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

THE BLACK-MARKETER’S DAUGHTER
by
Suman Mallick
Category: Contemporary / Literary Fiction / Multicultural
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Date of Publication: October 13, 2020
Number of Pages: 166 pages

Zuleikha 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.

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PRAISE FOR THE BLACK-MARKETER’S DAUGHTER

“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

Review

The Black-Marketer’s Daughter by Suman Mallick is the type of book that surprised me in every good way imaginable. I purposefully do not read other reviews or blurbs on books that I intend to review so that my viewpoint is entirely my own. It is only after I read the last page and sat for several minutes absorbing the story and my feelings about it that I allowed myself to know more about the book and its author. I was shocked to find out that Mallick was a man.

I know that sounds sexist or something but hear me out. In most books written by men from the perspective of a woman, the woman is usually excessively female in some way. She’s too emotional, too into her looks; name it, she’s got it. But Zuleikha is this beautifully balanced woman who is aware of her surroundings and her previous misconceptions, and makes the most of her situation. Perhaps because of her upbringing with access to “radical” literature and films, she is not your picture perfect Pakistani bride and is unapologetic about it too.

Because the scandal is not mentioned on the back cover, I will not mention it here either. But I want to praise Mallick’s ability to write about difficult situations in a way that is descriptive yet not gratuitous. His writing style is equal parts wonder and wearied, much like the protagonist. Mallick is able to introduce the magic of seeing a place for the first time in one chapter, and then clinically document the life of a housewife in another.

As a pianist myself, I enjoyed every bit of the narrative that discussed instruments, music theory, and the process of becoming a music teacher. Because the cover features a simple drawing of a piano, it made me ponder the symbolism of it. The piano is Zuleikha’s dream, first love, and comforter in the beginning. It is instrumental in the scandal and clearly becomes her path to redemption and the life she wants in the end.

Holding this slim book in my hand, I really do marvel at the depths that were reached. The emotional weight of this book made it read like a tome. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to open their eyes to the immigration experience and to the strength of a woman who comes from a culture that does not celebrate individuality and independence. This might be controversial to say, but if you have never seen the parallels between Christian and Muslim beliefs, this book will definitely bridge that gap.

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.

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1/6/21

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1/7/21

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1/7/21

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Forgotten
Winds

1/8/21

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All the Ups and Downs

1/9/21

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It’s Not All Gravy

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Review & Giveaway: House of the Rising Sun by Richard Cox

HOUSE OF
THE RISING SUN
by
Richard Cox
Category: Techno Thriller / Science Fiction / Adventure
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Date of Publication: July 27, 2020
Number of Pages: 408 pages
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Both a frightening apocalyptic story set in the southern United States and a character-focused, deeply moving literary thriller.

What would happen if technology all over the world suddenly stopped working?

When a strange new star appears in the sky, human life instantly grinds to a halt. Across the world, anything and everything electronic stops working completely.

At first, the event seems like a bizarre miracle to Seth Black–it interrupts his suicide attempt and erases gambling debt that threatened to destroy his family. But when Seth and his wife, Natalie, realize the electricity isn’t coming back on, that their food supplies won’t last, they begin to wonder how they and their two sons will survive.

Meanwhile, screenwriter Thomas Phillips–an old friend of Natalie’s–has just picked up Skylar Stover, star of his new movie, at the airport when his phone goes dead and planes begin to fall from the sky.

Thomas has just completed a script about a similar electromagnetic event that ended the world. Now, he’s one of the few who recognizes what’s happening and where it will lead.

When Thomas and Skylar decide to rescue Natalie and Seth, the unwilling group must attempt to survive together as the world falls apart. They try to hide in Thomas’s home and avoid desperate neighbors, but fear they’ll soon be roaming the streets with starving refugees and angry vigilantes intent on forming new governments. It’s all they can do to hold on to each other and their humanity.

