate, the actual contents known only to the Russians.

The Russian agent, an FBI team, a DHS undercover agent and a Shadow NRA hit team arrive in Heelstring, Texas looking for QED and his crate. Their convergence is followed by interrogations, seduction, lies, arrests, jailbreak, kidnapping and rescue – along with car chases and explosions. If not for Cotton Widdershins, an ancient black man with secrets of his own, who acts as QED’s mentor and savior, the Morningwood line would be doomed to end, or at best spend life in a federal penitentiary.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Rob Witherspoon

Author Pic WitherspoonRob Witherspoon was born and raised in rural Texas. He earned a BA in Physical Education, UT Arlington 1985 and a BS in Aerospace Engineering, UT Arlington 1990. He worked in the aerospace industry for 30 years before retiring in 2018. He lives in north central Texas with his wife and youngest daughter and has spent much of his life in rural communities and on the ranch. He combines his love for Texas, lying, the outdoors, engineering, and his children in his writing.

Connect with Rob:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  | TWITTER AMAZON  GOODREADS  | YOUTUBE 


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellFrom the very first scene of Cotton Widdershins and the other menfolk in this story playing dominoes and drinking coffee that might or might not not be ‘just’ coffee, I was hooked on The Square Root of Texas.

In this novel, Rob Witherspoon introduces us to QED “Kid” Morningwood, the town… well… referring to him as the town calamity would not be entirely inaccurate. It’s a good thing this book is both humor and satire because otherwise I wouldn’t sure whom to feel bad for: Kid, or everyone else.

Much of the story is told through the perspective of Cotton Widdershins, which is fantastic because he makes these seemingly commonplace observations that lend to both truth and hilarity, like telling everyone to look out the window at Kid and his blazing (literally) truck in the beginning of the novel, because Morningwood won’t be satisfied if there aren’t witnesses to his disaster of the moment.

Witherspoon’s creativity isn’t limited to character names or situations, though. This novel takes place in an alternate version of Texas, where he’s changed the place names both to protect the not-so-innocent and just to be silly. And unabashed silliness is at the heart of this book. Witherspoon defies structure, eschewing formal chapters for suggested activities when we readers need a break (as someone who does a ton of reading in the bathroom, I mainly did laundry and got more coffee, but you are free to follow other ideas) and inventing a “mesologue” in the middle of the story.

It takes a special kind of brain – and a lot of bravado – to create something that meshes a fantastic (in all senses of the word) plot with instances of both black and conventional humor, but Witherspoon has done so with aplomb. That being said, I feel that there are things that I missed, because I’m not as steeped in Texas culture and lore as an actual native.

A short book at under 200 pages, The Square Root of Texas is fast, funny, and fabulous.

Goes well with coffee (with whatever additive you like) and popcorn, because this story is quite the show.


Giveaway

THREE WINNERS 

GRAND PRIZE (US only):

Signed Copies of The Square Root of Texas and Deus Tex Machina

2ND PRIZE (US only): Signed Copy of The Square Root of Texas

3RD PRIZE  (US Only): Kindle Copy of The Square Root of Texas

Giveaway ends midnight, CST, 11/20/2020

 

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11/10/2020 Notable Quotable Texas Book Lover
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11/11/2020 Review Max Knight
11/12/2020 Author Video StoreyBook Reviews
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Review: Forever 51 by Pamela Skjolsvik

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

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

Immortality’s a bitch.

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Goodreads


About the author, Pamela Skjolsvik

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

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

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

Connect with Pamela:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TLC Book ToursVisit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

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Friday, November 6th: Instagram: @jenguerdy

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

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

Thursday, November 12th: Bewitched Bookworms

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

Tuesday, November 17th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, November 18th: Instagram: @mixed_matched_socks

Thursday, November 19th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews

Saturday, November 21st: Instagram: @mommaleighellensbooknook

Monday, November 23rd: Books and Bindings


Bonus Chapter

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

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Review: Painting Bananas by Amanda Paull

Painting Bananas

 

About the book, Painting Bananas 

Painting BananasPainting Bananas is all about love, dreams and taking stock.

Two happy couples, one person from each on the verge of change. But as paths cross and plans unfold, will their spouses reveal their true colours?

