Review & Giveaway: Dire’s Club by Kimberly Packard

BNR Dire's Club

 

About the book Dire’s Club

  • Publisher: Abalos Publishing
  • Publication Date: March 23, 2021
  • Pages: 326 Pages
  • Categories: Action & Adventure / Contemporary / Women’s Fiction
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover Hi Res Dire's ClubDying isn’t just hard on the ones left behind, the regret of unfinished lives weighs heavily on the terminally ill. That’s where Dire’s Club steps in, a specialty travel agency that takes a small group of dying people on one final adventure-so they can be free of guilt, be more than a diagnosis, and find a way to confront life … and death.

Life Coach Charlotte Claybrooke built a successful second career guiding people out of grief, but the impending tenth anniversary of her own heart-wrenching tragedy sets her on a journey to find life among the dying.

Staring death in the face was Jimmy Dire’s business. He met it with a warm hug, a kind word, and a smile. Dire’s Club gave the terminally ill one final, bucket-list adventure before passing on, but dying was expensive. The bills, like Jimmy’s lies, were piling up. It’s only a matter of time before he’s forced to face a different type of death.

A rock god, a telenovela star, a grandmother living her life-long dream, and a young tech genius round out this group of strangers facing death together. But when tragedy strikes, their bond is shattered. Lies and fraud surface, forcing the dying to come together to save someone’s life.

Everybody dies. The lucky ones have fun doing it.

Buy, read and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Book Trailer

Dire’s Club trailer from Kimberly Walton on Vimeo.


About the author, Kimberly Packard

Author Pic PackardKimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. She began visiting her spot on the shelves at libraries and bookstores at a young age, gazing between the Os and the Qs. Kimberly received a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, and has worked in public relations and communications for nearly 20 years.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found rollerblading, doing a poor imitation of yoga or curled up with a book. She resides in North Texas with her husband Colby, a clever cat named Ollie and Tully, the precocious puppy.

Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors. Other published works by Kimberly include a Christmas novella, The Crazy Yates, and the sequels to Phoenix: Pardon Falls and Prospera Pass, and her stand-alone titles, Vortex and Dire’s Club. She was honored as one of the Top 10 Haute Young Authors by Southern Methodist University in 2019.

Connect with Kimberly:

Amazon | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter Goodreads Bookbub


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellGathering a group of diverse strangers to go on a journey together has been a literary conceit since Chaucer gave us The Canterbury Tales, and there’s a reason for that: it’s a setup that is extremely effective. Kimberly Packard latest novel Dire’s Club, uses a modern twist on that setup, but it does so in a way that is completely new, and results in a story that is fresh, compelling, and surprisingly thought provoking.

The idea of a a club for terminally ill adults to share in each other’s ultimate – and quite literal – “bucket list” item is a fascinating one, and perfect for our health-obsessed modern era. Like a cross between Fantasy Island and Make-a-Wish for adults, Jimmy Dire’s business  is to grant wishes to the terminally ill, and he fits that Mr. Roarke roll well: wealthy, connected, operating legally (mostly), he’s the perfect ringleader, arranging things, but never quite stealing the spotlight. Rather, the first “member” of this group that we meet is the central figure: Charlotte Claybrooke, life coach. Yes, the irony is real. Even more so: Dire has used Claybrooke’s work in his own business.

If Charlotte and Jimmy are the central figures, the other Diers (even the title of the group is a pun) are equally interesting: Levi, the aging rock star, Celeste, a grandmotherly type, Dylan who may or may not be over the proscribed minimum age of 21, and Lourdes, the Mexican telenovela star are all fully realized, though some of their stories are given a bit more depth than others. Truly though, any one of these people could easily be the protagonist in their own novel, and author Kimberly Packard has done her job well, because I want more, of this group, of this concept, of her words.

If all of this sounds a bit grim, especially as you go into this novel knowing that a significant amount of the cast will be dead at the end, fear not. Packard has included a lot of humor into her story. From gallows humor, to sarcasm, to simple organic life moments that make you chuckle, this book is an amazingly lighthearted read, despite the heavy subject.

And then there’s the language. I love it when I encounter language that hooks me, and Packard’s writing did that. The first line that struck me was from Lourdes: “I want to know what it feels like to be alone. To bask in the light of the weaker stars.”  That sentence struck me so hard that I actually texted it to a friend (who just bought the Kindle copy of the book, based on my gushing.)

There’s an old theatre adage, attributed in various forms to the late Edmund Gwenn:  “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” In Dire’s Club Kimberly Packard handles both with grace and aplomb.

