Review: A Beggar’s Bargain, by Jan Sikes – with Giveaway

BNR A Beggar's Bargain

 

About the book, A Beggar’s Bargain

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Literary Fiction
  • Publisher: Fresh Ink Group
  • Date of Publication: March 12, 2024
  • Number of Pages: 324 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover A Beggar's BargainA shocking proposal that changes everything

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and for time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger.

If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Jan Sikes Author Photo Sikes

Jan Sikes writes compelling and creative stories from the heart.

 

She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author, although she’s been an avid reader all her life. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. She brought the entertaining true story to life through fictitious characters in an intricately woven tale that encompasses four books, accompanying music CDs, and a book of poetry and art.

 

And now, this author can’t put down the pen. She continues to write fiction in a variety of genres and has published many award-winning short stories and novels.

 

Jan is an active blogger, a member of Story Empire, a devoted fan of Texas music, and a grandmother of five. She resides in North Texas.

Connect with Jan:

WEBSITE | BLOG | FACEBOOK | X (TWITTER) | NEWSLETTER | BOOKBUB | AMAZON | GOODREADS


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

While I’m not typically a fan of the forced marriage trope, I am familiar with author Jan Sikes’s work, and trust her ability to tell a good story, so I gave A Beggar’s Bargain a chance, and I’m so glad I did. From the first page to the last, this book is a tender, honest, period piece that shows the real meaning of “chosen family” and the strength behind such creations.

 

I found myself completely absorbed by Laykin and Sara Beth’s story – how they formed a partnership, then welcomed ‘Uncle Seymour’ into their home to become a team, adding stray humans and animals as they went along, showing that kindness is a universal quality, and trust can be restored even after it’s been lost.

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Sikes’s language in this book is plain, but not simple, and while the details of this story were definitely gritty, with challenges and villains that wouldn’t be out of place in a classic western, the way she made everyday people seem special and interesting reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder – if the Little House books had been written for an adult audience.

 

Maybe, then, Jan Sikes is one of Wilder’s spiritual successors, because this tale about a Little Farmhouse in Missouri has the makings of a classic. It’s also the first book in a series, and I’m excited to learn what happens next.

 

Goes well with cold tea and warm cornbread… or coffee and homemade chocolate cake.


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Two winners receive $20 Amazon gift cards;

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04/09/24 Forgotten Winds Guest Post
04/09/24 Hall Ways Blog Book Trailer
04/10/24 The Clueless Gent Review
04/10/24 LSBBT Blog Excerpt
04/11/24 The Book’s Delight Review
04/12/24 The Page Unbound Author Interview
04/13/24 Bibliotica Review
04/14/24 StoreyBook Reviews Top Ten List
04/15/24 It’s Not All Gravy Review
04/16/24 The Real World According to Sam Excerpt
04/17/24 Rox Burkey Blog Review
04/18/24 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review

 

 

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Shahrazad’s Gift by Gretchen McCullough – Review & Giveaway

BNR Shaharazad's Gift

 

About the Book, Shahrazad’s Gift Cover Shahrazad's Gift

  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Linked Short Stories / Humor
  • Publisher: Cune Press
  • Date of Publication: February 20, 2024
  • Number of Pages: 198 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Shahrazad’s Gift is a collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Cairo—magical, absurd and humorous. The author focuses on the off-beat, little-known stories, far from CNN news: a Swedish belly dancer who taps into the Oriental fantasies of her clientele; a Japanese woman studying Arabic, driven mad by the noise and chaos of the city; a frustrated Egyptian housewife who becomes obsessed by the activities of her Western gay neighbor; an American journalist who covered the civil war in Beirut who finds friendship with her Egyptian dentist. We also meet the two protagonists of McCullough’s Confessions of a Knight Errant, before their escapades in that story.

 

These stories are told in the tradition of A Thousand and One Nights.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the Author, Gretchen McCullough Author Photo Gretchen

Gretchen McCullough was raised in Harlingen Texas. After graduating from Brown University in 1984, she taught in Egypt, Turkey, and Japan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and was awarded a teaching Fulbright to Syria from 1997-1999. Her stories, essays and reviews have appeared in The Barcelona Review, Archipelago, National Public Radio, Story South, Guernica, The Common, The Millions, and the LA Review of Books. Translations in English and Arabic have been published in: Nizwa, Banipal, Brooklyn Rail in Translation, World Literature Today and Washington Square Review with Mohamed Metwalli. Her bi-lingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories From Cairo, translated with Mohamed Metwalli, was published in July 2011 by AFAQ Publishing House, Cairo. A collection of short stories about expatriate life in Cairo, Shahrazad’s Tooth, was also published by AFAQ in 2013. Currently, she is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo.