Yet all the while, unbeknownst to them, Aiden Christopher–a bitter and malignant man leveraging a crumbling society to live out his darkest, most amoral fantasies–is fighting to survive as well. And he’s on a collision course with Thomas, Skylar, and the Black family…

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Review

House of the Rising Sun by Richard Cox is the type of book that reminds you of what the world could really be like and encourages you to examine your priorities. On the surface, this post-apocalyptic book isn’t that different from others in its genre. However, the idea that people would go so far as to blame a screenwriter because he wrote a movie that eerily resembled the current situation is just too delicious. The spectrum of paranoia in this novel is interesting to flip through. And much like The Walking Dead, you come to realize that the biggest threat is also your salvation.

In the world that Cox has built, the end is brought on by a supernova. And unlike a zombie apocalypse where civilization slowly grinds to a halt, the aftermath is instantaneous. With every device that relies on a microchip dead, there are only so many modern conveniences left functioning. While millennials are not the only ones running around like chickens with their heads cut off, it does seem like the majority of the characters who are either prepared or have adapted pretty quickly are Boomers and Gen Xers. Pretty much, if you remember how the world functioned without computers, you are okay.


Cox’s characterization of the different types of people is dead on. This skill not only drives us through riveting tales that eventually intersect, but it makes you wonder which camp you would fall into. What choices you would make. When he shifts the point of view, it is obvious and the thoughts and actions of each narrator feel very authentic. Cox delves into the ugly side of humanity without being gratuitous about it. I am not squeamish about violence and sex in books, but I always appreciate when authors leave some things to the imagination. That being said, this is a book about the end times, so there are some scenes that are reader discretion advised.


I found the pace to be perfect in the beginning, but somewhere near the end it felt a little rushed. My right hand held about 20 pages when I realized in distress that the author was trying to wrap things up. I hope that Cox has a sequel planned because I would devour it in a day like I did with this book.


I think that House of the Rising Sun offers an interesting premise and even more interesting characters. I believe that it could be made into a film and hold its own very well. There will always be comparisons to other post-apocalyptic books, films, or shows, but I really do think that this story is different enough to come out on top.

Richard Cox was born in Odessa, Texas and now lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His newest novel is House of the Rising Sun. Richard has also published The Boys of Summer, Thomas World, The God Particle, and Rift. He’s written for This Land Press, Oklahoma Magazine, and TheNervousBreakdown.com.
When he’s not writing or reading, Richard loves spending time with his wife and two girls. And hitting bombs.
He also wrote this bio in third person as if writing about someone else. George likes his chicken spicy!
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1st: Signed copies of House of the Rising Sun & The Boys of Summer;
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Jennie Reads

1/11/21

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Reading by Moonlight

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Blitz: River, Sing Out by James Wade

RIVER, SING OUT

BY
JAMES WADE
Categories: Contemporary / Literary Fiction
Rural Fiction / Crime Fiction / Coming-of-Age
Date of Publication: June 8, 2021
Number of Pages: 315 pages
“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.

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James 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.

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Review & Giveaway: Cleo Can Tie a Bow by Sybrina Durant

CLEO CAN TIE A BOW
A Rabbit and Fox Story
by
Sybrina Durant
Category: Children’s Activity Book / Picture Book
Date of Publication: September 25, 2020
Number of Pages: 39 pages
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Cleo loves bows. She wears her hair in a bow and decorates her room with bows. Cleo is bow crazy. Learning to tie a bow is very difficult for some people but Cleo remembers how to do it from a cute story she once heard. It is about a little rabbit with very long ears and a very helpful fox who shows her what to do to keep them clean. This is the story of how Cleo learns to tie a “bunny ear” bow. Exercises in manual dexterity build self-esteem in children. Knowing how to tie shoestrings, scarves and more into a bow is a useful and rewarding skill. Teach a child a useful skill. Build confidence and self-esteem that lasts a lifetime. Other books in the Learn To Tie With The Rabbit and the Fox series are the book with that name in English, Spanish, and Tagalog plus Nellie Knows How To Knot A Neck Scarf and Ned Knows How To Knot A Necktie.
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Review
I have enjoyed reading children’s literature long before I became a mother, but I am especially excited when I find a book that I can share with my elementary school-aged child. At 8 years old, he might be a little outside the intended audience for this story, but he gave me his full attention nonetheless. Also, since he hasn’t worn shoes with laces for almost a year now, he’s completely forgotten how to tie a bow, so this book couldn’t have come at a better time.
The illustrations are soothing to look at and the style is quite unique. The color palette is lovely and the drawings are so cute that my little boy paid close attention to the story. He even surprised me by pointing out some things that ended up being mentioned a page or two later! Given the amount of pink and bows splashed across the pages, I was amazed that he never scoffed at me and said something like, “This book is for girls!” Instead, he would make observations like, “Oh look, she has bows there too,” or “Butterflies kinda look like bows, huh?” Like me, I think he enjoyed the conversational tone that Durant writes with, instead of the wooden style that many children’s authors use when limiting their vocabulary choice.
Our story time was enjoyable until the kiddo couldn’t master tying a bow using the book’s instructions. To be fair, his method of choice is a modified bunny ears method that we learned on YouTube. Speaking of bunny ears, I think that using the rabbit and the fox method (also known as the loop, swoop, and pull method) was an odd choice when the bunny ears method is a quite popular (and arguably easier method) with this age group. I also thought it was a little confusing that if the fox never intended to harm the rabbit, why did he aggressively track him for three pages and then lick his lips right before speaking to him?
Overall, we both found the book very enjoyable to read and it will take a prime spot on our children’s bookshelf at home. This is a great book for that preschool- or kindergarten-aged child in your life.

