Review: The Secret of You and Me, by Melissa Lenhardt – with Giveaway

Secret of You and Me - BNR

About the book, The Secret of You and Me

  • Genre: Women’s Fiction / Romance
  • Publisher:  Graydon House (Harlequin)
  • Date of Publication: August 4, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 352
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Secret of You and Me - CoverTrue love never fades—and old secrets never die . . . 

Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she fled Texas to start a new life. Away from her father’s volatile temper and the ever-watchful gaze of her claustrophobically conservative small town, Nora has freed herself. She can live—and love—however she wants. The only problem is that she also left behind the one woman she can’t forget. Now tragedy calls her back home to confront her past—and reconcile her future.

Sophie seems to have everything—a wonderful daughter, a successful husband, and a rewarding career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. She still yearns for Nora—her best friend and first love—despite all the years between them. Keeping her true self hidden hasn’t been easy, but it’s been necessary. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.

But they both find that first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites, and old feelings resurface. As the forces of family and intolerance that once tore them apart begin to reemerge, they realize some things may never change—unless they demand it.

Praise for this book:

  • “A compelling story of second chances and being true to yourself.”
    Harper Bliss, bestselling author of Seasons of Love
  • “Lenhardt convinces in her portrayal of the conflict between desire and control.” —Publishers Weekly

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Interabang Books

(Personalized/signed copies available through Interabang)
Amazon | IndieBound | Bookshop | Goodreads

A portion of royalties from this book are going to the It Gets Better Project.

(Click for more details.)


About the author, Melissa Lenhardt

Melissa LenhardtMelissa Lenhardt is a women’s fiction, mystery, and historical fiction author. Her debut mystery, Stillwater, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and Sawbones, her historical-fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new sub-genre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. The New York Times called her sixth novel, Heresy, “An all-out women-driven, queer, transgender, multiracial takeover of the Old West”. The Secret of You and Me, her seventh novel and her first contemporary women’s fiction novel, was published on August 4, 2020.

When Melissa isn’t writing, she’s thinking, “I really should be writing,” and eating Nutella or peanut butter straight out of the jar. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two sons, and two Golden Retrievers.

Connect with Melissa:

Facebook | Instagram  | Website | Goodreads | Amazon  | BookBub | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATSet in the recent history of Texas, just a few years before gay marriage became a national right, Melissa Lenhardt’s novel  The Secret of You and Me is not so much a coming of age story, as the lead characters are adults, as a coming of identity story. It’s a wonderful novel, a candid lesbian romance, wrapped around a host of difficult subjects: death, loss, desire, (in)fidelity, parenthood, childhood, the lens of nostalgia, and coming out. More than that, though, it’s a compelling drama rooted in family, both chosen and blood, and how we define it and ourselves.

The structure of the novel is in (mostly) alternating chapters from Nora (the central character) and Sophie’s (Nora’s best friend/first love) points of view. Lenhardt’s choice to shift between these equally dimensional women gives us greater insight into both, as well as their perspectives on the various supporting characters, most importantly Nora’s aunt, Emmadean, and Sophie’s, husband, daughter, and AA sponsor Charlie, Logan, and Todd, respectively. By doing this we get to see each woman’s view of herself, as well as of the other, and I think the novel is richer for the split POV.

I also felt that Lenhardt has an excellent ear for dialogue and a flair for family dynamics. From the earliest chapter, where Nora, newly arrived “home” is eating enchilada casserole, to the last I felt like I was in that small town, hearing the gossip from the locals, and watching everything unfold. So cinematic is the author’s writing, that I told a friend, “I could easily see this novel as movie on Amazon Prime or a Hulu original.”

As the person many of my friends have chosen to come out to, to reveal that they were trans to, to share their marital issues with, this novel really resonated with me. While I do not support infidelity, even in fiction, I certainly understand it as a symptom – an expression – of deep unhappiness. Lenhardt handled all of these revelations with grace and poise, and at times I felt as though I were watching friends share their stories.