Alison struggles with insomnia. She also hates her job and fantasizes about throttling her irritating oaf-of-a boss. Thankfully, her lifelong plan to return to university will soon be realized. After supporting her husband in his career for over twenty years, it’s now her turn. He’s rooting for her every step of the way. Or so she thinks.

Meanwhile, Christopher has a wake-up call with his health. Somehow, pre-diabetes has replaced his six-pack. He must take stock immediately. He realises that the perfect solution is right under his nose. He can’t wait to share his brilliant idea with his wife. The future looks good. But does she agree?

Will the spouses show their support? Or will Alison and Christopher start to wonder whether they really know their other halves?

Painting Bananas was written and formatted with British grammar, punctuation and humour. It is the second novel in Amanda Paull’s Cherry Dene series but can be read as a standalone story.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


Amanda Paull About the author, Amanda Paull

Amanda Paull is a writer of humorous romantic fiction. She lives in the North East of England with her husband and works in the public sector. The inspiration for her stories comes from real life, which she tries to show the funnier side of by embellishing to the hilt.

Connect with Amanda

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAlison & Nathan and Christopher & Sandy, the four people at the center of Painting Bananas, are two couples who have been married for decades and, as empty-nesters (one couple has adult twins, the other has a grown daughter), have yet to learn how to live with only each other, or even communicate effectively.

Amanda Paull has drawn each couple very vividly, and made their relationships distinct. Alison is the epitome of a woman being gaslighted, first by her doctor, but also by her husband. Christopher is part of a traditional marriage of the sort that feels more like my grandparents’ dynamic than the relationship my husband and I (married 25 years last March) have, or even that my parents had. He’s changed to a lower-paying job in order to travel less and practice self-care because of a pre-diabetes diagnoses, and his wife seems largely oblivious.

If this sounds like a sad story, rest assured, it isn’t. Or at least, not entirely. Alison and Christopher meet and start chatting over lunch, and through them, the rest of the story unfolds. We also see their children both relating to their parents, and also observing and commenting on them, which Paull has done to great effect – they’re in the story, but they’re also a bridge between we readers and the main action.

What I liked was that even though this novel dealt with serious issue, there were moments of organic humor. Most of it wasn’t the kind that generates belly laughs, but rather the type where you nod, smile, maybe even chuckle, and recognize glimmers of yourself in the narrative.

Something I found really refreshing was that Alison and Christopher talk and share, but don’t have an affair. Author Paull has written a lovely friendship between the two, and I really enjoyed their dynamic.

Painting Bananas is an easy read about some hard truths of the sort we will all face one day, and the characters are absolutely worth spending time with.

Goes well with hot tea, tomato soup, and a toasted cheese sandwich.


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In Their Words with Marion Surles, author of Araceli’s Path

BNR Araceli's Path

About the Book, Araceli’s Path (Among Angels and Devils in Juarez)

  • Genre: Realistic Fiction / Border Stories / Mature Middle Grade
  • Publisher: Love and Literacy
  • Date of Publication: November 30, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 145
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Cover Med Res Araceli's PathAraceli comes from a blended, dysfunctional family held together by the love of a grandmother. Rubí is being raised by a single mother who works as a prostitute. Both young girls are affected not only by their mothers’ choices but also by the violence and culture of Juarez, Mexico.

Can they overcome the cards they have been dealt, or are they destined to follow the same paths as their mothers?

Follow the lives of Araceli and Rubí from childhood to young adulthood and listen for children everywhere who are voiceless, trapped in their own cultures.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads

Proceeds benefit Love and Literacy  


About the author, Marion Surles

Marion SurlesMarion Surles was born in 1957 in Columbus, Mississippi. From a young age she was interested in learning Spanish, due to a special offering of Spanish at her elementary school. She received a BA and MA in Spanish and social work from Mississippi State University and teaches Spanish and English as a Second Language to all levels of students. She also serves as a volunteer missionary at home and in many Spanish-speaking countries. Most recently, she has formed a mission in Juarez, Mexico called Love and Literacy, which encourages reading and staying in school. Every two months, Marion travels to Juarez to bring books and literacy activities to a poor neighborhood, partnering with a local family to serve as the library. Her books are a fictional account of the lives of her students. Her Facebook page, Love and Literacy, gives updates of her work in Juarez.

Marion lives in Dublin, Texas with her husband, horses, and dogs. She enjoys trail riding, kayaking, and camping, plus visiting with her daughters and granddaughter nearby.