Sybrina Durant is the author of some fanciful and some factual books. Her writings have inspired several online entrepreneurial ventures. Two of those are the Rabbit and Fox Bookstore and the Girls Love Bows Gift Shop. Spend some time browsing both for some interesting and surprising gift ideas for yourself and others.

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Hardcover Autographed Book, $25 Amazon Gift Card,
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12/8/2020 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
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12/10/2020 Review Forgotten Winds
12/11/2020 Review Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
12/12/2020 Top Ten StoreyBook Reviews
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Review & Giveaway: Once Upon a Mail Order Bride by Linda Broday

ONCE UPON A MAIL ORDER BRIDE
Outlaw Mail Order Brides, #4
by
Linda Broday

Categories: Western / Historical Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date of Publication: November 24, 2020
Number of Pages: 352 pages
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Accused of crimes he didn’t commit, ex-preacher Ridge Steele is forced to give up everything he knew and make his home with outlaws. Desperate for someone to confide in, he strikes up correspondence with mail-order bride Adeline Jancy, finding in her the open heart he’s been searching for. Upon her arrival, Ridge discovers Addie only communicates through the written word, but he knows a little of what trauma can do to a person and vows to stand by her side.

Addie is eager to start a new life with the kind ex-preacher and the little boy she’s stolen away from her father―a zealot priest of a terrorized flock. As her small family settles into life at Hope’s Crossing, she even begins to find the voice, and confidence, she’d lost so long ago.

But danger is not far behind, and her father will not be denied. While Addie desperately fights the man who destroyed her childhood, a determined Ridge races to the rescue. The star-crossed lovers will need more than prayers to survive this final challenge…and find their way back to each other again.

PRAISE FOR ONCE UPON A MAIL ORDER BRIDE:

“An awesome culmination to a great western romance series!”
~ Fresh Fiction 
“Broday concludes the Outlaw Mail Order Bride series with a sizzling finale that features a tantalizingly slow build to intimate trust that catapults into adrenaline packed ardor.”  ~Booklist
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Review

I have lost count of how many Linda Broday books that I have had the privilege of reading, but I can say that Once Upon a Mail Order Bride is one of my favorites by the author. Broday is one of those writers who consistently delivers interesting characters, heartfelt romances, and exciting conflicts. You may have read other romances that have a similar premise of outlaws building a new life away from other civilized towns, but I can guarantee that you have not read a love story like Ridge and Addie’s.

From the beginning, I was caught up in the mystery of Addie’s incarceration and her inability to speak. When Luke Legend comes to escort her to safety upon her release from a three-year sentence, I got a little giddy at the prospect of being reunited with some beloved characters from her other books. After a heart pounding encounter with the men sent to kill her, I was a little surprised that our main characters’ meet-cute happens early on, although the situation is quite nasty and not cute at all.