Connect with Gretchen:

Website | Goodreads | American University Faculty Webpage


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

This book is a collection of short stories set in Cairo. While there is some intersection of the characters, for the most part, each story stands alone.

 

In these different narratives, author Gretchen McCullough has given us a glimpse of the city from the perspectives of American, British,  and Japanese ex-pats and locals alike. Each story shows the struggles of cultural differences while also delving into the individual struggles of the characters. Queenie is a costume designer with a rocky past. Joe is terminally ill. Keiko is certain she is hearing noises from the empty flat upstairs. Hoda is obsessed with her neighbor and his sexual escapades, using voyeurism as an escape from a depressing and distressing marriage and family.

 

A couple of the stories very specifically referenced the events of September 11, 2001 and how the mostly American ex-pats living in Egypt reacted – some became paranoid, others became news junkies. Similarly represented were responses to the protests in that county several years later.

 

Every story features dimensional, well-drawn characters, all of whom are supremely human and flawed. Author McCullough is a deft hand with description but also excelled with dialogue, making the background and history of each character very clear.

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While I appreciated this collection of stories for it’s homage to A Thousand and One Nights  and the incredible craft of the author, it was a challenging read for me because I found so many of the characters unlikeable that I just couldn’t relate to their stories very well. Still, good writing provokes a reaction, even if that reaction is to hope you never, ever, meet any of these people in real life.

 

Of all the stories, the one I found most fascinating was “The Charm” which depicts the deterioration of Dr. Sheri as seen by her cleaning woman, Zeinab. It’s a gradual spiraling out of control and a fantastic portrait of anxiety, paranoia, and other mental illness.

 

I also really appreciated “Tiger” about an American visiting “the Pyramids” after losing their job as a teaching assistant in Mississippi.

 

Overall, Shahrazad’s Gift is a collection of candid portrayals and gritty situations as well as an exploration of what it is to be “other.”

 

Goes well with: mint tea and honey cakes.


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Two winners receive paperbacks

One winner receives the eBook of Shahrazad’s Gift

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04/02/24 Rox Burkey Blog Excerpt
04/02/24 Hall Ways Blog Notable Quotables
04/03/24 StoreyBook Reviews Guest Post
04/03/24 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
04/04/24 Boys’ Mom Reads Review
04/05/24 Bibliotica Review
04/06/24 Rebecca R. Cahill, Author Author Interview
04/07/24 The Page Unbound Review
04/08/24 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
04/09/24 It’s Not All Gravy Excerpt
04/10/24 Carpe Diem Chronicles Review
04/11/24 The Real World According to Sam Review

 

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Review & Giveaway: The Desk from Hoboken, by ML Condike

BNR Desk from Hoboken

About the book, The Desk from Hoboken Cover The Desk from Hoboken

  • A Genealogy Mystery #1
  • Genre: Mystery / Women Sleuths / Forensic Genealogy
  • Publisher: Harbor Lane Books, LLC
  • Date of Publication: March 5, 2024
  • Number of Pages: 446 pages
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After a personal loss, forensic genealogist RaeJean Hunter accepts what she believes is a straightforward case to ease back into the game: a student at Connecticut College has found human remains on the school campus. The College hires RaeJean to confirm their tentative identification that it’s a woman named Mary Rogers, whose cause of death has never been determined.

 

Unfortunately, it becomes downright dangerous. Someone thwarts her investigation of the same case that inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt.” Still, she meets relatives, some helpful and others not, amid escalating threats. Using her skills, including DNA analysis, historical records research, genealogy mapping, and guidance from a mystical antique desk, she follows every clue.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the author, ML Condike Author Photo Condike

ML Condike’s novel, The Desk from Hoboken, is the first in a genealogy mystery three-book series.

She also has short stories published in five anthologies. ML Condike completed Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path in Dallas in 2019 and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime North Dallas, Granbury Writers’ Bloc, and Key West Writers Guild.