While some of the subjects within this novel are serious, the story itself is not uncomfortably heavy. It’s a romance, just not a conventional one, and definitely worth the read.

Goes well with enchilada casserole and cold Shiner Bock, right from the bottle.

(As noted above, a portion of royalties  from this book are going to the It Gets Better Project. Click for more details.)


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS each get a signed hardcover copy of the book and their choice of
either a FaceTime call or virtual book-club visit with the author.

 August 11-21, 2020

(U.S. Only)

Secret of You and Me - Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 


Visit the Other Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the  LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit each blog directly.

8/11/20 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
8/11/20 Review Tangled in Text
8/12/20 Review Momma on the Rocks
8/12/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
8/13/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
8/14/20 Top Six List Texas Book Lover
8/14/20 Review Bibliotica
8/15/20 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
8/16/20 Guest Post The Page Unbound
8/17/20 Review Missus Gonzo
8/17/20 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
8/18/20 Audio Spotlight Book Bustle
8/19/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
8/19/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
8/20/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
8/20/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading

 

LoneStarLitLife

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

 

 

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

Book signed by the author
AUGUST 4-14, 2020
(US ONLY)

Gulag P-Pa SMALL-Giveaway

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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: Gates of Mars by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays – with Giveaway

Gates of Mars - Banner

About the Book, Gates of Mars

  • Series: The Halo Trilogy (Book1)
  • Genre: Science Fiction / Detective (hard-boiled)
  • Publisher:  Pumpjack Press on Facebook
  • Date of Publication: June 16, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 336
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Gates of Mars - CoverIN THE AGE OF SURVEILLANCE, HOW CAN A PERSON GO MISSING? 

The year is 2187. Crucial Larsen, a veteran of the brutal Consolidation Wars, is working as a labor cop on Earth. The planet is a toxic dump and billions of people are miserable, but so what? It’s none of his business. He’s finally living a good life, or good enough. But then Essential, his beloved kid sister, disappears on Mars. When Halo—the all-powerful artificial-intelligence overseeing Earth and Mars on behalf of the ruling Five Families—can’t (or won’t) locate his sister, Crucial races up-universe to find her.

In the Choke, the frigid, airless expanse outside the luxury domes, Crucial uncovers a deadly secret from Essential’s past that threatens to shatter his apathetic existence … and both planets. Blending science fiction with the classic, hard-boiled detective story, Gates of Mars is a page-turning, futuristic thrill-ride featuring a gritty, irreverent anti-hero, Crucial Larsen. The first book of the Halo Trilogy, Gates of Mars is the eighth novel by award-winning authors, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall.

Praise for this book:

“An indelible introduction to an interplanetary saga and its sublime characters.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The authors’ imaginations again run wild, this time a science fiction/detective series looking at what our lives may hold in the not too distant future if everything that can go wrong does go wrong. And they’ve done it with their trademark undercurrent of humor that lifts an otherwise dreary future into something resembling—do I dare say?—hope. Their best work to date. And the giraffes? You’ll have to read Gates of Mars to find out. I’m already wishing they could write faster.” —Renee Struthers, East Oregonian newspaper

“With twists and turns true to some of the best noir detective pieces—but with an other-world setting and futuristic society—along with psychological insights and connections, Gates of Mars is a riveting, unexpected story, filled with intrigue and change. Sci-fi and detective story readers alike with find Gates of Mars one of a kind, worthy of avid pursuit.” —Midwest Book Review

Buy, read and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the Authors, Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

Gates Of Mars - AuthorClark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.

Gates of Mars is their eighth co-authored book.

Connect with Clark and Kathleen:

Facebook ║ Instagram

Connect with Kathleen:

Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter

Connect with Clark:

Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI’ve been a science fiction fan for as long as I can remember, and I have a special fascination with Mars, so this novel, the first in a new trilogy, was a perfect fit for me.