Broday is kind enough to not torment the reader too long with the question of whether Ridge or Addie remembers the other when they meet again. It makes for a nice moment of each gaining more respect for the other and helps break down the uneasiness that obviously comes with marrying a stranger. Although they were pen pals for a good while, Addie knew that some men would want to present themselves in a more positive light and Ridge acknowledged that everyone had secrets. But having met in literal cover of darkness in an evil situation, they knew what the other was made of and the kind of human beings that they truly are.

But Ridge and Addy are not the only people to show their mettle and kindness in the face of impossible odds. The people of Hope’s Crossing are truly remarkable in their ability to look beyond the past and throw their hearts into building a future for all. It was nice to see what was going on with characters from prior books and to learn more about a few of their backstories. You don’t have to read the other books to enjoy this one, but I have a feeling that you will go back for the others once you see how deep and well written this little book is.

I think that any western fan (man or woman) would really enjoy this book. Also, historical fiction fans would probably be inspired to do some research on outlaw towns and mail order brides after reading this one. I’m sad that this series has come to an end, but I take heart in the fact that I have about 10 other books by Broday that I need to catch up on. Also, with the crossover between the different series, I have a feeling that I can count on reading more about my favorite characters.

I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty historical western romance novels and short stories. I reside in the Texas Panhandle on land the American Indian and early cowboys once roamed, and at times if the breeze is just right, I can hear their voices whispering in the wind. Texas’s rich history is one reason I set all my stories here where cowboys still remain caretakers of the land. I’m inspired every day by their immense dedication and love for the wide-open spaces. I combine those men with the love of family in all my stories and hope to continue to give readers books that entertain and fulfill.
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Full Autographed Set of the Mail Order Bride Series 
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Autographed copy of Once Upon a Mail Order Bride 
4TH PRIZE: $10 Amazon Gift Card 
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12/1/2020 Book Trailer StoreyBook Reviews
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12/2/2020 Excerpt Forgotten Winds
12/3/2020 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
12/4/2020 Review Momma on the Rocks
12/5/2020 Character Interview All the Ups and Downs
12/6/2020 Excerpt The Clueless Gent
12/7/2020 Review Missus Gonzo
12/8/2020 Guest Post The Page Unbound
12/9/2020 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
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Blitz: The Cowyboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas

The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas

by

Jodi Thomas,

Sharla Lovelace, and Scarlett Dunn

Genre: Romance / Adventure / Anthology
Publisher: Kensington Books
Date of Publication: October 27, 2020
Number of Pages: 336 pages
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The Lone Star State doesn’t have to be lonely during Christmas time!

Legendary author Jodi Thomas headlines a new holiday-themed Western historical romance collection featuring three Texas-set stories of romance and adventure.
The Civil War is over, Christmas is coming—and it’s time for three rugged cowboys to hang-up their spurs and settle down. These authors combine their talents and excel at creating atmosphere and complex characters which infuse these stories with Texas history and evoke the grandeur of a bygone era and the indomitable pioneer spirit of the region.
Prepare to be swept off your feet by these heroic cowboys who will stop at nothing to make sure this Christmas is one to remember. Ideal for gift giving, The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas will be the fan-favorite collection of romance for the 2020 Christmas season!

PRAISE FOR THE COWBOY WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS:

“FATHER GOOSE is a warm, entertaining story, with Trapper and Emery starting with nothing, yet finding love and hoping for a future.” — Rose from Roses Are Blue

“It was a pitch-perfect reading experience that left my heart bursting with joy. This story has become an instant classic in my holiday reading canon.” — PJ Ausdenmore from The Romance Dish
“I love an anthology at this busy time of the year because I can read a complete story in a short time–this book hit the mark.”
Mary from Bookfan
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Jodi Thomas is a New York Times bestselling author and fifth-generation Texan who sets many of her award-winning stories in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A multi-RITA Award winner and member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame, she’s written over 50 novels with millions of copies in print. Her most recent releases are The Little Tea Shop on Main and the first book in her new Honey Creek series, Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café, which is out now.

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Review & Giveaway: Mia and Nattie by Marlene M. Bell

Mia and Nattie: 

One Great Team!

by
Marlene M. Bell
Genre: Children’s Picture Book (K-3rd Grade) / Farm Animals
Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing
Date of Publication: October 4, 2020
Number of Pages: 34 pages
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Nattie’s mouth was a little crooked. Her legs were a bit shorter than usual, and one horn was too straight, like a unicorn’s horn.