Connect with Marion:

Website | Amazon Author Page | Facebook


An Interview with Marion Surles

Cover Med Res Araceli's PathHow has being in Texas influenced your writing?

I grew up in Mississippi and lived there all my life. Our girls both rodeoed at Tarleton State University, and we moved to Texas to be closer to them. I had been on mission trips often to Mexico but being in Texas made the logistics much easier for more frequent trips. Driving in West Texas gave my mind long hours to think of my stories from the mission field.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field? How does your book relate to your faith?

After each mission trip, usually with a team, we would give a report to our support churches. There were statistics of how many immunizations given, how many houses built, or how many souls saved, maybe a slide show, and a few funny stories of gaffes by fellow teammates. In Texas, I met a volunteer who enjoyed writing and helping in a more individual way. He encouraged me to write and tell stories of the people we worked with.

I hope my books make our mission report more personable and easier for those who cannot be there to feel as if they are there. I want my readers to understand the material and spiritual needs across our southern border. I hope my stories strengthen the reader’s faith and encourage him or her to use the blessings we have been given to give a hand-up to someone else. We cannot all go, but we can all serve and learn from each other. These people who have their faith tested daily are the real heroes of life. They truly rely on God for their daily bread. We have so much to learn from them.

Araceli’s Path is a prequel to Grit in Juarez, your first book. What made you decide to write a prequel? Any unexpected hurdles in doing this?

When I wrote my first book, I was writing with children as my main audience and from the children’s point of view. However, the majority of my readers were adults. Some readers told me the book was too sad, and they couldn’t finish it. Others wanted to know what happened next. Many wanted to know why these families were in these situations. Araceli’s Path follows the lives of two of the mothers in a coming-of-age story. With adults as my main audience, I was able to touch on the more difficult topics of prostitution and drug culture. I hope I have given these women’s stories a fair depiction, without sugar-coating the real struggle of their lives. I also wanted to encourage others to search for their gifts of service.

Is there any person you credit for being your inspiration for reading and/or writing?

My mother always encouraged us to read. We went to the library often, chased down the bookmobile, and often received books for Christmas and birthdays. She always read to us, and on vacations she would select a special chapter book to read from each night. Plus, we always saw her reading and wanted to copy her. She was a homemaker, later a teacher, and even later an author and genealogist.

She gathered old family letters and published two books, My Darling Daughters, which contains letters from her four great-grandfathers to his daughters far away at school, and a compilation of my daddy’s letters, My Marine Memories of World War II. But I never considered writing until my mission friend Jay Nutt suggested it. Sometimes I feel like an impostor when other writers say they have been writing all their lives.

What are you working on at the present?

I have two projects I am working on now. One will be the sequel, to complete a trilogy of this series. The children grow up and follow their dreams, some crossing the border and some staying home to make things better there. I’m also working on a middle-grade-fiction chapter book about a boy running away from home. Boys are harder to entice to read. I hope the adventures of this character will encourage boys to read.

I do not write full time, as I travel often to Juarez to bring more books and supplies to the children I work with there. I’ve also made a connection with the local school principal and bring books and supplies for the school. I am always happy to receive donations of books in Spanish for my mission, Love and Literacy.

How has your formal education influenced or impacted your writing?

I have a master’s degree in Spanish and taught high-school Spanish and bilingual pre-K. I have traveled to many Spanish-speaking countries and extensively in Mexico. I also teach English as a Second Language and help students with immigration paperwork. The people and culture of Mexico have become a large part of my life, and I believe they have made my writing better. My books are also available in Spanish on Amazon.


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS: Autographed copies of Araceli’s Path and Grit in
Juarez
(choice of English or Spanish), Day of the Dead shopping bag &
plate, Mexican coin purse, Mexican candy. 

NOVEMBER 5-15, 2020

(US ONLY)

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11/8/20 Top Ten It’s Not All Gravy
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11/10/20 Guest Post All the Ups and Downs
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11/13/20 Review The Clueless Gent
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Review: Blue Skies, by Alana Oxford

Blue Skies

 

About the book, Blue Skies

  • Publication date : August 31, 2020
  • Print length : 106 pages
  • Publisher : 8N Publishing, LLC (August 31, 2020)

BlueSkiesLife isn’t always a walk in the park, but when Patrice takes her Pomeranians to the park after a rough day at the office, fate steps in. An unlikely h

ero comes to the rescue when one of her dogs gets loose. Short, pale, and kind of cute, Seth doesn’t have a lot of confidence with the ladies, but he hits it off with Patrice.