In Gates of Mars authors Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays give us dystopian future for Earth, with the additional information that anyone who’s anyone has packed up and relocated to our reddish neighbor. This basic premise is the center of everything that happens, but it’s also the start of some serious world building, for the future which Crucial Larsen inhabits is both grim – a significant portion of the population is unemployed and lives in portable pods – and fascinating – you can buy immersive scenarios to sleep in, but they can be interrupted by work, or family, calling you.

Because this is the first book in a planned trilogy, it would have been easy to make the plot secondary, to let the world building dominate the story, but McFall and Hays didn’t do that. Rather, the intricacies and details of Crucial’s world came from the plot, so we, as readers, are never flooded with backstory or exposition, rather, we discover it as Crucial lives it.

But fantastic details (like cloned giraffes on Mars!) aside, this is also a detective story. War veteran-cum-labor cop Crucial must track down his missing sister, while staying off the grid as much as possible, because HALO is watching everything (think of HALO as a cross between Orwell’s Big Brother and Star Trek: Discovery‘s Control).

It takes a lot of talent to combine a detective plot with a sci-fi setting, and make us care about the characters even when their flaws are all too visible, but McFall and Hays have that talent. They also infuse their work with just enough wry humor to keep things from being overwhelming.

If you want a gritty space saga that’s also a compelling neo-noir mystery, look no further than Gates of Mars. You won’t be disappointed, but you will be left wondering: how long must we wait for book two?

Goes well with any food that doesn’t come in tube. (I recommend a BLT on multigrain bread and a tall glass of sweet tea.)


Giveaway

Gates of Mars - Giveaway

TWO WINNERS: One Winner: First edition copy of A Very Unusual Romance 

One Winner: All four books in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection 

June 29-July 8, 2020

(U.S. Only)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Click to Visit the LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE

Or, visit the blogs directly:

6/29/20 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
6/29/20 Review Forgotten Winds
6/29/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
6/30/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
6/30/20 Review Sybrina’s Book Blog
7/1/20 Author Interview StoreyBook Reviews
7/1/20 Review Book Bustle
7/2/20 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
7/2/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
7/3/20 Review Books and Broomsticks
7/3/20 Review Bibliotica

 

LoneStarLitLife

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Review: All Things Left Wild, by James Wade – with Giveaway

All Things Left Wild - banner

About the book, All Things Left Wild

  • Genre: Adventure / Rural Fiction / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • Publication Date: June 16, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 304 pages
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

All Things Left Wild - coverAfter an attempted horse theft goes tragically wrong, sixteen-year-old Caleb Bentley is on the run with his mean-spirited older brother across the American Southwest at the turn of the twentieth century. Caleb’s moral compass and inner courage will be tested as they travel the harsh terrain and encounter those who have carved out a life there, for good or ill.

Wealthy and bookish Randall Dawson, out of place in this rugged and violent country, is begrudgingly chasing after the Bentley brothers. With little sense of how to survive, much less how to take his revenge, Randall meets Charlotte, a woman experienced in the deadly ways of life in the West. Together they navigate the murky values of vigilante justice.

Powerful and atmospheric, lyrical and fast-paced, All Things Left Wild is a coming-of-age for one man, a midlife odyssey for the other, and an illustration of the violence and corruption prevalent in our fast-expanding country. It artfully sketches the magnificence of the American West as mirrored in the human soul.