But Mia thought Nattie was perfect.

On a visit to her grandma’s farm, eight-year-old Mia discovers a newborn, orphaned lamb outside in the cold and takes her to the laundry room, naming her Nattie. As she tries to nurse the lamb back to health, Mia discovers that Nattie is different from the other lambs and struggles to fit in with them like Mia does with other kids her age.

When her grandmother says she will sell Nattie to a neighbor, Mia must come up with a plan to keep her friend around — one that will show the family just how special Nattie truly is.

  
Review

Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! by Marlene M. Bell is a cute story with adorable illustrations by Grace Sandford. If you were to judge this book by its cover, your assessment would probably be correct. This is a quality hardcover children’s book with crisp lines, bright colors, and beautiful binding. (I would love to buy the endpapers as wrapping paper or in journal form.)

The fact that this story is based on true life makes it even more charming. There is nothing more heartwarming than a story of a child creating a bond with an innocent creature. The story of Mia and Nattie is like a viral video from The Dodo where a kind human sees past an animal’s imperfections and sees the beautiful spirit within.

When I read this book to my 7-year-old, the plot and the cute pictures immediately pulled him in. He asked why Nattie was alone and couldn’t fathom why the grandmother didn’t want to keep the little lamb inside the house. He really liked how Nattie’s short and straight little horn made her look like a unicorn. He was worried about her wellbeing but was very happy with the ending, as was I.

Unlike other children’s books, this one goes beyond looking pretty and teaches valuable lessons without patronizing kids. Bell’s writing style is clean and conveyed nicely by way of font choice and page layout. I think that the recommended audience of kindergarten through third grade is spot on. I recommend this book to anyone with children in their lives. In a school or childcare setting, this book is a great lesson on embracing differences and deserves a prime spot on every bookshelf.

MARLENE M. BELL is an award-winning writer, artist, and crazy sheep lady who resides in beautiful East Texas. Her renown sheep photographs grace the covers of many livestock magazines where she also writes newsy articles about raising sheep from her hands-on experience.

Based on true events from the Bell’s ranch, Marlene offers the first of her children’s picture books, Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! It’s a touching story of compassion and love between a little girl and her lamb. Marlene is also the author of the award-winning Annalisse international mystery series, with the third book, Calico Raven to be released in 2021.

Marlene shares her life with her husband and dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep: a large Maremma guard dog named Tia, and cats, Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks. The cats believe they rule the household—and do.

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GRANDPRIZE (US only):
Signed copy of Mia and Nattie, Nattie Plush, Nattie Mousepad, and a Nattie pendant
2ND PRIZE (US only): Signed copy of Mia and Nattie
3RD PRIZE (US only): Signed copy of Mia and Nattie
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11/17/2020 Review Forgotten Winds
11/17/2020 Sneak Peek The Clueless Gent
11/17/2020 Review Momma on the Rocks
11/18/2020 Review Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
11/18/2020 Top 5 List All the Ups and Downs
11/18/2020 Review Missus Gonzo
11/19/2020 Review Book Bustle
11/19/2020 Excerpt Max Knight
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11/20/2020 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
11/20/2020 Character Interview Sybrina’s Book Blog
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Review & Giveaway: Araceli’s Path by Marion Surles

ARACELI’S PATH

Among Angels
and Devils in Juarez
by
MARION SURLES
Genre: Realistic Fiction / Border Stories / Mature Middle Grade
Date of Publication: November 30, 2019
Number of Pages: 145
Scroll down for the giveaway!
Araceli comes from a blended, dysfunctional family held together by the love of a grandmother. Rubí is being raised by a single mother who works as a prostitute. Both young girls are affected not only by their mothers’ choices but also by the violence and culture of Juarez, Mexico.
Can they overcome the cards they have been dealt, or are they destined to follow the same paths as their mothers?
Follow the lives of Araceli and Rubí from childhood to young adulthood and listen for children everywhere who are voiceless, trapped in their own cultures.
Proceeds benefit Love and Literacy
ENGLISH
SPANISH

Review

Araceli’s Path by Marion Surles is an eye opening account of life in Juarez, Mexico. While the story focuses on the plight of two young girls with mothers who neither protect nor prepare them for their cruel world, it also sheds light on the men who are often the product of their environment. With both genders, Surles shows examples of succumbing to nature and rising above. I also felt it supports the notion that family is often what you make, not what you are born into.