Connect with ML:

Website | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn/a> | Amazon | GoodReads | X (Twitter)


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

The Desk from Hoboken is fiction, but it has a similar feel to the James Burke show Connections, the one where he connects dots through history from conch shells to the creation of the Internet. The mystery in this first entry into ML Condike’s new series also connects dots – from exhumed remains to a Poe short story to backroom abortions in the early 20th century, and, yes, to an antique desk, using forensic genealogy as its main method.

 

RaeJean Hunter, said genealogist, and her husband Sam, an antiquities appraiser, are the sleuthing team at the heart of the story, and they’re a delightful couple. RaeJean is just getting back to work after a miscarriage that triggered severe depression, and she takes the case of identifying said remains thinking it will be easy – strawberries, as she puts it.

 

What unfolds is a compelling tale of intrigue – family secrets, cover-ups, a mysterious client, and a race to piece together all the clues before an obsessed relative of the deceased has them seized or destroyed. To keep things topical there’s also a subplot about human trafficking.

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I am not exaggerating when I say I devoured this novel. I loved RaeJean’s sensibility and no-nonsense attitude. I shared her love of simple food – a well-cooked burger and a cold beer. I really appreciated the little details author Condike included in the story – RaeJean’s original desk is a hollow-core door – I know sooooo many writers and academics who used the same sorts of things for years. (My own desk is a vintage library table – not much fancier.) I also enjoyed following the process of investigation and the need to find three primary sources.

 

The supporting cast – especially RaeJean’s sister Caitlin, her colleague Claire, and her friend Grace who works for the FBI – are all well drawn, and I’m hoping at least two of them show up in future books in this series. Worth mentioning is Sophie the corgi, who lit up the pages she was on.

 

The character of Lillian Baker, who looks a lot like Betty White, but has a conniving soul, made a brilliant foil and turned the “nice old lady” stereotype on its head.

 

Overall, I felt that the story was well-paced and the blend of the mystery with RaeJean’s emotional state was in balance. Her personal story added to the total experience of the novel, and lent color to the mystery, without ever overpowering it.

If you love a good mystery with undercurrents of real history and strong female characters, The Desk from Hoboken is the book for you.

 

Goes well with Chinese spareribs and won ton soup.


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1st: signed paperback + Corgi plush toy

2nd: signed paperback + $25 Amazon gift card

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03/19/24 Rainy Days with Amanda Review
03/19/24 Hall Ways Blog BONUS Stop
03/20/24 It’s Not All Gravy Review
03/20/24 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
03/21/24 StoreyBook Reviews Review
03/21/24 Boys’ Mom Reads Review
03/22/24 JennCaffeinated Review
03/22/24 Chapter Break Book Blog BONUS Stop
03/23/24 The Real World According to Sam Review
03/24/24 The Page Unbound Review
03/25/24 Rox Burkey Blog Review
03/26/24 Book Fidelity Review
03/26/24 The Book’s Delight Review
03/27/24 The Clueless Gent Review
03/27/24 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
03/28/24 Jennie Reads Review
03/28/24 Bibliotica Review

 

 

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Review & Giveaway: Amethyst, The Shallows, by Kellye Abernathy

BNR Amethyst, The Shallows PUBH

 

About the book, Amethyst, The Shallows

  • Genre: YA / Magical Realism / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Page Count: 296 pages
  • Publication Date: February 6, 2024
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

“This is a night for being brave.”

In the aftermath of a devastating sickness that shatters their close-knit beach town, six lonely kids are drawn together during the unpredictable autumn equinox. Among them are fourteen-year-old Lorelei, who yearns to be an oceanographer, and her peculiar younger brother, Tad, who possesses an otherworldly curiosity.

When Lorelei has a strange and almost deadly encounter in a sea cave, her loyal boyfriend, Casey, cannot reconcile her fantastical experience with the rational world. Condi, Lorelei’s best friend, understands ocean magic but isn’t free to share what she knows. Kait, a girl from Ireland, regrets her impulsive move to America–all because of an odd occurrence involving her deceased boyfriend’s lost surfboard. When tides turn and the moon shifts, Isaac, the new kid in town who despises the ocean, is forced to face the truth–a profound and powerful magic lives in the deep.