Praise for this book:

  • “A debut full of atmosphere and awe. Wade gives emotional depth to his dust-covered characters and creates an image of the American West that is harsh and unforgiving, but — like All Things Left Wild — not without hope.” — Texas Literary Hall of Fame member Sarah BirdDaughter of a Daughter of a Queen
  • “James Wade has delivered a McCarthy-esque odyssey with an Elmore Leonard ear for dialogue. All Things Left Wild moves like a coyote across this cracked-earth landscape—relentlessly paced and ambitiously hungry.” — Edgar Award finalist David Joy, When These Mountains Burn

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon ┃ BookPeople ┃ Bookshop.orgIndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, James Wade

All Things Left Wild - authorJames Wade lives and writes in Austin, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He has had twenty short stories published in various literary magazines and journals. He is the winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest and a finalist of the Tethered by Letters Short Fiction Contest. All Things Left Wild is his debut novel

Connect with James:

Website | Facebook | Blog | InstagramYouTube | Goodreads


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATMy first reaction to James Wade’s novel All Things Left Wild was that the writing was both vivid and incredibly lyrical. I could have easily read three hundred pages of James Wade just describing the scenery and been completely satisfied. But this is not a nature guide, it’s a novel, and the story was as powerful as the opening scene-setting was beautiful.

What I liked was the way Wade depicted the pain that Caleb clearly felt. Whether riding a stolen horse through the dry Texas landscape or sharing his theory about why people really wear black at funerals, Caleb’s words express unwritten pain and unspoken longing, though it’s not always explicit what he’s longing for. Conversely, Shelby is much more what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Sure, he’s the older brother and guiding force, but he’s just as broken as his younger sibling, though he expresses it differently. Wade’s craft really shows in both the similarities and contrasts of the Bentley Brothers.

As to the villain of the story, Dawson could easily have been a cardboard figure, only existing to provide the boys with an impetus to run, but in Wade’s care he becomes equally vibrant and dimensional as the boys. His story, of course, is more mid-life crisis than coming-of-age, but it’s still a story of the way environment and experience change us, no matter how old we are, or what our lot in life might be.

Overall, this is a story that has several gritty elements but is elevated to literary fiction by the quality of the writing and the well-paced plot. Wade never lets us get bored, and while he may linger in a scene  from time to time, letting us watch a hawk take flight, or feel the hot and dusty wind, that propensity for description only makes the novel seem more real.

Goes well with: steak cooked over an open fire, and a shot of whiskey.


Giveaway

All Things Left Wild - giiveaway

 

TWO WINNERS: A signed copy of All Things Left Wild

JUNE 18-28, 2020

(US ONLY)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE 

Or see below for direct links to participating blogs:

or visit the blogs directly:

 

6/18/20 Author Video StoreyBook Reviews
6/18/20 Excerpt Missus Gonzo
6/19/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/19/20 Scrapbook Book Fidelity
6/20/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
6/21/20 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
6/22/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
6/23/20 Review The Page Unbound
6/23/20 Guest Post KayBee’s Book Shelf
6/24/20 Top Ten The Clueless Gent
6/25/20 Review Book Bustle
6/25/20 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
6/26/20 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
6/27/20 Review Max Knight
6/27/20 Review Bibliotica

LoneStarLitLife

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

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

Giveaway Outlaw's Daughter SMALL

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)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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

LoneStarLitLife

 

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

Review – First Herd to Abilene, by Preston Lewis – with Giveaway

First Herd to Abilene

About the book, First Herd to Abilene

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Western / Humor
  • Publisher: Wolfpack Publishing
  • Date of Publication: February 5, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 449
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

First Herd to AbileneAn H. H. Lomax Western, #5

HISTORICALLY SOUND AND HILARIOUSLY FUNNY! H.H. Lomax meets Wild Bill Hickok in Springfield, Missouri, and is responsible for Hickok’s legendary gunfight with Davis Tutt. Fearing Hickok will hold a grudge, Lomax escapes Springfield and agrees to promote Joseph G. McCoy’s dream of building Abilene, Kansas, into a cattle town, ultimately leading the first herd to Abilene from Texas.

Along the way, he encounters Indians, rabid skunks, flash floods, a stampede, and the animosities of some fellow cowboys trying to steal profits from the drive. Lomax is saved by the timely arrival of now U.S. Marshal Hickok, but Lomax uses counterfeit wanted posters to convince Hickok his assailants are wanted felons with rewards on their heads.