Goes well with: Grilled sea bass, sauteed spinach and mushrooms, mashed potatoes with Gouda, and a glass of pinot noir, which actually pairs really well with fish.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS:
2 Winners: Autographed Paperbacks;
3 Winners: eBook copies

(US only. Ends midnight, CDT, 4/16/2021)

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4/6/21 Book Trailer Chapter Break Book Blog
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Spotlight: Stiff Lizard, by Lisa Haneberg

Stiff Lizard Book Blitz

 

About the book, Stiff Lizard

  • Series: A Spy Shop Mystery
  • Publisher: Written Pursuits Press
  • Pages: 364 pages
  • Pub Date: March 13th, 2021
  • Categories: Women Sleuths / Cozy Mystery / Private Investigator / Humor

Stiff Lizard CoverRodent Roger, a popular Galveston Island exterminator, goes missing the day after he tells private investigator and spy shop owner Xena Cali about a concerning uptick in green iguana sightings on the island. They’re crapping in people’s boats and falling from trees. Are the lizards swimming over from Florida to escape the pythons, or is it something more nefarious? Can Xena help untangle the mess before the raucous reptiles take over Galveston?

Ultima Penelope Roger is a best-selling writer of romance novels. The Lizard Liquidators have set up shop on Galveston Island. Herpetologist Quintana Flores, PhD, works on a bizarre cruise ship that sails out of the Port of Galveston. Sasha Barlow is a driven junior reporter who’ll do anything to get the story. Ned “The Pelican Man” Quinn writes a column about bird necropsies. Captain Ethan Slaughter is the head of the Major Crimes team at the Galveston Police Department. Xena and her team will have to partner with and/or battle this cast of characters and others to solve what becomes a disturbing murder investigation.

Stiff Lizard is the third full-length book in the Spy Shop Mystery series. If you like fast-paced crime novels, clever satire, and gritty beach towns, then you’ll love Lisa Haneberg’s humorous and contemporary cozy caper.

Praise for This Book:

“Lisa Haneberg has a wicked sense of humor. She can also write a fast-moving, totally original mystery.” — Alan Rinzler

Lisa Haneberg’s newest entry in the Spy Shop Mystery Series lives up to its predecessors. A good number of laughs, lots of intrigue, a bit of titillation, lots of interesting information, and lots of mystery make for a good read.” – Verified purchaser from Amazon

Buy, Read, and Discuss This Book:

Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

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About the author, Lisa Haneberg

Author Pic HanebergLisa Haneberg loves to explore Galveston Island’s gritty back streets, stellar seafood joints, magnificent natural areas, and all points in between. In addition to the Spy Shop Mysteries, she’s a blogger, and has authored over a dozen nonfiction books. She earned an MFA degree from Goddard College and a BS in Behavioral Sciences from the University of Maryland.

Before writing crime fiction, she was a seasoned human resources professional with a strange attraction to gnarly internal investigations. She lives with her husband and dog in Lexington, Kentucky. Lisa once owned a home on Galveston Island and is a frequent visitor.

Connect with Lisa:

FacebookBlog | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page

 

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Review & Giveaway: A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers by Babette Fraser Hale

BNR A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers

About the book, A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers

  • Publisher: Winedale Publishing
  • Pages: 216
  • Pub Date: March 1st, 2021
  • Categories: Short Stories / Literary Fiction
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover A Wall of Bright Dead feathersEach of the flawed, fully human characters we meet in these twelve stories faces a moment of life-altering transformation. Most are newcomers to the scenic, rolling countryside of central Texas whose charms they romanticize, even as the troubles they hoped to leave behind persist.

A young pianist struggles to keep her emotionally fragile boyfriend alive; a displaced New Yorker’s ambivalence with guns results in two fractured families; an oil man gambles on his estranged daughter’s integrity. The complicated history of this German-Czech region, where the stories are set, anchors the experience of two young artists who make a costly decision in 1862.

In graceful and precise, often lyrical, prose, Fraser Hale immerses us in lives whose superficial privilege provides no real protection against the unexpected.

* * *

When women are alone, unencumbered and unbeholden to anyone, they engage in intense internal reflection and show reverence for nature—and during these scenes, Hale’s language is luminescent (Kirkus Reviews).

Praise for this book:

“Hale shows a great respect for her characters and for the difficulty of their deceptively ordered existence, as well as for the problems they suffer because so much cannot be spoken.” — Francine Prose, on “Silences”

“A vivid set of tales about connection to other people and to the natural world…Hale’s lovely prose shows a keen eye for detail…” – Kirkus Reviews

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Brazos Bookstore | Winedale Publishing | Goodreads


About the author, Babette Fraser Hale

Author Pic G. HaleBabette Fraser Hale’s fiction has won the Meyerson Award from Southwest Review, a creative artist award from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston, and been recognized among the “other distinguished stories” in Best American Short Stories, 2015. Her story “Drouth” is part of the New York Public Library’s digital collection. Her nonfiction has appeared in Texas Monthly, Houston City, and the Houston Chronicle. She writes a personal essay column for the Fayette County Record.

