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
CLICK TO PURCHASE

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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3RD PRIZE (US only): Signed copy of Mia and Nattie
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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
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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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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.

 
 
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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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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
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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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Review & Giveaway: The Kissing Tree by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Amanda Dykes, and Nicole Deese

THE KISSING TREE
Four Novellas Rooted in Timeless Love

by KAREN WITEMEYER, REGINA JENNINGS, 

AMANDA DYKES, and NICOLE DEESE
 
Genre: Christian / Romance / Anthology
Publisher: Bethany House
Date of Publication: October 13, 2020
Number of Pages: 400
 

Scroll down for the giveaway!


In this Texas-sized romance novella collection, courting couples, decades apart, leave a permanent mark of their love by carving their initials into the same oak’s bark.

Regina Jennings: “Broken Limbs, Mended Hearts

When a young man from her past returns and upends their small town with a new invention, schoolteacher Bella Eden is reminded of the heartbreak she suffered years ago under the old oak tree. When her job is on the line, can she trust the man who disrupted her life to help her fight for a brighter future?

Karen Witemeyer: “Inn for a Surprise

Determined to keep love alive for others, Phoebe Woodward builds an inn that caters to couples. When her father sends a property manager to help make it a success, she finds her whimsical vision thwarted by his stodgy practicality. Finding the right blend of romance and reality is a challenge, and her spinster heart may be in for a surprise.

Amanda Dykes: “From Roots to Sky

WWII airman Luke Hampstead found comfort in letters from the sister of a lost compatriot. When he visits Texas to thank her, he discovers her constructing a project with surprising ties to his letters . . . and that she herself is even more surprising. While a promising opportunity awaits him elsewhere, will what they’ve shared be enough to give their future flight?

Nicole Deese: “Heartwood

Abby Brookshire’s world is turned upside down when the historic tree she’s strived to preserve as the head groundskeeper at the Kissing Tree Inn is put in danger of removal. Making matters worse, the only way to protect its legacy is to partner with the man she’s been ignoring since he left town years ago. Will she have the courage to move on from the past and start a new beginning?

I have read a few collections of love stories based in Texas before, but none of them hold a candle to the work in The Kissing Tree by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Amanda Dykes, and Nicole Deese. While those other anthologies had a connection with each other because of the time period or place, The Kissing Tree is a truly unified piece that stretches across generations through the love for and longevity of a magnificent oak tree.

Jenning’s story – Broken Limbs, Mended Hearts – is a lesson in forgiveness and trust. Bethany House could not have picked a better author to voice the charm and innocence of romance in 1868. Although Bella Eden struck me as a little modern at times, she still possessed equal parts southern belle and pioneer woman, which are traits that I adore and respect very much. Of the four stories in this book, this one is a tie for my favorite because of the characters. Jennings created larger than life characters with fantastic obstacles, making it difficult to choose whose side to take. Even when the stakes are high, Jennings writes with a levity that assures you that true love will conquer all.

Witemeyer’s story – Inn for a Surprise – took me a while to get into. For reasons that I can’t explain, it took me a few chapters to take a shine to Phoebe and Barnabas. Maybe it was the obvious tension between the two characters that kept me from relaxing into the story. At any rate, when we start seeing the softer side of Phoebe and Barnabas finally drops his perfect façade, I really enjoyed the interaction between the two and how a competition made way to teamwork. Witemeyer’s description of the Kissing Tree Inn’s conception is a joy to read and provides a lovely backstory and backdrop for the stories that follow. And as a side note, I especially appreciated that the cover artist clearly took notes from this adorable story when designing the cover art.

Amanda Dykes’ story – From Roots to Sky – is my other favorite in this book. There is something about a relationship that grows between two people without them even realizing what has happened. I loved how a connection forged by love for Hannah’s brother (who is Luke’s best friend) defies tragedy and distance, and manifests itself beautifully. Like any good love story entangled in secrets, Dykes keeps us in suspense over why Luke can’t just tell Hannah why he really came to Oak Springs. Of the four stories, this one felt the most complete and could be fleshed out into a lovely movie that I would gladly watch.