Lomax and Wild Bill go their separate ways until they run into each other a decade later in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, where Hickok vows to kill Lomax for getting him fired.

First Herd to Abilene is an entertaining mix of historical and hysterical fiction.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonBarnes and NobleBookshop.org | Goodreads


About the author, Preston Lewis

Preston LewisPreston 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 Thoughts

MissMelissOne of the first musicals I was ever in as a kid was Annie Get Your Gun, so when I read the description of this novel, and saw that Wild Bill Hickok was a character, I knew I had to read it, even though I had not read books 1-4 of this series. I’m not a frequent reader of true westernsi, but I’m really glad I took a chance on First Herd to Abilene, because reading it was a rich and rewarding experience.

First, this novel is written in first person, which proves that the author, Preston Lewis, is incredibly talented, because sustaining a first-person narrative is incredibly difficult to do well. And boy, howdy, does Lewis do it well. I felt like Lomax was telling me his story over a campfire, while we shared barbecued meat and cold beer. This novel is completely immersive, and thoroughly enjoyable.

What worked particularly well was the insertion of real, historical characters into the story. Lewis clearly knows his history well, and it shows, because never once are you pulled out of the story because a detail doesn’t ring true.

In addition to grand adventure and some very human moments, this novel has humor woven into it from the first line to the last. Some of the humor comes from situations, but some is also in the name – almost all of Lomax’s relatives are named after famous (or infamous) historical figures – George Washington Lomax, for instance.

If you want a book that blends craft, style, and story into a truly satisfying whole, read First Herd to Abilene. It’s a rollicking good adventure with attention paid to history.

Goes well with barbecued brisket sandwiches and cold beer.


Giveaway (ends May 8)

Giveaway

1ST PRIZE: 

Signed Copies of First Herd to Abilene and Bluster’s Last Stand

2ND PRIZE: 

Signed Copy of First Herd to Abilene

APRIL 28-MAY 8, 2020

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4/28/20 Excerpt The Page Unbound
4/28/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
4/29/20 Review Max Knight
4/30/20 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
5/1/20 Review The Clueless Gent
5/2/20 Scrapbook Page All the Ups and Downs
5/3/20 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
5/4/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
5/5/20 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
5/6/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
5/7/20 Review Books and Broomsticks
5/7/20 Series Spotlight #Bookish
5/8/20 BONUS Review Bibliotica

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Review: A Firm Place to Stand, by Lori Altebaumer – with Giveaway

BNR A Firm Place to Stand

About the book, A Firm Place to Stand

  • Genre: Christian / Romantic Suspense
  • Independently published
  • Date of Publication: January 25, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 321
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Cover Med Res A Firm Place to StandShe’s either being stalked or losing her mind.

A job at a camp in the rustic and often rugged landscape of West Texas offers Maribel Montgomery a chance to escape both, especially if she makes sure no one knows she’s there. But when the body of a woman washes up in the river on her first morning, her hopes of a safe place to start over are swept away.

The suspicion that she’s being watched follows her to her new home, and Maribel is forced to take a stand or keep running. Does she have the courage to face the danger stirring at the Pool of Siloam Camp? If she doesn’t, another girl might die. If she tries and fails, it could be her.

Circumstances force her into the acquaintance of Conner Pierce—a man with secrets of his own. Can Maribel risk working with him in order to save the next victim and find a missing girl? Or is he the killer?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | BookBaby | BookShop | GoodReads | Lone Star Literary Life


About the author, Lori Altebaumer

Author Pic Lori Altebaumer HeadshotA life-long Texan, Lori lives in a small community not far from the rugged West Texas landscape she loves to write about. The mother of now-grown twins, she has learned that the secret to survival is a well-developed sense of humor and an active prayer life. After years spent working in the insurance business, Lori now uses her time to educate, inspire, encourage, and entertain through the written word.