Connect with Babette

Website | Facebook | Blog


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI love short stories. They really show off an author’s range and adaptability, and when they work, they sing in ways that novels don’t. This collection, A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers, sings in many ways.

Most obvious is the author’s use of language. Kirkus reviews calls it both “precise” and “lyrical” and those are words, I too, would use to describe Fraser Hale’s writing style. She doesn’t just give you text, she wraps her words around you like a cloak and lets you steep in them, experiencing different characters and scenarios.

In this collection, while there was no real connection between the different characters all of the stories included people who were new to Texas, and that choice let  Fraser Hale’s writing really shine, because she made Texas itself if not a character, certainly more than a setting, and just as the author’s dialogue was perfect for the various times depicted, so, too, was her vivid description, from the house in the very first story in this book, on through the rest of the tales.

What I appreciated about A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers is that while the stories varied in length, none felt over-long or too short. Some were deeper than others, some were lighter, most involved strong women facing problems, whether they solved them or not, and there is no wrong note in this symphony of stories. If I had to pick a favor, it would be the fourth story in the book – “Silences,” which juxtaposes a mother’s day-to-day life with a husband who isn’t that great, with her son who is adjusting to country life in less healthy ways than she’d like.  It opens with a description of  morning and “the hum and chortle of birds” and closes with an abrupt, horrific twist, and in between those two things is a perfect example of how seemingly mundane activities can be made fascinating by a writer with talent and skill.

Overall, this is a collection of short stories to savor, the kind that makes you want to fill a bathtub with bubbles, and bring a mug of tea or glass of wine into it with you, while you soak and read.

Goes well with: Black Forest ham, Havarti cheese, olives, and a glass of Topo Chico with lime.


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS each receive a signed bookplate

+ $20 Brazos Bookstore Gift Card to buy the book

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3/23/21 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
3/24/21 Review Book Bustle
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3/25/21 Author Interview Chapter Break Book Blog
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3/27/21 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
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3/30/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
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Spotlight: Aggravated, by Michael Sirois – with Giveaway

BNR Aggravated

 

About the book, Aggravated

  • Publisher: Truth Boots Publishing, LLC
  • Pages: 389 Pages
  • Pub Date: December 11th, 2020
  • Categories: True Crime / Criminal Procedural Law
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover AggravatedDescription: In 2006, the author’s brother, Steve Sirois, was sentenced to serve 35 years in a Texas prison for a horrendous crime, aggravated sexual assault of a child — a crime Steve swore he didn’t commit. After the conviction, Michael started helping Steve write his appeals, but what he saw in the trial transcripts made him question how a jury could have convicted his brother based on that testimony.

Steve’s accuser originally gave vague dates for the crime but soon abandoned those dates and even replaced the details of her claims with new ones. There was no forensic evidence, no DNA, no physical evidence of any kind: nothing but his accuser’s words. The author wondered if he could prove that her accusations were false. But how?

Using affidavits, court transcripts, and interviews, along with additional evidence from public information requests and other factual data, the book lays out a devastating portrait of an untruthful accuser, an overzealous prosecutor, a jury that made a deal to swap votes in order to gain a conviction, and the series of lies that led to that outcome.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads

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About the author, Michael Sirois

Author Pic SiroisMichael Sirois was reading by the age of four and was writing quirky short stories by the third grade. In high school he added acting to his bag of tricks. After graduating from the University of Houston, he taught writing, drama, and technology in the middle school trenches for two decades, but continued to act and write, placing well in competitions like the Writer’s Digest Short Story contest and the HBO Project Greenlight series. His first novel, The Jagged Man, was published in 2015, and a two-book series, If a Butterfly, is slated to be published in late-Spring 2021.

After running educational outreach programs at Rice University for seven years, he retired and lives with his wife, Minay, in Spring, Texas, where he is hard at work on a thriller, The Hawthorn’s Sting, and a mystery/thriller, Murder Between Friends, hoping to have a first draft of at least one of them by late-2021. Ideas for a few more are also floating around in that scary place called his brain. Stay tuned.

Connect with Michael:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page


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Review: All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone, by John J. Jacobson – Giveaway

BNR All the Cowboys Ain't Gone

 

About the book, All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone

  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • Pages: 352
  • Date of Publication: February 23, 2021Cover All the Cowboys Ain't Gone 1 0223
  • Categories: Historical Fiction / Action Adventure / Western
  • Scroll for the Giveaway!!