For a book targeted to mature middle school readers, I think that Surles does a great job of handling graphic situations honestly but tastefully at the same time. Aimed at an age when independence and sexual discovery are at the forefront, this book opens up the opportunity for dialogue about human responsibilities such as consent and obligations to one’s self, family, and community.

For a reader whose life resembles that of any of the characters within these pages, I believe that this book can provide hope that things can get better. For all other readers, I hope that this book will inspire them to find ways of helping others. While Araceli’s Path is free of any grammatical or spelling errors, I think that it could have benefited from stylistic editing to help the story flow better. I also think that the cover and page designs do not do the story justice.

I hope that Surles continues to chronicle the lives of people across the border. Perhaps she could write from the perspective of boys and men who have had to make hard choices such as leaving their families or morals behind in order to survive.

I recommend this book to teachers who equip their classrooms with stories that broaden their students’ worldviews, to librarians whose shelves are bold enough to house a book that sheds light on the dark side of humanity, and to individuals who have heard the call to action but need that last nudge of encouragement to help their fellow man.

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

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

———————–
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TWO WINNERS: Autographed copies of Araceli’s Path and Grit in
Juarez
(choice of English or Spanish), Day of the Dead shopping bag &
plate, Mexican coin purse, Mexican candy.
NOVEMBER 5-15, 2020
FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY.
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11/5/20

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11/5/20

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Hall Ways Blog

11/6/20

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Reading
by Moonlight

11/7/20

Excerpt

Chapter
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11/8/20

Top Ten

It’s Not All Gravy

11/9/20

Review

StoreyBook Reviews

11/10/20

Guest Post

All the Ups and Downs

11/11/20

Review

Forgotten
Winds

11/12/20

Author Interview

Bibliotica

11/13/20

Review

The Clueless Gent

11/14/20

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Review & Giveaway: The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano

THE LOVE NOTE
by
Joanna Davidson Politano
Genre: Christian / Historical Fiction / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Number of Pages: 400
 
 Scroll down for the giveaway!
 
 

Focused on a career in medicine and not on romance, Willa Duvall is thrown slightly off course during the summer of 1859 when she discovers a never-opened love letter in a crack of her old writing desk. Compelled to find the passionate soul who penned it and the person who never received it, she takes a job as a nurse at the seaside estate of Crestwicke Manor.

Everyone at Crestwicke has feelingsmostly negative onesabout the man who wrote the letter, but he seems to have disappeared. With plenty of enticing clues but few answers, Willa’s search becomes even more complicated when she misplaces the letter and it passes from person to person in the house, each finding a thrilling or disheartening message in its words.

Laced with mysteries large and small, this romantic Victorian-era tale of love lost, love deferred, and love found is sure to delight.

 
 
CLICK TO PURCHASE

Review

The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano is the second book that I have read from this authoress. Much like Lady Jayne Disappears, this book has a lovely cover with an even lovelier story inside. From these two books alone, I gather that Politano loves 19th century literature and she is fully immersed in the period and culture when she writes.

Politano’s wonderful turn of phrase and complex characters place her on the same shelf as beloved authors such as Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. No one is exactly as they seem, and the sequence of events, I believe, will both please and bewilder readers. Personally, I like a good balance of strong, independent women who allow themselves to be vulnerable at times, allowing men the chance to feel like knights in shining armor at pivotal moments.

While classified as a Christian novel, I felt like this book did not preach at you. Sure, there’s a Bible quote or two, but I almost attribute that more to the time period than the author pushing a religious agenda. So if you’re on the fence about this book because of the label, I hope that I have convinced you to pick it up anyway.

I don’t know about you, but the first comparison that came to mind when I read the blurb was the movie Letters to Juliet. If you’ve seen that movie and enjoyed it, I think you will love this book even more so. Why? Because Willa Duvall is a more interesting character and just has this strength about her that you can’t help but admire. Because Politano has woven two different stories together that deftly wrap themselves around you, making it difficult to put the book down. Because the level of secrecy and the stakes are so high in this book, it is a thrill and a relief to reach the summit and just take it all in.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the journey to self-discovery and the winding, confusing path to true love. I look forward to reading more by this author.