Connect with Lori:

WEBSITE ║ FACEBOOK ║ TWITTER ║ INSTAGRAM  || GOODREADS ║ AMAZON ║ BOOK BUB


My Thoughts

MissMelissWhile I’m not a particular fan of fiction labeled “Christian,” I dove into this book with an open mind. What I found was that the author, Lori Altebaumer, is brilliant at dialogue and description – if you’ve never experienced  a Texas summer day in reality, you will completely understand what one feels like after this novel. Similarly, you will believe that Maribel, Conner, the sheriff, and all the supporting characters are real people, because they talk like real people.

The opening of this thriller was strong. I was hooked from the first paragraph. The ending gave us enough closure of the mystery to be satisfying – something that not all thrillers accomplish –  while also leaving enough open that we can make delicious speculations about Maribel and Conner’s futures. Where I felt Ms. Altebaumer got a bit muddled was in the middle, when the action slowed and Maribel’s personal, spiritual journey took center stage.

Admittedly, I’m not the target audience for Christian literature,but I admired the skill it took the author to make the story Biblically-based without feeling contrived or preachy. This was not a religious treatise. It was a compelling thriller where the main character’s faith was integral to the story. And Altebaumer deftly wove all the components of her story into a cohesive whole that I thoroughly enjoyed.

If you want a gripping story with authentic characters, A Firm Place to Stand is a worthy choice.

Goes well with: a smothered burrito and sweet tea.


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THREE WINNERS: 

1ST PRIZE

Signed Copy of A Firm Place to Stand + $25 Gift Card to the Texas Indie Bookstore of Choice

2ND PRIZE: Signed Copy of A Firm Place to Stand

3RD PRIZE: eBook of A Firm Place to Stand

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A Firm Place to Stand Tour Stops

4/30/20 Notable Quotable Texas Book Lover
4/30/20 BONUS post Hall Ways Blog
5/1/20 Review Librariel Book Adventures
5/1/20 Excerpt 1 Reading by Moonlight
5/2/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
5/3/20 Excerpt 2 Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
5/4/20 Review Nerd Narration
5/4/20 Review Bibliotica
5/5/20 Top 5 Book Fidelity
5/5/20 Review The Page Unbound
5/6/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
5/7/20 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
5/7/20 Review Forgotten Winds
5/8/20 Review Tangled in Text
5/9/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
5/9/20 Review Missus Gonzo

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

BNR Covey and JayJay GE

About the book, Covey and JayJay Get Educated

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Shelton L. Williams

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

Connect with Shelly:

Facebook ║ Twitter ║ Amazon Author Page


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

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

SECOND PRIZE: signed copy of both Covey Jencks and

Covey and JayJay Get Educated

THIRD PRIZE: Audio book of Covey and JayJay Get Educated

FOURTH PRIZE: Kindle version of Covey and JayJay Get Educated

DECEMBER 10-20, 2019

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Check Out the Other Blogs on this Tour

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

 

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Review: Santa Claus Bank Robbery by Tui Snider – with Giveaway

BNR Santa Claus Bank Robbery

About the book Santa Claus Bank Robbery

  • Genre: Nonfiction / Texana / Texas History
  • Publisher: Castle Azle Press
  • Date of Publication: December 8, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 146 pages + black & white photos
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Santa Claus Robber hi resWhen Marshall Ratliff dressed like Santa Claus to pull a Christmas-time heist, he thought it would be easy. Unfortunately for him, when the citizens of Cisco heard Santa was robbing a bank, they came running – with loaded guns in hand!

But can you blame them? In 1927, the only way to earn the $5000 Dead Bank Robber Reward was to kill a bandit while the crime was in progress.

This bungled bank robbery led to a wild shootout and a getaway with two little girls as hostages. And that is only the beginning!

Tui Snider’s true-crime tale reads like a comedy of errors as the consequences of the Santa Claus Bank Robber’s actions escalate to include a botched car-jacking, one of the biggest manhunts in Texas history, and a jailbreak leading to a deadly conclusion.