All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone is the rollicking adventure story of Lincoln Smith, a young Texan living at the beginning of the twentieth century, who thinks of himself as the last true cowboy. He longs for the days of the Old West, when men like his father, a famous Texas Ranger, lived by the chivalric code. Lincoln finds himself hopelessly out of time and place in the fast-changing United States of the new century. When he gets his heart broken by a sweetheart who doesn’t appreciate his anachronistic tendencies, he does what any sensible young romantic would do: he joins the French Foreign Legion. On his way to an ancient and exotic country at the edge of the Sahara, Lincoln encounters a number of curious characters and strange adventures, from a desert hermit who can slow up time to a battle with a crocodile cult that worships the god of death. He meets them all with his own charming brand of courage and resourcefulness.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Bookshop.org | Goodreads


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About the author, John J. Jacobson

John J. JacobsonThough John J. Jacobson didn’t join the French Foreign Legion after being jilted by a girlfriend, or over his displeasure of missing the last great cattle drive, he has, borrowing Churchill’s phrase, lived a rather variegated life. He was born in Nevada, grew up in the West, surfed big waves in Hawaii, circled the world thrice, survived the sixties and seventies, corporate America, and grad school. Among other degrees he has an MA in Renaissance literature from Claremont Graduate University.

Connect with John:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads / BookBub


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI don’t read a lot of westerns but the description of All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone really hooked me, so I asked to review it, and wow! What a fantastic adventure this book is!

Protagonist Lincoln Smith is introduced to us as a young man with a vivid imagination, and a dislike of trains. In fact the first time we meet him, he’s “attacking” one with his pint-sized bow and arrows. Very quickly, we see that while be may balk (as many children and teens do) at being in formal school sessions – run by his mother – he’s inquisitive, intelligent, and interested in the world around him, albeit a version of the world that is already disappearing when the novel opens in 1888.

What follows are a series of adventures that pit Lincoln against the ever changing American – and world – culture and technology, as well as his own dreams and desires. From the open spaces of his native Texas to the exotic locales seen after he really does join the Foreign Legion, Lincoln’s real antagonist is himself, and that story is fascinating.

What I loved about this novel was the language. I could hear the accents in Lincoln’s speech and his mother’s corrections of his phrasing. “Dern” may not technically be cussing, as he points out in an early scene, but his mother doesn’t want him using it anyway. Those organic conversations are universal – what parent hasn’t had such a chat with their child? – and for me they really “sold” this story, grounding it in emotional truth.

Author Jacobson has a knack for vivid description, as well, and I never had a problem visualizing  any setting.

At times funny, poignant, hopeful, and somewhat resigned, All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone makes you wistful for a period in American history long since past, but one that still lingers in the shadows of our imaginations, where we can still slap on a Stetson hat, climb onto an (imaginary for most of us) horse, and keep the modern world from encroaching too far, too quickly.

Goes well with: a bottle of sarsaparilla and leftover brisket in a sandwich.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS each receive a print copy of

All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone.

(US Only. Ends midnight, CDT, March 19, 2021.)

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3/9/21 Review Book Bustle
3/9/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
3/9/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
3/10/21 Review The Clueless Gent
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Spotlight on: Knock Knock by Douglas Thompson – with Giveaway

Knock Knock

 

About the book, Knock! Knock! Lessons Learned and Stories Shared

  • Categories: Nonfiction / Motivational Stories / Positivity/ Relationship Building / Integrity / Time Management / Entrepreneurship
    Publisher: Lucid House Publishing
    Date of Publication: January 8, 2021
  • Pages: 154
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover Knock KnockKnock! Knock! is a fast-paced, fun-filled journey through the author’s career in sales that not only teaches you how to be better at selling but to also have a ton of fun while you are doing it.

Knock! Knock! invites you to join Doug on what salespeople call “a ride along,” which is where a senior salesperson shows a newbie the ropes. This book delivers a winning sales philosophy learned through years of experience and is illustrated by real-life stories that Doug shares — along with multiple Knock-Knock Moments (or lessons and revelations learned) that have fueled his career and that he believes will help yours.

Every one of us is in Sales. If you deal with people, you are in sales. Knock! Knock! teaches you how to get out of your Comfort Zone to believe in yourself and to believe in the product, services, or message you are trying to sell. But it also teaches you to have a great time while you are doing it.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Main Street Reads | GoodReads


Knock Knock

About the author, Douglas Thompson

Douglas ThompsonDouglas Thompson’s passion for improving the customer’s experience as well as the sales profession continues to drive him as he comes up with new ideas to answer this question: How can we make the sales process better? Starting out as an insurance agent going down the street selling accident insurance by knocking on doors, Doug quickly moved into the management side of the life and health insurance industry, hiring and training agents to be successful doing the same. His ability to build successful sales teams caught the eye of the corporate leadership of several major companies. Doug became the vice president of sales and marketing for Conseco and was recruited to do the same for Pacificare, UnitedHealthcare, American Republic, Tranzact, and Humana.