Nicole Deese’s story – Heartwood – is the only one that doesn’t paint the heroine as an oddball spinster. There is no timestamp on this one, but I’m guessing that the story takes place in present day. So I guess it makes sense that even if Abby were 40 and single (I’m assuming she is not), there would be no stigma over being unmarried and childless. Again, Bethany House could not have picked a better author to voice the practical and modern story between two old lovers being reunited by conflict. In more ways than one, this story wraps up the other three very nicely as everything comes full circle. Intended or not, there are parallels between the first story and this one, and the symmetry of it is quite lovely.

I give kudos to the authors and editors for the amazing job of tying these stories together. It gave me a little thrill every time I realized the connections between each story. The Kissing Tree really is a fantastic book comprised of four exceptional romance novellas.

Voted
#1 Reader’s Favorite Christian Romance Author of 2019 by Family Fiction
Magazine
, bestselling author  Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines,
and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. She makes her home in Abilene, Texas, with her
husband and three children.

 
Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma
Baptist University, with a degree in English and a minor in history. She’s the
winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist, and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at
the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along
with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She
lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.
 
Amanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales who spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family. She’s a former English teacher and the author of Whose Waves These Are, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, as well as three novellas.
 
Nicole Deese’s eight humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer, was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and INSPY Awards. Both of these books are from her bestselling Love in Lenox series. When she’s not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.
 
 
 
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10/22/20

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10/22/20

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10/23/20

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10/23/20

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10/24/20

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10/25/20

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10/26/20

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Review & Giveaway: Escape from Wheel by Michael Scott Clifton

ESCAPE FROM WHEEL
Conquest of the Veil, Book Two
by
MICHAEL SCOTT CLIFTON
 
Genre: YA / Fantasy / Magical Realism / Sword & Sorcery
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Number of Pages: 302 pages
 

SCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 

 

New Life, New World, New Problems
Alexandria Duvalier’s new life on the magical world of Meredith takes a shattering twist when her father, the Duke of Wheel, pledges her hand in marriage to the cruel lord, Rodric Regret. Desperate to escape his clutches, Alex flees the city with the help of her friend, Tell Tollet, a handsome lieutenant in the city guard. But their freedom is short-lived when Rodric’s brutal brother, Stefan, joins in the pursuit.
Hotheaded Prince Tal, heir to the throne of Meredith, has but one goal: kill the Dark Queen and destroy the Veil, the enchanted barrier which has ensnared generations of his people. He discovers a breach in the magical wall and leads an army through, bent on completing his mission.
When an unusual and potent magic calls to him, he follows its trail back to Alex. Thrown together by circumstances and chased across the wilderness by the ruthless Lord Stefan, Tal and Alex are drawn to each other by the greatest magic of all—love. Now they just need to stay alive . . .

 
  
Review

Escape from Wheel by Michael Scott Clifton is one of those rare instances where book two outshines the first. Don’t get me wrong, The Open Portal, was a beautifully written book, but it could get so grotesque at times that I needed to stop for a moment and collect myself. Not to say that the sequel is all sunshine and daisies, but Clifton strikes a perfect balance of evil and suspense with love and hope.

In the first book, I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters’ strange names, but this volume had me wishing that Clifton took them a bit further. While the reader wouldn’t mistake Tell for Tal, the names were so similar that I expected Alex to slip up at least once. But perhaps our heroine is too clever to make such a rookie mistake. 

I love how the author portrays this young woman with so much duality: a girl from our world and time transported to this ancient fantasy world, yet fitting in very well; a girl who researches and plots her own way but must rely upon a handsome man to help her stay safe. Alex might be a damsel in distress at times, but she puts up a hell of a fight and has hidden talents up her sleeve as well. 

It’s been a while since I’ve read a good fantasy book, so one thing that stood out to me was Clifton’s vivid descriptions of, well, everything. While fiction books generally rely on dialogue to propel a story, fantasy books truly build worlds in your mind, and Clifton is a master architect and painter in one. You see the lay of the land, the buildings that tower above or crumble before you, and the colorful delights of the court set and fantastical creatures in nature. As someone who loves reading about food, I swooned over the descriptions of feast fare, as well as the roughing it recipes.

While the violence was my least favorite part of the previous book, I actually enjoyed the battles in this one. The gore wasn’t excessive and I particularly liked the cunning of various traps that were set up to help even out the unlikeliest of odds. The pace was just right, until I realized that I was super invested in the story and there were only a few more pages left. Alas, it appears I will have to wait again for the next installment of Conquest of the Veil.

