Review & Giveaway: Alfie Carter by BJ Mayo

BNR Alfie Carter

ALFIE CARTER
by
BJ Mayo
 
Published by Skyhorse Publishing
Pages: 288
Published: January 19th, 2021
Categories: Southern Fiction / Rural Fiction / Mystery
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Cover Alfie Carter med res

The 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.

Purchase: Skyhorse Publishing

Review

Alfie Carter by BJ Mayo is a book that cannot be judged by its cover. Don’t get me wrong, the cover is quite beautiful, as is the heart of the story. But that does not begin to touch the darkness contained within its pages and the resilience of the characters to overcome it. If you were to pick this book up with the intent of reading a fluffy, inspirational novel, you would be rocked to your core.

The premise of the book is very interesting and, to be completely honest, had so much going on that I felt like this story should have been broken up into two, if not three, separate books. When we begin with the stoic Jackaleena breaking down over the brutal attack on a young girl, we know that we are about to hear a horrific story. For anyone who has kept up with the news in Africa, the crimes against humanity, especially women and young girls, is not a secret. Mayo’s ability to write from the perspective of this brave young girl is believable with its seemingly contradicting qualities of awareness and innocence. His treatment of the violence is handled with honesty and as much sensitivity as an author can use to describe such evil.

When we switch gears to follow around the Alfie character, you get to understand why the book is named after him. I imagine that the people in his town, and even his own wife, sometimes think that there’s not much complication to the man. But, thankfully, we the readers are privy to his innermost thoughts and feelings. A quick glance at Mayo’s biography has me thinking that Alfie most likely was not based on himself, but his familiarity with the character has me believe that he knows someone like Alfie in real life. The character is too complex and too visceral to not be based on a real person, even just a little bit.

I think the story could have hit even harder with some good editing, both on the line edit level and the overall shaping of the novel. Certain scenes just ran too long in my opinion, and the synopsis of the book misleads you into thinking that there is more interaction between Alfie and Jackaleena than we actually get to see. To be fair, it sounds like the sequel will definitely provide more of those details, but I was setup to believe that they would be revealed in this book, not the next. Also, with the amount of God and Christianity talk, I think that this book should have been labeled as a Christian novel.

I recommend this book to people who are interested in reading about a place very different from where most of us reside, but who are not squeamish about violence. This book makes you think about the things and the people you might take for granted. I look forward to reading more about these characters. Four stars for an uplifting story of hope and making new beginnings.

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author pic Mayo

BJ 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.
Visit BJ Mayo at his website: https://bjmayo.com/

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Review & Giveaway: At Close Range by Leesa Ross

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AT CLOSE RANGE: A MEMOIR
OF TRAGEDY AND ADVOCACY
By Leesa Ross
 
Categories: Nonfiction / Memoir / Personal Transformation / Advocacy
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Pages: 192
Publication Date: April 15, 2020

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Leesa Ross did not expect to write a book. Neither did she expect the tragedy that her family endured, a horrific and sudden death that led her to write At Close Range. Her debut memoir is the story of what happened after her son Jon died in a freak gun accident at a party. Ross unsparingly shares the complexities of grief as it ripples through the generations of her family, then chronicles how the loss of Jon has sparked a new life for her as a prominent advocate for gun safety.  Before the accident, Ross never had a motivation to consider the role that guns played in her life. Now, she revisits ways in which guns became a part of everyday life for her three sons and their friends.

Ross’s attitude towards guns is thorny. She has collectors and hunters in her family. To balance her advocacy, she joined both Moms Demand Action and the NRA. Through At Close Range, the national conversation about gun control plays out in one family’s catalyzing moment and its aftermath. However, At Close Range ultimately shows one mother’s effort to create meaning from tragedy and find a universally reasonable position and focal point: gun safety and responsible ownership.

Purchase: Texas Tech University Press

Review
At Close Range: A Memoir of Tragedy and Advocacy by Leesa Ross is a sobering story of loss and the choices a person can make after. In typical fashion, I did not read the summaries or blurbs before reading this book, so I will be addressing the many assumptions that I made in addition to my thoughts on the writing specifically. First of all, I assumed that this book was written by a mother who lost a small child in one of the terrible school shootings that have happened in our country. It is not; but that does not make the story any less tragic.

As the mother of an 8-year-old boy, I know that even when my son has grown taller than me and possibly has children of his own, I will always want to protect him. And God forbid if anything ever happened to him, I would want answers and maybe even look for meaning behind it all. It is never the right time to lose someone you love. Ross lost her first-born son just as he was turning over a new leaf. For a young man in his early 20s, Jon contained thoughts and artistic abilities that the people in his life did not understand. So when his life is ended, presumably with his own hand, the authorities are quick to call it a suicide.

Ross’s choice to recreate the scene in the first chapter was unexpected and powerful. I don’t know how much of it was accurate, but it really gave me the sense that the author knew her son in a way that many parents who live in a completely different state do not know their own children. No one knows what Jon’s state of mind was, but this opening definitely underlines the feeling that everything that transpired next was not premeditated. If this were my own story, I can tell you that this would have quickly become an investigation rather than an advocacy message.