Currently, he is the marketing director for a large national insurance wholesaler that recruits and trains insurance agents and agencies in the senior marketplace across the country, and he continues to build his own general agency, which offers life and health products to the senior population. He is known nationally for his innovations in the sales industry and frequently speaks and trains on his favorite topic of sales.

Doug and his wife Shirley own a Bed & Breakfast in Jefferson Texas.

Connect with Douglas:

Facebook | Website | Goodreads


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ONE WINNER receives an autographed copy

+ Knock! Knock! coffee cup.

US only. Ends midnight, CST, 3/11/2021.

 

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Review: Alfie Carter, by BJ Mayo – with Giveaway

BNR Alfie Carter

 

About the book, Alfie Carter

  • Published by Skyhorse Publishing
  • Pages: 288
  • Published: January 19th, 2021
  • Categories: Southern Fiction / Rural Fiction / Mystery
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Alfie Carter med resThe seemingly never-ending Cabinda War (1975—) has left multitudes dead in its wake and thousands of children homeless and orphaned.

Jackaleena N’denga, a young Angolan girl, has become the sole survivor of one specifically brutal village massacre carried out by a band of guerrilla boy-soldiers.

Jackaleena’s resilience leads her to an orphanage on the west coast of Africa, known as Benguela by the Sea, where she and other children are taken in and protected. Her brilliant mind and endless questions capture the heart of her mentor, Margaret, who ensures her that her survival thus far—especially being the survivor from her village—must mean she has big things ahead of her. When the opportunity arises, she must find her purpose.

Not without a plan, Jackaleena stows away on a mercy ship that has made its yearly visit to the orphanage and is now preparing to return to America. Her journey takes her across the ocean, into the arms of New York City’s customs officials, and finally into placement in a temporary foster home in Texas.

Enter Alfie Carter—a workaholic, small-town detective who is also battling memories of his past. His life is forever changed when he meets a young African girl looking for her higher purpose.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Skyhorse Publishing | Goodreads


About the author, BJ Mayo

BJ MayoBJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. He spent the first few years of his life living in a company field camp twenty-five miles from the closest town. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola West Africa. He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years with two grown children. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.

Connect with BJ:

Website


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAlfie Carter is one of those novels that should be on everyone’s reading list, because it’s such a well-crafted, compelling story. Actually, it’s two stories that become entangled at the end of the book, but even though Jackaleena’s story begins in Africa and involves some horrific scenes of the type typically only seen in 30-second clips on CNN, and Alfie’s begins with him climbing a mountain to spend some time camping in order to get out of his own head, the themes are the same: identity, purpose, and faith.

As we open, both characters are adults. Jackaleena is an attorney known for her toughness. Alfie is a gritty detective. But the narrative very quickly goes back in time to give us the history of these two powerful characters, and author BJ Mayo handles the time changes and perspective changes with a deft hand. Interestingly, he chose not to begin the novel from the title character’s point of view. Readers don’t encounter him until slightly later. But the reality is that it might be Alfie Carter’s name in the title, but this story really has dual leads.

What I loved about this book was the specific use of language. When Jackaleena is a child in Africa, her thought processes and speech are young, and even though there’s no written dialect, it’s obvious that this isn’t a kid whose first language is English. The rhythm and cadence of her words is different than it is years later when she has largely assimilated into American culture.

Similarly, Alfie Carter feels exactly the way one expects a lifelong Texan to be – I felt like I could hear a rough voice with a slight drawl even when what I was reading were his thoughts and observations.

At times a difficult read, especially because of Jackaleena’s childhood experiences (though Alfie is certainly no stranger to rough times), this novel is one that is grounded in the individual faith of both main characters. It’s never preachy, and there are moments of humor to break up the serious nature of the main story, but that faith, and each characters relationship with it, helps drive the story and should not be overlooked as an integral element of the novel.

Overall, Alfie Carter is the kind of novel that sticks with you long after you’ve finished it, and makes you think about your own reactions, beliefs, and assumptions.

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


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THREE WINNERS each receive an

autographed copy of ALFIE CARTER.

US only. Ends midnight, CST, March 5, 2021.