But some things might be too good to be true. While Patrice wonders if Seth could possibly be “the one”, fate steps in again with a horrible twist. Will it be a deal breaker or just a storm before bright blue skies?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


Blue Skies - AlanaOxfordAuthorPhotoAbout the author, Alana Oxford

Alana Oxford is a Michigan author of romcoms, sweet romance, and humorous women’s fiction. She wants her stories to bring sunshine and smiles to her readers. She enjoys improv comedy, moody music, everything book related, and has an ongoing love affair with the United Kingdom.

Connect with Alana:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAt only 106 pages, Alana Oxford’s Blue Skies is technically a novella, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a complete story. In fact, it’s a very sweet and satisfying romance and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As a dog lover (though I have four to the main character’s two), I immediately connected with Patrice. I know what it’s like to wrangle multiple pets on multiple leashes. As a woman, I also identified with her struggle to defend her work to her boss. When you work in a field that’s both creative and corporate artist tendencies can be hard to overcome. I appreciated that Oxford included this thread in the story, as it gave Patrice more depth, and also let us get to see more sides of her.

I also liked that Seth, the IT-guy-cum-dog-rescuer whom Patrice meets for the first time in the local park wasn’t your typical hard-bodied romance novel specimen, but more a representative of ordinary guys. Quirky, sweet, and a bit of a geek, he reminded me a little of my husband, who also comes from the midwest. (Midwestern guys are the best.)

All of the supporting characters felt like real people also, and I liked that Oxford broke out of straight narrative to include text conversations between Patrice and her friends.

I liked the way Patrice and Seth’s relationship unfolded with a series of obstacles on each of their first few meetings. It added an element of the kind of humor that comes from life, rather than forced jokes. This is a brand of humor that not all authors can sell, but felt very organic: a testament to Oxford’s craft.

Blue Skies is a short but quite engaging read. Charming, funny, and sweet, it’s the perfect story to put a smile on your face, and make you want to dance in the rain.

Goes well with apples, cheese, crackers, and cold lemonade.


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Review: One Kiss Before Christmas, By Emma Jackson

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About the Book, One Kiss Before Christmas

One Kiss Before Christmas_CoverOne Kiss Before Christmas (Available November 2nd)

A gorgeously romantic festive read from the author of A Mistletoe Miracle, guaranteed to warm your heart this Christmas!


Could it be the start of her happy ever after?

Ashleigh could use a little Christmas magic. She’s still living in Brighton with her Nan — who could give the Grinch lessons in how to be miserable — her acting career has been reduced to playing one of Santa’s elves, and not even the prospect of a friend’s winter wedding can cheer her up…

That is until Olivier, the gorgeous French chef, reappears in her life. Or more accurately, next door.

When they were teenagers, Olivier would spend every other Christmas with his mother, who just happens to be Ash’s neighbour and owner of the best chocolate shop in England.

If anyone can bring a little sparkle back to Ash’s life, it’s Olivier. All she needs is one kiss before Christmas…

Feel-good and festive, this is the perfect romance to curl up with this winter!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the Author, Emma Jackson

Emma JacksonAuthor of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. Her latest romantic comedy, SUMMER IN THE CITY, was released in June 2020.

Emma also writes historical and fantasy fiction as Emma S Jackson. THE DEVIL’S BRIDE was published by DarkStroke in February 2020.

Connect with Emma:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI participated in a cover reveal for this book a month or so ago, and was so excited to read it. I’m happy to report: Emma Jackson did not disappoint. While it was less Christmassy than the title might reflect, this book was a lovely romance set around the holidays.

From the first moment we encounter Ashleigh at the Baxters’ Christmas Farm, where she’s working as an elf (baggy leggings, interactive socks, and all) for the fourth year in a row, I was hooked on her story. I found her to be engaging and completely sympathized with her stalled acting career, especially since I’m a performer myself. I confess, a part of me wanted to work at that farm, but that’s a digression.

Then there’s Olivier, the French chef whose mother just happens to live next door to Ashleigh and her Nan. Olivier is the perfect romance novel specimen, and not only because he can do incredible things with chocolate.