Guided by a wise surf master, mystical old women known as the Beachlings, and an open-hearted grandmother, six kids embark on transformative adventures that challenge their beliefs about possibilities and the intense nature of love.

Amethyst, the Shallows is the companion novel to The Aquamarine Surfboard.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop.org | Goodreads


About the author, Kellye Abernathy author photo Abernathy

Kellye Abernathy’s passions are writing and serving trauma survivors as a yoga teacher and practical life skills advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Kansas. Her home is in land-locked Plano, Texas—where she’s dreaming of her next trip to the sea!

Connect with Kellye:

Website | InstagramX (Twitter) | FacebookGoodreads | Amazon

 

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My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

This second book in the Yellow Cottage series opens with the coastal community of Dipitous Beach  still reeling in the aftermath of the Sickness, which felt very much like an analog for Covid, though it’s presented as something with mysterious origins.

 

Returning and new characters reflect what was like for young people during a statewide lockdown, maintaining friendships through digital communications, and suffering through the closure of beaches. It’s appropriate then, that the story begins on the day the beaches reopen.

 

This story continues from The Aquamarine Surfboard,  but the focus shifts somewhat. Condi, from the first book, is still present, but this story focuses on Lorelai, and also brings in her younger brother Tad, who is neurodivergent. His presence is just part of the way author Kellye Abernathy has addressed mental health issues, including anxiety and depression in this story – weaving them into the narrative as the very normal parts of life that they are, and doing so with grace and understanding.

 

Of course, surfing and the sea are still prominent in the story, and we not only get to spend more time with the Beachlings, a group of elderly women who live near (or on) the beach (I want to be one of them when I’m older), and an octopus who embodies wisdom.

 

As with the previous installment of this series, Abernathy blends fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism into a cohesive whole, leaving you with the scent of salt air and the feeling of having spent time in the water.

 

While this book is best appreciated if you’ve read the previous one, it also stands alone quite well. Overall, it’s an enchanting tale of friendship and community with other humans and the sea.

 

Goes well with: mahi tacos and pineapple-mango salsa.


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Review and Giveaway: Frowns and Gowns by Amanda M. Thrasher

BNR Frowns & Gowns

 

About the Book, Frowns and Gowns Frowns and Gowns

  • Series:  The Mischief Series, Book 5
  • Genre: Children’s Chapter Book / Fantasy / Fairies
  • Publisher: Progressive Rising Phoenix Press
  • Page Count: 236
  • Publication Date: September 12, 2023
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Embark on a Magical Adventure with Lilly, Boris, and Jack!

Get ready to join Lilly, Boris, and Jack on an unforgettable journey filled with excitement, laughter, and a touch of mayhem. Brace yourself for a whirlwind of mishaps as these three fairies plan a magnificent magical ball, only to encounter an unforeseen disaster! Experience the magic of friendship with Lilly, the quick-witted and resourceful fairy, Boris, the mischievous fairy with a heart of gold, and Jack, the troublemaker with a curious, adventurous spirit on their latest adventure.

Throughout, Lilly, Boris, and Jack teach the true meaning of friendship and teamwork. Together with their friends, they’ll overcome challenges, learn valuable lessons, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t miss out on this enchanting tale!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Progressive Rising Phoenix Press | AmazonApple iBooksB&N | GoodReads


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About the author, Amanda M. Thrasher Author Photo Thrasher

Award-winning author Amanda M. Thrasher was born in England and moved to Texas, where she lives with her family. She writes YA, general fiction, middle grade, early reader chapter, and picture books. She is the founder and CEO of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press.

Connect with Amanda:

Website | GoodReads | Instagram | FacebookAmazon | X (Twitter)


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My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

I don’t read a lot of children’s literature anymore, but as my role as Book Aunt (every family has one) has evolved into Book Great-Aunt, there’s a whole new generation of kids for me to gift with books.

 

Frowns and Gowns by Amanda Thrasher will definitely be one of those books.

 

It’s a whimsical tale of young fairies (fairlings) who are tasked with putting on their prom. Lilly, Boris, and Jack are the principal players, but their circle is rounded out by Rosie, Ivy, and Pearle, the latter of whom uses a wheelchair – er – chariot when she must move around on the ground.