 

 

 

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2/23/21 BONUS Promo All the Ups and Downs
2/23/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
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2/25/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
2/25/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
2/26/21 Review Jennie Reads
2/26/21 Review Jennifer Silverwood
2/27/21 Review Bibliotica
2/28/21 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
3/1/21 Review Book Fidelity
3/1/21 Review That’s What She’s Reading
3/2/21 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
3/3/21 Review Forgotten Winds
3/3/21 Review Librariel Book Adventures
3/4/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
3/4/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen

 

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Review: Comfort Foods, by Kimberly Fish – with Giveaway

BNR Comfort Foods

About the book, Comfort FoodsCover Comfort Foods

  • Series: Comfort Stories – but this is a Standalone Novel
  • Categories: Contemporary / Second Chance Romance
  • Publisher: Fish Tales Publishing
  • Date of Publication: October 7, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 385 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

From the award-winning author of Comfort Plans and Comfort Songs comes a story of two rising stars blitzed by social media. Lacy Cavanaugh and single-dad Rudy Delgardo live a hundred miles apart but meet in the worst possible way. Working at a weekly paper and creating social media for area businesses helps Lacy connect with locals who open her mind to a perspective beyond Instagram. In launching a food-and-wine festival to support Comfort’s new event center, she discovers surprising skills bubbling over, much like the food she’s attempting to cook.

Rudy, on the brink of his restaurant’s takeover, struggles to improve time management so he can create a better relationship with his daughter. Distracted by Lacy and her invitation to the festival, he’s tempted by her beauty, wit, and courage, but as a chef, he rarely gets to enjoy life outside the kitchen. Enemies, illness, and exes add unwelcome spice to the dish they’re concocting—one that will teeter with misunderstanding until the very end.

Will Lacy and Rudy embrace their second chances and discover the perfect seasonings of family, resilience, and grace to create a handwritten recipe of love that will stand the test of time?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Kimberly Fish About the author, Kimberly Fish

Author Kimberly Fish resides in Longview, Texas, and enjoys writing contemporary fiction set in the Hill Country. During the seven years she lived in San Antonio, wandering in and around Comfort, Texas, provided endless space for her imagination to develop stories of women discovering their grit. She studied the small Texas town that had seemingly dug its heels into the limestone and refused modern development and thought that was fertile ground for stories about women remodeling their lives. It made a juxtaposition of place and purpose that was hard to ignore. Plus, anything that takes intentional effort has a much higher value than the things that come easily—Comfort personifies this, and the novels remind readers that anything worth having is worth the work.

Comfort Foods is the third full-length novel in the set, Fiction from the Texas Hill Country, and follows behind the award-winning novels Comfort Plans and Comfort Songs. A novella, Emeralds Mark the Spot, is available as a free eBook download to subscribers of the incredibly sporadic newsletter at kimberlyfish.com and is the original story from which all other Comfort novels grew.

Connect with Kimberly:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Kimberly Fish is one of those authors you can trust to always tell a great story. She writes realistic, interesting characters, who feel like people you’d want to know (with a few exceptions who are still vividly drawn, but so annoying you hope they walk off a cliff – I’m looking at you, Amy Marsh). The fact that she can create such a visceral reaction to antagonist who exists mostly in references made by the protagonist is proof of her craft. Ms. Fish is an amazing writer.

Fish’s latest novel, Comfort Foods is an amazing book.

At 385 pages, this novel is a meaty, satisfying story that is as much about reinventing yourself as it is about finding love at different stages of your life. Protagonist Lacy Cavanaugh is a former singer and social influencer who has been put in tech jail after using her powers to expose the truth about the afore-mentioned Amy Marsh. leaves the bright lights of Dallas for the Texas Hill Country town of Comfort, where her sister raises goats and makes cheese, and her friend runs a lavender farm. If that sounds more like a vacation than a punishment, than you, like me, will love this book.

Lacy comes off as a bit self-entitled at first, but I quickly grew to find her charming. She’s pretty, funny, smart, and a loyal friend, and though she’s forbidden from posting to her own social media accounts, is happy to help her sister and friends maximize their exposure. She’s the kind of woman who does a lot of things well, and just hasn’t settled into a really productive and positive niche. Even though I’m a couple of decades older than Lacy, I really identified with that aspect of her personality. (I sometimes joke that I’m a professional dilettante.)

Lacy may be the central character, but the other people we meet, in Comfort and a hundred miles away in Austin, are equally compelling. Rudy Delgardo, a successful chef and divorced father to a precious little girl named Luna, is dynamic. His conflict over his responsibilities to his job and to his child are totally plausible – things every working parent must work through. It’s no surprise when he’s reluctant to enter into a relationship.

But Lacy and Rudy aren’t the only paring in this novel. Fish gave us two fantastic characters in Frank, owner of the local paper and Lacy’s boss/mentor and Gloria, Frank’s ex-wife, who is also Lacy’s landlady and  mother-figure (because every woman needs a mother, no matter her age – and I love that Kimberly Fish understands that.) Watching the combination of tenderness and pricklyness between the two is both funny and endearing – I’d happily read a whole novel based on just them.

Kale, AJ (the lavender farmer), and their spouses round out the regulars in Comfort, and each one is a perfect voice in the chorus that is this novel.