Meanwhile, it’s up to readers to decide whether or not a mysterious blonde helped these gangsters escape. And if so, did she get away with murder?

Watch the trailer for this book:

 

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author Tui Snider

Tui SniderTui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!”

Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences, and bookstores.This fall, she will speak about the Great Airship Mystery of 1897 at this year’s UFO Congress and teach a course on Understanding Cemetery Symbols at Texas Christian University. She also shares weekly info-videos based on her research at her YouTube channel.

Snider’s writing and photography have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including WFAA TVCoast to Coast AM, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman WakingShades of Angels and many more. She has several more books in progress.

Connect with Tui:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE  INSTAGRAM  |  YOUTUBE  | GRAVE HOUR ON INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellOver the last few years of doing book reviews for Lone Star Book Blog Tours, I’ve fallen in love with Tui Snider’s books about cemetery symbology and spooky Texas locations, but with this book, Santa Claus Bank Robbery, I got to see a side of her work that is slightly more narrative, though still non-fiction.

And I loved it.

Presented almost like a forensic analysis (though with a lot more warmth and humor), this book tells the true story of a 1920s bank robbery where one of the bandits dressed in a (stolen) Santa Claus suit to rob a bank. Well, part of a suit. He didn’t have the pants, and that’s actually just one of the many things that went wrong with the heist, and the bandits’ lives.

True crime novels tend to be either very dry or quite grisly. Santa Claus Bank Robbery is neither. Rather, it’s a dive into Texas history that offers insights only a contemporary historian/storyteller could consider. (Example: one of the people in the book, a young girl, says she spent so much time in court in one year that she flunked 7th grade. Snider posits the theory that the child was suffering from burnout and PTSD… and she’s probably not wrong.)

One thing I really liked is that Snider corrected and clarified an earlier work about the events in Santa Claus Bank Robbery without being disrespectful to the previous author’s work. She does question his choice to use pseudonyms for a lot of the key figures, and also notes his avoidance of going too deeply into the details of one family, but she also expresses envy that he (A.C. Greene) had access to at least one of the original sources, one of the men who was with Santa Claus (really Marshall Ratliff) in the bank.

While I’m not a native Texan (I’m a Jersey girl who was raised in Colorado and California), I’ve now lived in Texas longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, and reading Snider’s books has really been a wonderful way for me to explore the Lone Star State in new and interesting ways.

That said, even if you have no connection to Texas at all, Santa Claus Bank Robbery is a fascinating picture of a period between the “wild west” and modern Texas, and Snider’s treatment of it is fair and balanced without whitewashing or soft-pedaling anything.

Goes well with: BBQ brisket, fried squash, potato salad, and sweet tea.


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GRAND PRIZE (US only)

Signed Paperback +$10 Amazon Gift Card

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2ND PRIZE (US only)Signed Copy + Thank You Post Card

3RD PRIZE (International)Kindle eBook

  December 12-22, 2019

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Check Out the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

12/12/19 Review Bibliotica
12/12/19 Review Hall Ways Blog
12/13/19 Review That’s What She’s Reading
12/14/19 Review StoreyBook Reviews
12/14/19 Review Reading by Moonlight
12/15/19 Review Book Fidelity
12/16/19 Review All the Ups and Downs
12/17/19 Review The Page Unbound
12/17/19 Review Books and Broomsticks
12/18/19 Review The Book Review
12/19/19 Review The Clueless Gent
12/20/19 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
12/20/19 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
12/21/19 Review Momma on the Rocks
12/21/19 Review Forgotten Winds

 

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Review: Comfort Songs, by Kimberly Fish – with Giveaway

Comfort Songs Blog Tour

About the book, Comfort Songs

  • Genre: Contemporary Romance / Women’s Fiction
  • Publisher: Fish Tales, LLC
  • Date of Publication: September 19, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 348
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Comfort Songs by Kimberly FishAward-winning author of Comfort Plans, Kimberly Fish, delivers a novel about family, forgiveness, and the seeds of second chances.