 

While the preparations depicted in the book move between silliness – stinky moss bomb fights included – the whimsical happenings also include choosing the right gowns and picking the perfect foods.

 

What I loved about this story was that it was all about inclusion, but organically so, woven through the entire book as a core tenet, never an afterthought. I also appreciated the mischief made by the girl and boy fairlings alike, and I laughed out loud several times. (I aww-ed out loud at least twice, though.)

 

Overall, this was a madcap romp through the lives of young fairies, with great characters, lovely explorations into friendship,  and fantastic worldbuilding.

 

Goes well with popcorn and cotton candy… obviously.


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Review and Giveaway: Reap the Wind, by Joel Burcat

BNR Reap the Wind

 

About the book, Reap the Wind

  • Genre: Action-Adventure / Suspense / Climate Change / EcoThriller
  • Publisher: Milford House Press, an imprint of Sunbury Books, Inc.
  • Date of Publication: February 6, 2024
  • Number of Pages: 215 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Cover Reap the WindTHE PERFECT STORM meets THE FIRM.

 

Reap the Wind is a thrilling action/adventure novel that follows three lawyers as they embark on a treacherous journey from Houston to Cincinnati during a catastrophic hurricane. Josh Goldberg is on a mission to be with his girlfriend for the birth of their child. Along the way, they’ll face terrifying obstacles like tornadoes, hailstorms, and driving rain. But the real danger may come from within as they struggle to survive each other’s company. His two travel companions—his best friend, a drug-addicted lawyer, and his conniving boss who has her own agenda.

 

Don’t miss out on this unforgettable odyssey that might just be a suicide trip.

Praise for this book:

Reap the Wind is a bold, bracing and blisteringly original take on the legal thriller form. Joel Burcat has fashioned a seminal tale focusing on the nightmare of all road trips in which a storm raging outside the car is matched only by the storm raging within. Burcat dares to tread on the hallowed ground of John Grisham and Scott Turow and ends up blazing a fresh, daring literary tale of his own. Not to be missed!” —Jon Land, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Joel Burcat Author Photo Burcat

Joel Burcat is an award-winning author of three environmental legal thrillers: Drink to Every Beast (illegal dumping of toxic waste), Amid Rage (a coal mine permit battle), and Strange Fire (a fracking dispute). His most recent book, Reap the Wind, is about three lawyers trying to drive from Houston to Cincinnati in a climate change-induced hurricane.

 

He has received a number of awards, including the Gold Medal for environmental fiction from Readers’ Favorite for Strange Fire, and as a Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Amid Rage.  He has written numerous short stories. Burcat imbues his novels with facts to educate his readers about critical environmental issues while they are being entertained by the story.

 

Burcat’s books are infused with realism developed over a forty plus year career as an environmental lawyer.

Connect with Joel:

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My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

Joel Burcat’s new novel Reap the Wind is described as “The Perfect Storm meets The Firm,” and that’s accurate to a point, but I feel like it’s more a mixture of those two stories with a soupçon of No Exit. At only 215 pages, it’s a fast read, but a meaty one with thrills, spills, and chills of various intensities.

 

Told from the perspective of two main characters, Josh and Keisha, and engaged couple who are about to have a baby, this story quickly splits into parallel plots when Josh is delayed in Houston after a business trip, and Keisha has a medical emergency on her flight to Philadelphia.

 

Keisha’s story then becomes a medical tale – she’s injured, about to have a baby, and stuck in a hospital in Cincinnati (she had a layover there) where she has to confront her past and make choices about her future. Meanwhile, Josh conscripts his friend Greg to join him on a mad dash from Houston to Cincinnati so he can be there for Keisha. When their colleague Diane insinuates herself into their trip, which they make in a second-hand limousine – it becomes the worst road trio ever. And did I mention that there’s a major hurricane disrupting weather in the entire eastern third of the United States?

 

Josh and Keisha are both written as sympathetic, if flawed, characters, and I found myself rooting for a romantic comedy ending, even though this novel is more of a thriller with a lot of emotional undertones.

 

Greg, Diane, and Abdul (the limo driver) are all interesting, though clearly created to serve the narrative. I wasn’t terribly invested in either of their stories and felt like their purpose was more to be obstacles in Josh’s path than fully realized human beings. Despite this, the novel is richer for their presence. Without them, you’d just have a lonely guy driving through a storm.