And then there is Comfort itself. This fictional Texas town is as much a setting as a character, and after reading two of Fish’s previous books set there, it’s a town I wish I could visit in real life and not just in the pages of a novel.

Overall, Comfort Foods is a wonderful slice of life story with just enough romance to keep things interesting, but without being overpowering. It has scenes with great food. It has moments of perfect sunsets over fields of lavender. It is the perfect book for these January days when we are past the holidays, stuck in the winter doldrums, and overwhelmed by the realities of the Pandemic and politics.

Kimberly Fish is an author who always hits the right notes with her stories. In Comfort Foods those notes are herbs and spices instead of chords, but they still harmonize beautifully.

Goes well with a burger made on a backyard grill, homemade French fries, and a cold “Dublin” Dr. Pepper (the kind made with real sugar and sold in glass bottles


Giveaway

ONE WINNER 

GRANDPRIZE (US only):

Signed copy of COMFORT FOODS +

Ina Garten’s MODERN COMFORT FOOD

Ends Midnight, CST, January 22, 2021

Comfort Foods Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 


Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

or visit the Lone Star Literary Life tour page

1/12/21 Guest Post Hall Ways Blog
1/12/21 Review Sydney Young, Stories
1/13/21 Excerpt Forgotten Winds
1/14/21 Review Jennie Reads
1/14/21 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
1/15/21 Review The Clueless Gent
1/16/21 Review Jennifer Silverwood
1/17/21 Guest Post All the Ups and Downs
1/18/21 Review Momma on the Rocks
1/18/21 Character Interview StoreyBook Reviews
1/19/21 Review Book Bustle
1/19/21 Guest Post That’s What She’s Reading
1/20/21 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
1/21/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
1/21/21 Review Bibliotica

 

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Review: The Black-Marketer’s Daughter, by Suman Mallick

BNR Black-Marketer's Daughter

 

About the book, The Black-Marketer’s Daughter

  • Category: Contemporary / Literary Fiction / Multicultural
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Date of Publication: October 13, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 166 pages

Cover Black-Marketer's Daughter, TheZuleikha arrives in the US from Lahore, Pakistan, by marriage, having trained as a pianist without ever owning a real piano. Now she finally has one-a wedding present from her husband-but nevertheless finds it difficult to get used to her new role of a suburban middle-class housewife who has an abundance of time to play it.

Haunted by the imaginary worlds of the confiscated contraband books and movies that her father trafficked in to pay for her education and her dowry, and unable to reconcile them with the expectations of the real world of her present, she ends up as the central figure in a scandal that catapults her into the public eye and plays out in equal measures in the local news and in backroom deliberations, all fueled by winds of anti-Muslim hysteria.

The Black-Marketer’s Daughter was a finalist for the Disquiet Open Borders Book Prize, and praised by the jury as a “complicated and compelling story” of our times, with two key cornerstones of the novel being the unsympathetic voice with which Mallick, almost objectively, relays catastrophic and deeply emotional events, and the unsparing eye with which he illuminates the different angles and conflicting interests at work in a complex situation. The cumulative effects, while deliberately unsettling to readers, nevertheless keeps them glued to the pages out of sheer curiosity about what will happen next.

Praise for this book:

  • “Mallick offers an impressively realistic depiction of a woman caught between tradition, family, and her own sense of empowerment.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
  • “The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is a key-hole look at a few things: a mismatched marriage, the plight of immigrants in the U.S., the emotional toll of culture shock, and the brutal way Muslim women are treated, especially by men within their own community. Titling it—defining the heroine by her relationship to a man rather than as a woman in her own right—suggests how deeply ingrained that inequality can be.” ~ IndieReader Reviews 
  • “The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is the portrait of a woman who endures violence, intimidation, xenophobia and grief, and yet refuses to be called a victim. In this slender novel, Suman Mallick deftly navigates the funhouse maze of immigrant life in contemporary America—around each corner the possibility of a delight, a terror, or a distorted reflection of oneself.” ~ Matthew Valentine, Winner, Montana Prize for Fiction; Lecturer, University of Texas at Austin

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

 


Author Pic MallickAbout the author, Suman Mallick

Suman Mallick received his MFA from Portland State University and is the assistant managing editor of the quarterly literary magazine Under the Gum Tree. He lives in Texas.

Connect with Suman:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | AMAZON | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSuman Mallick’s debut novel The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is more than just a story. It’s a sonata that unfolds one movement at a time, in lyrical language that compels, frustrates, infuriates, and finally delights the reader. It’s a portrait of the culture-within-a-culture of Muslim Pakistani immigrants to the United States, and specifically North Texas (where I also live) that exposes the harsh reality of assimilating into American society, of being a modern immigrant, and, yes, of the status of women in general, and abused women in particular. It’s also a celebration of diversity, of identity, and of personal strength and growth.