 
Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears and A Rumored Fortune. She loves tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone’s story.
She lives with her husband and their two kids in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan. You can find her at www.jdpstories.com.
 
 
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ONE WINNER: Copy of The Love Note + $25 B&N Gift
Card + Pack of 50 Love Notes Cards.
OCTOBER 27-NOVEMBER 6, 2020 
(US ONLY)
 
 
 
FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY, 
or visit the blogs directly:
 

10/27/20

Book Trailer

Hall
Ways Blog

10/27/20

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Jennifer Silverwood

10/28/20

Character Interview

Reading by Moonlight

10/29/20

Review

Rainy
Days with Amanda

10/30/20

Top Five

Story
Schmoozing Book Reviews

10/30/20

Review

Carpe
Diem Chronicles

10/31/20

Excerpt 1

All
the Ups and Downs

11/1/20

Excerpt 2

Book Bustle

11/2/20

Author Interview

The
Adventures of a Travelers Wife

11/2/20

Review

The Clueless Gent

11/3/20

Guest Post

Max Knight

11/4/20

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Chapter Break Book Blog

11/4/20

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Missus Gonzo

11/5/20

Review

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11/5/20

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Strong from the Heart by Jon Land

Strong from the Heart

(Caitlin Strong #11)

by
Jon Land
Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
Publisher: Forge Books
Date of Publication: July 28, 2020
Number of Pages: 368 pages
Scroll down for Giveaway!
Caitlin Strong wages her own personal war on drugs against the true power behind the illicit opioid trade in Strong from the Heart, the blistering and relentless 11th installment in Jon Land’s award-winning series.
The drug crisis hits home for fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters nearly dies from an opioid overdose. On top of that, she’s dealing with the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night.
When Caitlin realizes that these two pursuits are intrinsically connected, she finds herself following a trail that will take her to the truth behind the crisis that claimed 75,000 lives last year. Just in time, since the same force that has taken over the opiate trade has even more deadly intentions in mind, specifically the murder of tens of millions in pursuit of their even more nefarious goals.
The power base she’s up against―comprised of politicians and Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors―has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they’ve never had to deal with the likes of Caitlin Strong before and have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.
At the root of the conspiracy lies a cabal nestled within the highest corridors of power that’s determined to destroy all threats posed to them. Caitlin and Cort Wesley may have finally met their match, finding themselves isolated and ostracized with nowhere to turn, even as they strive to remain strong from the heart.

PRAISE FOR STRONG FROM THE HEART:

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

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

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

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

Top Nine

JON LAND’S TOP 9 BEST DRUG-CENTRIC MOVIES AND TV SHOWS

STRONG FROM THE HEART follows Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong as she wages her own personal war on drugs and fights to bring down the true power behind the opioid crisis. With its pending publication in mind, I wanted to revisit some of the best, most noteworthy, and iconic treatments of the drug world across the spectrum of film, books and television. What I found in making this list was the overriding theme that you don’t have to be an addict to have your life dominated and destroyed by drugs. Guess it all comes down to the great line from the Glen Frey song “Smuggler’s Blues”: It’s the lure of easy money, It’s gotta very strong appeal.

BREAKING BAD: In addition to being the best scripted series in television history, watching Walter White go from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde right before our eyes was one of the greatest transformations on any size screen that becomes a metaphor for the dangerous allure of drugs in general. His rise to a crystal meth manufacturer alternately being controlled by, and controlling, forces of the Mexican cartels was a wonder to behold from its first episode to the very last. The fact that the focus was on character more than drugs made that plot point even more effective.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION: William Friedkin’s masterful treatment of Robin Moore’s book deservedly won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Gene Hackman’s portrayal of Popeye Doyle. Inspired by the very real exploits of two New York City narcotics detectives who follow a chance encounter to the biggest drug bust in the nation’s history at the time, the film is remembered most for a car chase that distracts from the gritty brilliance of Doyle’s dogged pursuit of a drug distribution network that spans the entire globe. But in the end, he fails to get his man as the kingpin behind it all escapes, focusing hard and fast on the fact that money is power.