 

The storm, Hurricane Epsilon, is a character in its own right, and author Burcat did a fantastic job of making it the villain and the catalyst without ever actually personifying it.  Yes, it felt at times like the weather was taunting all of these characters, but it was just the well-crafted perception the author created. Climate change and the government and corporate responses to it is also part of the connective tissue of this novel. Perhaps, then, Climate Change is the villain, and the hurricane is its henchman.

 

Overall, I felt this was an interesting novel. It starts off slow but ends up careening through plot points like a car fishtailing on a storm-drenched highway. It kept my attention, and I would definitely read more of Burcat’s work.

 

I was slightly disappointed that the scenes with the Weather Service hurricane hunter that bookended the novel were there only to demonstrate the capriciousness of weather and the danger of not heeding warnings – I would love to read an entire book about that crew.

 

Goes well with: Hot roast beef sandwiches and steak fries.


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Signed copy of REAP THE WIND

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03/05/24 Hall Ways Blog First Line
03/05/24 Librariel Book Adventures Review
03/06/24 Jan Sikes Blog Review
03/06/24 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
03/07/24 StoreyBook Reviews Review
03/08/24 Guatemala Paula Loves to Read Guest Post
03/08/24 It’s Not All Gravy Review
03/09/24 Bibliotica Review
03/10/24 Forgotten Winds Excerpt
03/11/24 Boys’ Mom Reads Review
03/11/24 The Page Unbound Excerpt
03/12/24 Chapter Break Book Blog Notable Quotables
03/13/24 The Real World According to Sam Review
03/13/24 Rebecca R. Cahill, Author Author Interview
03/14/24 The Clueless Gent Review
03/14/24 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review

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Review & Giveaway: To Rescue a Witch by Lisa A Traugott

BNR To Rescue a Witch PUBH

 

About the book, To Rescue a Witch COVER Traugott_RescueWitch_Ebook

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Action & Adventure / Witch Trials
  • Page Count: 398 pages
  • Publication Date: March 1, 2024
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It’s 1739. An abused girl accused of witchcraft must be defended by a man married to an actual witch.

William MacLeod, a fierce Scottish lawyer with a kind heart, takes on a daunting task—rescue young Annaliese from the clutches of her tormentors in the untamed wilds of Virginia colony and deliver her safely to her aristocratic father in London. But lurking in the shadows are enemies eager to expose MacLeod’s own wife, Fiona, as a witch with a dark secret.

Their perilous journey takes an unexpected turn when their ship wrecks, and Annaliese’s haunting nightmares and unexplained Devil Marks trigger suspicion among the crew. Tension peaks when MacLeod must become Annaliese’s unwavering protector in a witch trial, where Fiona’s clairvoyance and a murder are unveiled.

To Rescue a Witch navigates themes of betrayal and redemption, in a spellbinding narrative that blends history, magic, and the unyielding resilience of the human spirit.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the Author, Lisa A. Traugott author photo Traugott

Lisa A. Traugott is an award-winning author and World Championship public speaker semifinalist — who also spoke five lines on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She lives in Austin with her husband, two kids and English bulldog, Bruno.

Connect with Lisa:

Website | Blog | Instagram | FacebookAmazon | BookBub

 

 

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

Lisa A. Traugott’s new novel To Rescue a Witch is brilliant and powerful, telling the story of three different women (one is really a little girl) and one Scotsman in alternating points of view. It’s very much a portrait of the social strictures of the period – it’s set in 1739 – but it’s also, by turns, an action-adventure, a vigilante tale, a romance, a courtroom saga, and a redemption story. Add witchcraft, a shipwreck, and intense family drama to the mix, and this book has something for everyone.

At the center is William McLeod, a kindhearted lawyer who needs significant nudging from his wife, Fiona, in order to heed the better angels of his nature. Author Traugott has done a masterful job depicting him has a flawed human being who is sometimes too quick to act but is trying to curb his baser instincts.

Surrounding McLeod are three women, whose stories are told in alternating chapters. Fiona, McLeod’s wife is a devoted mother, a loving spouse, and an actual witch who makes protective charms and has portentous dreams. Lady Margaret is the epitome of a fairytale villainous queen translated to the real world of eighteenth century Scotland. And then there’s Annaliese. If McLeod is the central male figure of this novel, Fiery, feisty, nine-and-a-half-year-old Annaliese is the central female figure. Raised in filth and brutality by her stepfather, it’s really amazing that she’s alive at all, let alone serving as a protector to her younger half-brother. Like Fiona, she also has portentous dreams, but as a child doesn’t know how to filter what she shares.