What I loved about this novel was that Jackson’s characters are very much ordinary people, They’re not millionaires or playboys or models, and their flaws are as compelling as their good points. Ash is a little bit bitter about her life, for example, but in a very plausible and organic way that takes real talent to convey.

I haven’t read a lot of Emma Jackson’s other works, but I  recognized a few characters from other books she’s written, and I always find it charming when an author interweaves her stories even if the actual novels can be read as stand-alone pieces.

One “character” that must be mentioned is the setting: Brighton. I’ve never been there, but thanks to Jackson, I feel as if I’ve visited, and I really enjoyed the escape.

One Kiss Before Christmas is one book that is the perfect before-Christmas read.

Goes well with: espresso and chocolate croissants.


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Review: Strong from the Heart, by Jon Land – with Giveaway

Strong from the Heart

About the book, Strong from the Heart

  • Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • Date of Publication: July 28, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 368 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Cover-Strong from the HeartCaitlin Strong wages her own personal war on drugs against the true power behind the illicit opioid trade in Strong from the Heart, the blistering and relentless 11th installment in Jon Land’s award-winning series.

The drug crisis hits home for fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters nearly dies from an opioid overdose. On top of that, she’s dealing with the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night.

When Caitlin realizes that these two pursuits are intrinsically connected, she finds herself following a trail that will take her to the truth behind the crisis that claimed 75,000 lives last year. Just in time, since the same force that has taken over the opiate trade has even more deadly intentions in mind, specifically the murder of tens of millions in pursuit of their even more nefarious goals.

The power base she’s up against―comprised of politicians and Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors―has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they’ve never had to deal with the likes of Caitlin Strong before and have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.

At the root of the conspiracy lies a cabal nestled within the highest corridors of power that’s determined to destroy all threats posed to them. Caitlin and Cort Wesley may have finally met their match, finding themselves isolated and ostracized with nowhere to turn, even as they strive to remain strong from the heart.

Praise for this book:

“A time-jumping, savory Tex-Mex tale, seasoned with all the ingredients of a great thriller.”―Brad Meltzer, New York Times bestselling author

“A mind-blowing tale that takes a flamethrower to our psyches to warm the chill it leaves up our spines. Seething with energy and replete with wondrously staged set pieces, this is thriller writing that defies genre even as it reminds us why we love to read.”―NYK Daily

“Exceptional…. Snappy one-liners, plausible dialogue, and lots of nonstop action, Land delivers another riveting, believable thriller.”―Press-Republican

“Caitlin Strong is one of the strongest female characters ever to hit the page, and Jon Land is the king of the intelligent thriller, continually pushing his own writing to new levels.”―New York Journal of Books

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Jon Land

John LandJon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty books, eleven of which feature Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. The critically acclaimed series has won more than a dozen awards, including the 2019 International Book Award for Best Thriller for Strong as Steel and the 2020 American Fiction Award for Best Thriller. He has also authored six books in the MURDER, SHE WROTE series and has recently taken over writing Margaret Truman’s CAPITAL CRIMES series. A 1979 graduate of Brown University, Land lives in Providence, Rhode Island and received the 2019 Rhode Island Authors Legacy Award for his lifetime of literary achievements.

Connect with Jon:

FACEBOOK    TWITTER AMAZON    GOODREADS  ◆  BOOKBUB ◆ WEBSITE


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellStrong from the Heart is book number 11 in the Caitlin Strong series, but the first of these that I’ve read, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m hooked, but then, I’d be hooked on any story that starts (well, after a prologue featuring a traumatized mailman wandering in the desert) with a woman facing down ICE, Texas Ranger or not.

Still Caitlin Strong is a breathtaking character: competent, compassionate, and evidently the kind of person who seems to get caught up in trouble. As she points out more than once, “I haven’t shot anyone today,” and that last word tells us everything about her.

In this story, Caitlin is both solving the mystery of the death of the entire population of a small town, while also juggling with the fact that her lover’s son has overdosed on opioids obtained illegally at school. As the story expands, she tries to remain a Texas Ranger first, and a woman second, and it’s that dichotomy that really made me fall in love with the character.

Jon Land’s talent for believable dialogue only made this entire novel seem more vivid, and I love the fact that so many of his characters are just a little bit bigger than life. This book takes place in a heightened version of our own reality – different enough to clearly be fiction, but similar enough to make it seem plausible. Riding that line takes a special talent, and Land’s balance work is impeccable.