The author’s writing style is clean and easy to follow. There were a few passages where it seemed an idea or even a whole paragraph was echoed pages later. But otherwise, the writing and editing were solid. While the tone switches between emotional and factual, the strength behind the words is ever present. I am in awe of Ross’s ability to stand up and seek change to protect others from pain like hers. If this book is an indication of her oratory skills, I am sure that she is educating so many people and making a real difference in their lives.

I recommend this book to people who have children or young people in their lives. I like the idea of having “The New Talk” about gun safety. I only wish that there was a resource page within it. Although, to be fair, it is easy enough to simply look for Lock Arms for Life and Texas Gun Sense online. I think that this book would also be a good gift to someone you care about who does not take gun safety seriously. Unfortunately, I think many of us can think of at least one person like this. Perhaps this book can be a safe conversation starter.

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Leesa Ross is a debut author who’s transformed a tragedy into a mission for safety. After losing a son to a shooting accident, she formed Lock Arms for Life, an educational organization teaching gun safety. A Texas mother of three, she leads Lock Arms, sits on the board of Texas Gun Sense, and belongs to the NRA.

 

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Review & Giveaway: Grand Openings Can Be Murder by Amber Royer

GRAND OPENINGS
CAN BE MURDER
Bean to Bar Mysteries Book 1
by
AMBER ROYER
Categories: Cozy Mystery / Woman Sleuth / Romance
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Date of Publication: February 2, 2021
Number of Pages: 266 pages
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Felicity Koerber has had a rough year. She’s moving back to Galveston Island and opening a bean to bar chocolate factory, fulfilling a dream she and her late husband, Kevin, had shared. Craft chocolate means a chance to travel the world, meeting with farmers and bringing back beans she can turn into little blocks of happiness, right close to home and family. She thinks trouble has walked into her carefully re-built world when puddle-jump pilot Logan Hanlon shows up at her grand opening to order custom chocolates. Then one of her employees drops dead at the party, and Felicity’s one-who-got-away ex-boyfriend – who’s now a cop – thinks Felicity is a suspect.
As the murder victim’s life becomes more and more of a mystery, Felicity realizes that if she’s going to clear her name in time to save her business, she might need Logan’s help. Though she’s not sure if she’s ready to let anyone into her life – even if it is to protect her from being the killer’s next victim. For Felicity, Galveston is all about history, and a love-hate relationship with the ocean, which keeps threatening to deliver another hurricane – right into the middle of her investigation. Can she figure it out before all the clues get washed away? FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!

PRAISE FOR GRAND OPENINGS CAN BE MURDER:

“With as many unpredictable twists and turns as the hurricane approaching Galveston, Grand Openings Can Be Murder is an intriguing cozy mystery set in a new chocolate shop along the island’s historic Strand. Readers will love learning about the bean-to-bar chocolate-making process while the store’s owner, Felicity, pursues truth, justice, and the perfect chocolate bar.”

— Diane Kelly, Award-winning author of the Death & Taxes, Paw Enforcement, House Flipper, and Busted mystery series.

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Review

Grand Openings Can Be Murder by Amber Royer is a fun whodunnit written by an author who clearly did her research on Galveston, hurricanes, and (most importantly) chocolate. As a Houston native who regularly goes to the island, I really enjoyed walking the Strand and enjoying the historical buildings through Felicity’s eyes. 

It is difficult to put into words why Felicity quickly won my heart. Maybe it is because she is clearly talented, smart, and beautiful, yet is self deprecating and just a wonderfully kind human being. The little details that add up to this interesting person makes me believe that if she wasn’t based on Royer, she must be based on someone the author knows very well. There is an intimacy between the author and this character, and I found that to be the best part of this book.

I found the mystery exciting with little twists here and there, and the added danger of a looming hurricane definitely added an urgency that pushed the pace in a normally sleepy town. Although I figured out early on who the killer was, I just could not wrap my brain around the why. As Felicity works through the clues with her murder mystery book and TV show education (her admitting that was fantastic!), I enjoyed getting to know the other characters and their obvious love and respect for their small town.

I don’t know much about the people who live in Galveston, but this book gives me the impression that tourists visit and fall in love to the extent that they relocate. That Galveston natives might feel their need to spread their wings and move away at some point, but that there’s a likelihood that they will be back. Like birds who travel afar searching for better opportunities to flourish, the islanders find themselves migrating back home to the south when winter approaches. Royer gives us just the right amount of backstory about each of the characters to drive home this concept.

While there were a few typos here and there, Royer’s skill at crafting complex characters, a transportive setting, and thrilling scenes shines through brilliantly. She clearly saw each piece of this story in her mind and was able to translate it in a way that only good storytellers know how. I am excited to read the next installment of this series. I hope that each book will let us get to know more about Felicity’s friends and introduce us to places we have not yet discovered in Galveston.