Eight years ago, Autumn Joy Worthington, still reeling from the bitter divorce of her Grammy-Award-winning parents, endured the betrayal of a man who’d promised her a wedding. Running from pain seemed the logical response. Reinventing herself in Comfort, Texas, as a lavender grower, she creates a wildly successful gardening haven that draws in tourists and establishes an identity far removed from her parents’ fame. Her mother’s retirement from stardom inspires AJ to offer her refuge and nurse the dream that they could move past old hurts and the tarnish of the music industry … to find friendship. A grandmother in the early stages of dementia and the return of AJ’s father complicate the recovery, but nothing sets the fragile reality spinning like the arrival of Nashville music executive, Luke English.

As Alzheimer’s slowly knocks away the filters of their family, AJ comes to appreciate the true meanings of love and forgiveness — and that the power of redemption can generate from the most unlikely sources. When AJ uncovers the grit to make hard choices, she also discovers that the flowers that bloom the brightest can have the most tangled roots.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Kimberly Fish

Kimberly FishKimberly Fish is a professional writer with almost thirty years of media experience. She’s been telling stories far longer. She published her first novel, a WWII historical fiction novel, because of a true story in her adopted hometown that was too good to ignore.  She quickly followed that success with a sequel. Since then, she’s continued writing fiction and added a contemporary second-chance romance series set in Comfort, Texas, to her list of fun, fast-paced novels. Kimberly lives with her family in East Texas.

Connect with Kimberly:

WEBSITE |  INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | YOUTUBE | PINTEREST |  TWITTER | GOODREADS | AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE


My Thoughts

melysse2019.jpgx100I reviewed Kimberly Fish’s previous novel Comfort Plans two years ago, and it was a pleasure to revisit her writing and the world she’s created in Comfort, Texas, with this novel, Comfort Songs.

With this story, set in the present but with flashbacks to previous eras, Fish really demonstrates her prowess at writing compelling tales of women in transition. Inez (aka Gran) is facing the descent into Alzheimer’s Disease. July, whose retirement as a performer opens the novel, is facing new directions in her career and her personal life, and AJ, the connective tissue between the two, claims she just wants to run her farm, Lavender Hill, but is also exploring creative pursuits and a possible romance, as well as reconnecting with her mother (July).

Fish handles all three story lines with equal care, weaving them in and out of each other, showing us the way Inez’s youth and July’s career have informed AJ’s choices. Each woman stands alone as a distinct character, but each also shares the commonality of family and personal struggle.

What I love about Fish’s writing is that she depicts the sorts of issues we all deal with every day – aging, adult mother-daughter relationships, and the search for personal fulfillment – using characters that may have sprung from her imagination, but feel incredibly real. These are women (and their partners) that we not only may know, but that we might even be, to some extent.

If you are looking for an inter-generational story with music, romance, and the sort of community we all sort of wish we could live in, read Comfort Songs; you will not be disappointed.

Goes well with hot coffee and scones with lemon curd.


Giveaway

SIGNED COPY OF COMFORT SONGS

+  HUMMINGBIRD FARMS HAND CREAM & HAND SOAP

OCTOBER 22-NOVEMBER 1, 2019

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on this Tour

10/22/19 Review Momma on the Rocks
10/22/19 BONUS Promo All the Ups and Downs
10/23/19 Review Reading by Moonlight
10/23/19 Review KayBee’s Book Shelf
10/24/19 Review Sybrina’s Book Blog
10/25/19 Review Sydney Young, Stories
10/25/19 Review Bibliotica
10/26/19 Review That’s What She’s Reading
10/27/19 Review Book Fidelity
10/28/19 Review The Book Review
10/28/19 Review Missus Gonzo
10/29/19 Review Forgotten Winds
10/30/19 Review The Clueless Gent
10/30/19 Review StoreyBook Reviews
10/31/19 Review Hall Ways Blog
10/31/19 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles

 

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