As someone who really isn’t a fan of westerns, I was a little leery when I realized this was a double-timeline story, half of it an incident from 125 years before, that had been related to Caitlin by her great-grandfather, also a Texas Ranger. That part of the story involves some very famous figures from American and Mexican history – western history – and even I was familiar with the names, grinning when the first was revealed.

Part mystery, part western, part action-adventure, this novel has something for everyone. It’s a decent length at 368 pages, but it’s well-paced, and reads much faster than you might expect. Familiarity with earlier installments of Caitlin’s story might have given me a slightly deeper meaning, but it works as a standalone as well – I never felt lost, or like I was missing connections.

I’m eager to read more of Caitlin’s adventures, and plan to go back and read the first ten novels in this series, but I also hope there’s more to come.

Goes well with carne asada street tacos and Mexican beer – I recommend Indio  or Bohemia.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS 

GRANDPRIZE (US only):

5 Autographed copies

Ends midnight, CST, November 8, 2020

 

Giveaway - Strong from the Heart

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Visit the other Great Blogs on this Tour

(Or find them on the Lone Star Literary Life tour page)

10/29/2020 Character Spotlight Chapter Break Book Blog
10/29/2020 Review Bibliotica
10/30/2020 Top 5 List Hall Ways Blog
10/30/2020 Review Tangled in Text
10/31/2020 Review Reading by Moonlight
11/1/2020 Top 9 List Missus Gonzo
11/2/2020 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
11/3/2020 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
11/4/2020 Top 10 List Texas Book Lover
11/5/2020 Guest Post Forgotten Winds
11/5/2020 Review The Clueless Gent
11/6/2020 Top 10 List KayBee’s Book Shelf
11/7/2020 Review That’s What She’s Reading
11/7/2020 Review Book Bustle

 

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LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Review: The 12 Christmases of You & Me by Jennifer Joyce

The 12 Christmases of You & Me

 

About the book, The 12 Christmases of You & Me

The_12_Christmases_of_You_&_Me_Jennifer_Joyce_pngWhat if you could go back in time and fix the biggest mistake of your life?

Two years ago, Maisie’s best friend walked out of her life and she hasn’t heard from him since. When she wakes up in 1994, she naturally assumes she’s dreaming. But when she finds herself in the past again the next night and her actions in the dream alter her present-day life, she begins to wonder if she’s somehow hopping back in time. And if she is time-travelling, can she save her friendship with Jonas?

When Maisie is forced to relive Christmases of the past, will she face up to her mistakes, or make them all over again?

The 12 Christmases of You & Me is a magical tale of friendship, first loves, and learning to live in the present.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jennifer Joyce

Jennifer JoyceJennifer Joyce is a writer of romantic comedies who lives in Manchester with her husband and their two daughters. She’s been scribbling down bits of stories for as long as she can remember, graduating from a pen to a typewriter and then an electronic typewriter. And she felt like the bee’s knees typing on THAT. She now writes her books on a laptop (which has a proper delete button and everything).

Connect with Jennifer:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellJennifer Joyce’s novel The 12 Christmases of You & Me came to me on a rainy day in autumn, which seems appropriate, since it opens on a rainy day in November, with the main character complaining that it’s too soon for a Christmas Countdown since Halloween and Bonfire Night have only just passed. As someone who revels in Halloween, I appreciated this sentiment more than is probably healthy, and felt an instant connection with Maisie.

And how could I not? In her lead character, Joyce has given us a funny, candid woman who is also a single mom feeling a bit adrift from her teenaged daughter, something all mothers and daughters experience at some point. She’s also a therapist, good at helping her clients find truth and equilibrium when she’s a bit out of balance herself.

The time travel dreams, allowing Maisie to relive her youth with her friends Lily and Jonas, are an interesting convention in a Christmas novel. It’s almost as if Joyce said “What if the Ghost of Christmas Past was YOU?” While some of Maisie’s dream-alterations do seem to flow into her waking life, she seems to instinctively know that there are fixed points (to borrow a concept from Doctor Who) that cannot be changed.

Ultimately her dream journey is one of self-discovery, and watching her unfold each memory is delightful, and evocative of the wistfulness we all feel when gazing at photo albums, whether they are digital or analog.