TRAFFIC: Steven Soderbergh’s gritty, grainy pseudo-documentary tells a series of interconnected tales linked by drugs and brilliantly toplined by Michael Douglas as the nation’s drug czar who learns his own daughter is a heroin addict. Soderbergh presents us with the drug world from every conceivable angle, stressing the hopelessness and futility of the War on Drugs we’re still fighting, and losing, twenty years after its release. A sobering indictment of both the hypocrisy and glad-handing that continue to fuel the drug world, including the pharmaceutical companies whose opioid products have killed hundreds of thousands.

BETTER CALL SAUL: This television prequel to Breaking Bad sets Jimmy McGill (aka Saul Goodman) on the same road Walter White took in his descent to hell. It’s much more cartel-centric than its better realized cousin, setting the drug war against characters at war with themselves. The high-end dealers themselves—from the Mephistophelian Gus Fring, to Tuco, to Hector and Lalo Saltamanca—steal every scene that Jonathan Banks’ Mike Ehrmantraut isn’t in. Their charisma is exceeded only by their ruthlessness and relentless pursuit of the power drugs can bring them, even as everything’s for sale including their own souls.

SICARIO: The thriller takes us murderously over the Mexican border to follow a clandestine operation to take down the Mexican drug trade through any means necessary, which essentially means the good guys trading in their white hats for black ones. Emily Blunt as an idealistic FBI agent learning how the world really works becomes our eyes into a world we not only can’t understand, we don’t want to. But it’s Benicio Del Toro, playing a man horribly wronged by the cartel unleashed to extract revenge, who steals the show as the film’s immoral center which is what it takes to survive in an immoral world. Such moral ambiguity encapsulates the drug world at its very heart.

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS: The laugh-out-loud, screwball antics of Seth Rogen and James Franco aside, this is the film that introduced us to weed culture on a mass level well before legalization was in the cards. The scenes of a massive grow operation presaged business as usual in Colorado today and, perhaps, the entire country before much longer. While played for laughs, the film lays waste to the notion of marijuana as a harmless drug, at least in terms of the multi-billion-dollar industry it was long before states started collecting taxes on it. Even though played for laughs, this film became a harbinger for the gradual legalization of marijuana nationwide and the abdication of long-held policy in favor of profit.

BLOW: Johnny Depp was never better than in his role as George Jung who, along with Pablo Escobar, helped fuel the cocaine boom of the 70’s and 80’s. The 2001 film preceded Breaking Bad by seven years in setting a character down the path of his own personal self-destruction. But it also serves as a brilliant exploration into the incredible money and power that was behind the Colombian cartels who pushed coke into the willing noses of millions of Americans and made thousands of dealers, both small and large, rich. The best of the lot when it comes to establishing drugs as a business, before American pharmaceutical companies mastered that effort.

MIAMI VICE: A show that changed television, and pop culture, forever kept us glued to our televisions every Friday night at nine o’clock for years. Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas play vice cops looking to snuff out drug-fueled crime in Miami, only to find more continually sprouting up like weeds. Centered around the glitz and glamour of an era fed by cocaine, the show was like a color-rich, psychedelic mind trip that created a lifestyle

of clothes and music perfect for the times and never to be repeated, pitting our stalwart undercover cops against master drug lords like Calderone and the Riviera brothers. Miami Vice taught us that in the drug wars you can just as easily win by losing, as lose by winning. And no matter how many drug dealers you put behind bars, there’s a long line waiting to replace them.

WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN: Based on Dog Soldiers, the late Robert Stone’s epic take on post-Vietnam America follows small-time drug dealers using tricks of the trade gleaned from Saigon in a world they’re clearly not ready for. Their business practices runs them afoul of major players in the drug world, metaphorically laying to rest the tangerine dreams of the hippy counter-culture. Made into the far less striking film Who’ll Stop the Rain starring Nick Nolte, Dog Soldiers introduced us to drugs as big business, putting an end to the Age of Aquarius forever. It was also one of the first treatments of the drug world that show the staggering costs it extracts on good people gone bad.

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

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