Amber Royer writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com. She also teaches creative writing for both UT Arlington Continuing Education and Writing Workshops Dallas. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes.
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Review & Giveaway: Pudge & Prejudice by A. K. Pittman

PUDGE AND PREJUDICE
by
A.K. PITTMAN
Categories: YA / Clean & Wholesome Romance / ’80s
Publisher: Wander (a division of Tyndale House)
Date of Publication: January 12, 2021
Number of Pages: 352 pages
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A Mixtape of Big ’80s Style, High School Angst, and a Classic Jane Austen Tale

It’s 1984 and after moving to Northenfield, Texas, with her family, Elyse Nebbit faces the challenge of finding her place in a new school, one dominated by social status and Friday night football. When Elyse’s effortlessly beautiful older sister Jayne starts dating golden boy Charlie Bingley, Elyse finds herself curious about Charlie’s popular and brooding best friend, Billy Fitz. Elyse’s body insecurities eventually complicate her relationship with Billy, leaving Jayne and Elyse’s exceedingly blunt friend, Lottie, to step in and help Elyse accept herself for who she is, pant size and all.

PRAISE FOR PUDGE AND PREJUDICE:

Written with wit and considerable insight into the highs and lows of first love, this coming-of-age twist on the Jane Austen classic had me laughing out loud, singing ‘80s lyrics in my head, and cheering on the brilliant, yet self-deprecating heroine. Pudge & Prejudice is a joy to read from beginning to end! Lorie Langdon author of Olivia Twist and the Disney Villains series

Allison Pittman will have readers laughing (and singing) on every page of this delightfully tenderhearted novel for all ages…[She] crafts a particularly savvy character who learns that beauty really is soul-deep…. Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Perennials

I can’t remember the last time I loved a book as much as I love this one. It’s an instant classic I will return to time after time. Bethany Turner, Award-Winning Author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

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Review

Pudge & Prejudice by A. K. Pittman is a delightful retelling of Austen’s popular novel set in the ‘80s. As an Austen late bloomer, I am open to all kinds of reimaginings and castings when it comes to the beloved Pride & Prejudice. Add some zombies? Why not? Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy? Yes. Kiera Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet? Yes, please. Bridget Jones’s Diary? Heck yes. Colin Firth as Mark Darcy? Yes! Oh wait, did I list Colin Firth twice? My bad. Anyway, my point is, anything based on P&P is good, and when you make it YA with an ‘80s spin, I expect nothing but good things.

And oh, does Pittman deliver the goods. Her translation of each key character might not be exact, but is appropriate to the intended audience and the new time period. If I may speak plainly, mothers do not have to worry about some of the uncomfortable situations presented in the source material being repeated here. I applaud Pittman’s ability to deliver plausible alternatives to the plot that let us focus on the important dynamics that occur between these great characters.

 

The author’s treatment of the time period as a character itself makes this book extra special to me as a child of the ‘80s. Unlike other novels that only mention a detail or two every few chapters to remind you of where and when you are, Pittman really gives you the full experience of being in a small Texas town during one of the most colorful and musically subversive decades ever. If the mixtape and headphones on the cover didn’t clue you in, there’s some great music mentioned within these pages. My only gripe is that Pittman did not include a complete playlist for easy reference. I have read this book twice (because I love it so much!) and you can bet that I will be listening to the songs while reading through for the third time.

 

I have read a few reimaginings that took particular characters or plot points and went a bit too far astray from the original. As much as Pittman had to alter, I think that she preserved the most important bits. Things are not always as they seem. Close sisters are best friends that never quit. And your embarrassing family is still your family; you wouldn’t trade them for the world. I think you will enjoy the way that Pittman has transformed the characters and story.

Best believe that I will be reading more of Allison Pittman’s books after this. Especially if there’s an Emma remake. Why would I say that? Well, I won’t ruin it for you. But seriously, read this book now. Share it with that person in your life who loves P&P in all its variations or, perhaps more urgently, share this with someone who, like me in the past, is resisting Austen.

Allison Pittman is an award-winning author of thirteen novels, including the Christy-nominated Sister Wife series and the critically acclaimed The Seamstress. An enthusiast for all of the writing world, Allison holds active leadership in her local American Christian Fiction Writers chapter, and she heads up a thriving critique group in the San Antonio area. When not writing, Allison teaches middle school English, working as a conduit to introduce her students to new, fresh literature. You can follow her around on Instagram or Twitter and keep up with her writing news on her Allison Pittman Author Facebook page. Here you’ll learn what’s going on with new books, next books, and day-to-day life with Allison and her husband, Mikey. You’ll also get a peek at Snax, the world’s worst dog.

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2/6/21 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
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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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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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1/5/21

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Texas Book Lover

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Ways Blog

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Missus Gonzo

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Deleted Scene

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1/8/21

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Chapter Break Book Blog

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Jennie Reads

1/11/21

Review

Reading by Moonlight

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All
the Ups and Downs

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Rainy
Days with Amanda

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Forgotten Winds

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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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12/7/2020 Book Trailer The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
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12/11/2020 Review Story Schmoozing Book 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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4TH PRIZE: $10 Amazon Gift Card 
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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
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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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