And all that in less than two hundred pages!

Zuleikha, our heroine, is a musician and a dreamer. She wants love, and wants to be in love. At one point, she even explains to someone that the books and DVDs her father sold on the black market to fund her piano lessons and her dowry taught her to fall in love with the idea of falling in love. It is her point of view through which this story unfolds, and that view is rich and complex. She’s intellectually curious, but has never really bothered to expose herself to current affairs, choosing the focus on the arts section of newspapers.

Iskander, her husband via an arranged marriage is not a villain, though parts of this story attempt to paint him as one, but is reserved, stoic to the point where I felt like I was reading about some of my husband’s midwestern relatives who are much the same. For the first half of the novel, he is simply there. An unremarkable presence in the life of a woman who is meant to be remarkable, and clearly a poor match for Zuleikha.

Mallick’s tale isn’t one of happy families, though. Rather it’s about what we do when we are desperate for love, and cannot find it. He writes about the darker events in this novel with the same craft he used to describe music, motorcycles, and a Ferris wheel ride at the state fair. There is only one violent scene, and it’s written so that you cannot look away, but must bear witness, because it represents many, many violent scenes that happen outside the pages of novels.

What I loved about this book was the language. Mallick’s writing is music The high points sing in lofty trills and glorious crescendos. The heavier moments thud like the bass notes on a piano keyboard, dark and thunderous, but still gripping. Even the parts of the story that were dark and disturbing were so carefully phrased that I couldn’t skip through them, but had to drink in every delicious word.

I also appreciated that Mallick didn’t pause his narrative to explain Muslim or Pakistani terms for white readers. Articles of clothing, items of food – these were referred to as Zuleikha and Iskander would have grown up calling them, and that made the story more real. He trusted us to either figure things out from context or look them up. It takes a confident author to trust his readers to meet him where he stands.

If I had one problem with this novel it was only that it was relatively short. 166 pages may have completed the story, but I wanted more.

If you want a novel that you can read in a day, but may also choose to savor, with dynamic characters and amazing language, read The Black-Marketer’s Daughter. You will be richer for the experience.

Goes well with: chicken biryani, lamb kebabs, and Murree’s classic lager.


Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

(or check out the Lone Star Literary Life tour page for direct links to each post.)

1/6/21 Promo Hall Ways Blog
1/7/21 Review The Clueless Gent
1/7/21 Guest Post Momma on the Rocks
1/8/21 Review Forgotten Winds
1/8/21 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
1/9/21 Review Bibliotica
1/10/21 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
1/11/21 Author Interview That’s What She’s Reading
1/11/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
1/12/21 Playlist Chapter Break Book Blog
1/13/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
1/13/21 Scrapbook Page The Page Unbound
1/14/21 Author Interview KayBee’s Book Shelf
1/15/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
1/15/21 Review Missus Gonzo

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Cover Reveal: River, Sing Out, by James Wade

BNR River, Sing Out Blitz

About the book, River Sing Out

  • Categories: Contemporary / Literary Fiction
  • Rural Fiction / Crime Fiction / Coming-of-Age
  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • Date of Publication: June 8, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 315 pages

Cover Hi Res River, Sing Out_rectangle“And through these ages untold, the river did act as the lifeblood of all those things alongside it.

Jonah Hargrove is celebrating his thirteenth birthday by avoiding his abusive father, when a girl named River stumbles into his yard, injured and alone. The teenager has stolen thousands of dollars’ worth of meth from her murderous, drug-dealing boyfriend, but lost it somewhere in the Neches River bottoms during her escape. Jonah agrees to help her find and sell the drugs so she can flee East Texas.

Chasing after them is John Curtis, a local drug kingpin and dog fighter, as well as River’s boyfriend, the dangerous Dakota Cade.

Each person is keeping secrets from the others—deadly secrets that will be exposed in violent fashion as all are forced to come to terms with their choices, their circumstances, and their own definition of God.

With a colorful cast of supporting characters and an unflinching violence juxtaposed against lyrical prose, River, Sing Out dives deep into the sinister world of the East Texas river bottoms, where oppressive poverty is pitted against the need to believe in something greater than the self.

Pre-order this book:

Blackstone Publishing | AmazonBooks-a-Million |Indie Bound | Downpour | Hudson Booksellers

Watch the trailer for this book:

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River, Sing Out – Book Trailer from AV FILMS on Vimeo.


About the author, James Wade

James WadeJames Wade lives and writes in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Jordan. 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 | Blog | Facebook | YouTube | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

Connect with Blackstone Publishing:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 


Cover Hi Res River, Sing Out_rectangle


VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE 

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