While the novel has moments of lightness and humor, the opening chapters, especially, are brutal and visceral, with mentions of sexual abuse of children and violence toward children, women, and men.

Overall, To Rescue a Witch is a compelling story, with equal measures of explicit physical situations, poignant emotional scenes, and high-seas adventure, blended with a healthy dose of witch trials and the politics of the period. The characters are dimensional, each with their own failings and graces, and the dialogue is a rich blend of early American English, Scots English, and  British English.

It’s a worthy read, and one that is not soon forgotten.

Goes well with: baked salmon and mashed potatoes, followed by a healthy shot of whisky.

 


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Spotlight and Review: The Knotted Ring by Myra Hargrave McIlvain

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I’m thrilled to be spotlighting this book today. It looks like a moving story rich in history and character.

About the book, The Knotted Ring Cover The Knotted Ring

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Family Saga / Historical Romance
  • Publisher: Next Chapter
  • Page Count: 412
  • Publication Date: December 7, 2023
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Susannah Mobley, expecting a baby by her lover, a slave owned by her family, submits to an arranged marriage to Hezekiah James who is headed to Texas to claim a Spanish land grant. Caught in a series of lies about the origin of a beautiful ring woven from her red hair and the circumstances of her pregnancy, Susannah embarks on the harsh trip to Texas, grieving for her lost love and determined to control her destiny.

On the wagon train journey, Hezekiah is tested by his beliefs and strengths with his slaves and Native Americans, as well as a strange Mad Stone. His determination to build a plantation as fine as Susannah’s home place and to make the best decisions for Susannah fails. Susannah will have to decide if she can live with the consequences of her lies and open herself to this man who shows every form of contrition or if she will allow longing for what she cannot have to destroy her life.

The Knotted Ring is currently a semi-finalist in the Laramie Awards for Western and Americana Fiction.

Praise for this book:

“An often engrossing and well-handled story of the 19th century.” —Kirkus Reviews

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonAppleBookPeople | Barnes & NobleGoogleKobo | Goodreads


About the author, Myra Hargrave McIlvain Author Photo McIlvain

Myra Hargrave McIlvain, a sixth-generation Texan, is a storyteller who has written Texas historical markers (yes, real people write those things lining Texas highways), articles for newspapers and magazines such as Texas Highways, and six nonfiction books about famous and infamous Texas characters and places.

McIlvain found her real love when she wrote her first historical fiction. All her tales take place in Texas during major periods of its history. However, The Knotted Ring was inspired by an old family story, and in her search to understand what may have happened, she imagined their lives set in a time that she knew well––the establishment of the first Anglo colony.

McIlvain views history as the story of a people; the people she knows best have made Texas home.

Connect with Myra:

Website | FacebookX (Twitter) | Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

 

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My Thoughts MissMeliss - 2023

There are some books that you race through, and there are others that are better experienced as a slow simmer, taking time to truly savor the emotional truths and excellent research the author wrote into it. The Knotted Ring, by Myra Hargrave McIlvain is definitely one of the latter.

This story focuses on Susannah – her forbidden love, her struggle in the confines of a period in time where women didn’t have a lot of choice, and the trials and tribulations that come with life on the frontier. She’s a strong woman living in nearly impossible conditions, and I enjoyed meeting her, though I also felt for her situation.

This author is obviously highly skilled at her craft, because even though this novel abounds with lies and lawlessness and the hardship of a journey in less-than-ideal conditions, its heart is the often-strained, but still deep, relationship of a woman and man. The weaving in of Texas history felt organic and not overly expositional, and the plot moved at an acceptable pace.

Some novels are quick cups of soup – flavorful, but not necessarily sustaining. The Knotted Ring is a rich stew or Texas chili. Rich, hearty, and not without a little bit of bite in the form of social conventions and physical hardships. Ladle this novel into your reading bowl and immerse yourself in the storytelling. You won’t be sorry.

Goes well with: Chili made with brisket – no beans – and seasoned with “cowboy coffee.”