The supporting characters in this story were all as vivid as Maisie. Lily, her best friend, was the perfect slightly nervous bride, and I liked the way Joyce wrote her as almost a non-biological sister to Maisie. Similarly Aaron and Jonas were dimensional from their first introductions, and if the latter at first made me think of Ricky from My So-Called Life , I hope I can be forgiven, because with the exception of a teenaged fondness for eye-liner, the two are nothing alike.

Maisie’s Mum  and Dad (Fran and Mick) and her daughter Annabelle also felt supremely real, and in the latter, particularly, Joyce managed to capture the mix of sullen young woman and sweet child that so many teenagers can be. (I know I was, and I’ve apologized to my own mother more than once.)

While the title of this novel might imply a story full of fluff, this is absolutely not the case. The Christmas setting is neither sugary or saccharine, but serves as a perfect time of reflection with a hint of magic, and every character takes a journey that leads them down their proper path.

Goes well with a sandwich of leftover holiday turkey with cranberry sauce and cream cheese. (Trust me, it’s delicious.)


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Endless Skies

About the book, Endless Skies

  • Paperback : 281 pages
  • Publisher : Sapere Books (July 26, 2020)

Endless Skies - coverAs archaeologist Rachel excavates a World War Two airfield, could a love story from the past hold a lesson for her as well?

After yet another disastrous love affair Rachel has been forced to leave her long-term position for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University. Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out. But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again…

She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney. He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…

As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past. Could a wartime love story have any bearing on her own situation? Could this time be different?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

UK Readers (99p til October 23) | US Readers (Amazon) | Goodreads


About the author, Jane Cable

Jane Cable I write romance with a twist, that extra something to keep readers guessing right to the end. While my books are character driven my inspiration is always a British setting; so far a village in Yorkshire (The Cheesemaker’s House), a Hampshire wood (The Faerie Tree), gorgeous Studland Bay in Dorset (Another You) and rural Lincolnshire (Endless Skies).

I was born and raised in Cardiff but spent most of my adult life living near Chichester before my husband and I upped sticks and moved to Cornwall three years ago.

I published my first two novels independently and have now been signed by Sapere Books. I am an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and contributing editor to Frost online magazine.

Connect with Jane:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Endless Skies was my first introduction to Jane Cable’s writing, and now I’m wondering where she’s been all my life, because her style is both haunting and lyrical, and her descriptions are vivid to the point that I, who have never been to Lincolnshire, or even to England (save for a stopover at Heathrow) felt like I was first, flying home over the area (in the prologue) and later, shopping for antiques with Rachel Ward, our protagonist.

It takes a deft touch and a skilled imagination to create a main character who is abrasive, but still makes you want to follow her journey, and Cable has done that with Rachel. Deliciously flawed, particularly by her taste in men, Rachel, when we meet her is a temporary Archaeology Lecturer at the local university, recovering from her latest love affair gone wrong, and grieving for her dead grandmother. Anyone would be a bit closed off and prickly.

And yet, Rachel remains compelling. Every antique she touches tells a story, and we get to share her attraction to history, and her love of finding why things mattered to the people who once owned them. In this way, we also get to see bits and pieces of her beloved Gran’s own story, which makes this novel all the more interesting.

No story is about a single person, though, and this novel is the richer for three (well, four) of the people whom enter Rachel’s life and stay there. Esther, an elderly woman in a care home, helps her untangle some of the history of the local airfield – the one we first encounter in the prologue. Jem (and his dog Toast) provide a bit of color wrapped in friendship. (Incidentally, Jem lives on a barge, something I’ve always fantasized about.) And Jonathan, a developer Rachel encounters professionally, but who may become the latest in her poorly chosen romances.

Still, romance is at the heart of this story, and the history running through it only makes it more real and more dimensional. This story is one for the ages, perhaps destined to become a classic. It’s rich and luscious and deeply satisfying.

Goes well with: a hearty fish stew.


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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:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


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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Visit the Other Great Blogs on this Tour

(Or click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life tour page.)

10/6/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
10/7/20 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
10/7/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
10/8/20 Playlist The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
10/9/20 Review Bibliotica
10/10/20 Deleted Scene All the Ups and Downs
10/11/20 Author Interview The Page Unbound
10/12/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
10/13/20 Scrapbook Page Max Knight
10/14/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
10/15/20 Review The Clueless Gent

 

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