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Book Spotlight: Amethyst, The Shallows by Kellye Abernathy

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I’m so excited to be bringing you this spotlight for Amethyst, The Shallows, the companion novel to The Aquamarine Surfboard. I read the first book last summer, and fell in love with the writing, the imagery, and the characters, so I know this book will be just as charming and dynamic.

About the Book: Amethyst, the Shallows Cover Amethyst, The Shallows

(The Companion Novel to The Aquamarine Surfboard)

  • Genre: Young Adult / Magical Realism / Coming of Age
  • Published: Atmosphere Press, February 6, 2024
  • Pages: 296 pages

“This is a night for being brave.”

In the aftermath of a devastating sickness that shatters their close-knit beach town, six lonely kids are drawn together during the unpredictable autumn equinox. Among them are fourteen-year-old Lorelei, who yearns to be an oceanographer, and her peculiar younger brother, Tad, who possesses an otherworldly curiosity.

When Lorelei has a strange and almost deadly encounter in a sea cave, her loyal boyfriend, Casey, cannot reconcile her fantastical experience with the rational world. Condi, Lorelei’s best friend, understands ocean magic but isn’t free to share what she knows. Kait, a girl from Ireland, regrets her impulsive move to America-all because of an odd occurrence involving her deceased boyfriend’s lost surfboard. When tides turn and the moon shifts, Isaac, the new kid in town who despises the ocean, is forced to face the truth-a profound and powerful magic lives in the deep.

Guided by a wise surf master, mystical old women known as the Beachlings, and an open-hearted grandmother, six kids embark on transformative adventures that challenge their beliefs about possibilities and the intense nature of love.

Amethyst, The Shallows is the brand-new companion novel to The Aquamarine Surfboard.

Praise for this book:

Amethyst, The Shallows’ sensitive and potent prose stirs the reader, leaving a lasting impression. Although this novel is the second installment in a series, it stands strong independently, welcoming newcomers and returning readers alike.” Literary Titan

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop.org| Goodreads

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About the Author, Kellye Abernathy author photo Abernathy

Kellye Abernathy’s passions are writing and serving trauma survivors as a yoga teacher and practical life skills advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Kansas. Her home is in land-locked Plano, Texas—where she’s dreaming of her next trip to the sea!

Connect with Kellye:

Website | InstagramX (Twitter) | FacebookGoodreads | Amazon


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Cover Reveal and Pre-Order Opportunity: To Rescue a Witch by Lisa A. Traugott

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I’m so excited to be introducing the cover to Lisa A. Traugott’s forthcoming book, To Rescue a Witch,
which will be released on March 1 2024. It sounds like an excellent read, so don’t miss your chance to PREORDER THIS BOOK.

About the book, To Rescue a Witch COVER Tease To Rescue a Witch

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Action & Adventure / Fantasy
  • Published: Coming March 1, 2024
  • Scroll down for the cover reveal

It’s 1739. An abused girl accused of witchcraft must be defended by a man married to an actual witch.

William MacLeod, a fierce Scottish lawyer with a kind heart, takes on a daunting task—rescue young Annaliese from the clutches of her tormentors in the untamed wilds of Virginia colony and deliver her safely to her aristocratic father in London. But lurking in the shadows are enemies eager to expose MacLeod’s own wife, Fiona, as a witch with a dark secret.

Their perilous journey takes an unexpected turn when their ship wrecks, and Annaliese’s haunting nightmares and unexplained “Devil marks” trigger suspicion among the crew. Tension peaks when MacLeod must become Annaliese’s unwavering protector in a witch trial, where Fiona’s clairvoyance and a murder are unveiled.

To Rescue a Witch navigates themes of betrayal and redemption, in a spellbinding narrative that blends history, magic and the unyielding resilience of the human spirit.

Pre-Order this book:

CLICK TO PRE-ORDER

 


About the author, Lisa A. Traugott author photo Traugott

Lisa A. Traugott is an award-winning author and World Championship public speaker semifinalist — who also spoke five lines on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She lives in Austin with her husband, two kids and English bulldog, Bruno.

Connect with Lisa:

Website | Blog | Instagram | FacebookAmazon | BookBub

 


And Now, Here’s the Cover!

COVER Traugott_RescueWitch_Ebook


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