I recommend this book to all you fantasy lovers out there. Definitely read the first book, The Open Portal, which has a George R.R. Martin vibe to it, and then follow up with this book that has an Arthurian legend meets Hunger Games groove to it.

Multi-award-winning author Michael Scott Clifton was a longtime public educator as a teacher, coach, and administrator. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine. He currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas, with his wife, Melanie, and family cat. An avid gardener, reader, and movie junkie, Michael enjoys all kinds of book and movie genres. His books contain aspects of all the genres he enjoys: action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance. 

 
His fantasy novels, The Janus Witch and The Open Portal, received five-star reviews from the prestigious Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews, and he has been a finalist in a number of short-story contests, with “Edges of Gray” winning first place in the Texas Authors Contest. 
 
The Open Portal, winner of the Feathered Quill Book Finalist Award, launches the fantasy book series, Conquest of the Veil. Michael’s latest release, Escape From Wheel, is book two in this fantasy series. Visit Michael’s official websiteor google him @authormsclifton.
 
 
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10/2/20

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10/4/20

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10/5/20

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10/6/20

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The
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10/7/20

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Momma on the Rocks

10/8/20

Review

Forgotten
Winds

10/9/20

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Missus Gonzo

10/10/20

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Reading
by Moonlight

10/10/20

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Book Blitz & Giveaway: Saving Irene by Judy Alter

SAVING IRENE
A Culinary Mystery
By JUDY ALTER
 
Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuths 
Publisher: Alter Ego Press
Date of Publication: September 10, 2020
Number of Pages: 208
 
 
Scroll down for the giveaway!
 

Irene Foxglove wishes she were a French chef. Henrietta James, her assistant, knows she is nothing more than a small-time TV chef on a local Chicago channel. And yet when Irene is threatened, Henny tries desperately to save her, wishing always that “Madame” would tell her the truth—about her marriage, her spoiled daughter, her days in France, the man who threatens her. Henny’s best friend, the gay guy who lives next door, teases her, encourages her—and maybe loves her from afar. Murder, kidnapping, and some French gossip complicate this mystery, set in Chicago and redolent with the aroma of fine food. Recipes included.

PRAISE FOR SAVING IRENE

“A nicely convoluted murder mystery and a glorification of America’s diverse cuisines, played out against the attractions of a lovingly drawn Chicago.”—Fred Erisman, In Their Own Words: Forgotten Women Pilots of Early Aviation
“You’ll find yourself cheering for Henny James as she works beyond her job description as prep assistant to save her boss, Irene Foxglove, glamorous local French-ish TV chef.”—Kaye George, Deadly Sweet Tooth (Vintage Sweets Mysteries Book 2)
“Get lost in the beauty of Chicago and the intrigue of a Texas girl making her way in the world . . . You won’t see the end coming.”—Mary Dulle, avid cozy fan
 
 
CLICK TO PURCHASE

After an award-winning career writing historical fiction about women of the nineteenth-century American West, Judy Alter turned her attention to contemporary cozy mysteries: the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and Blue Plate Café Mysteries. Her avocation is cooking, and she is the author of Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books, Gourmet on a Hot Plate, and Texas is Chili Country


Born in Chicago, she has made her home in Fort Worth for over fifty years. Judy is also a proud Scot, a member of Clan MacBean. One trip to the Highlands convinced her that is where her heart is, and she longs to write a novel set in Scotland.

Judy is an active member of Sisters in Crime, Guppies, Story Circle Network, Women Writing the West, and the Texas Institute of Letters. When she is not writing, she is busy with seven grandchildren and a lively poodle/border collie cross.

 

———————– 

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Review & Giveaway: 6 Feet Under Texas by Tui Snider

SIX FEET UNDER TEXAS:

 Unique, Famous, & Historic Graves in the Lone Star State
(Cemetery Tales Book 1)
by
TUI SNIDER
  
Genre: Nonfiction / Texana / History / Texas Travel
Publisher: Castle Azle Press
Date of Publication: August 15, 2020
Number of Pages: 250 pages 
 
Scroll down for Giveaway!
 

Explore the cemeteries of Texas with Tui Snider as she reveals overlooked history in these fascinating open-air museums. 

 
Along the way, you’ll meet fascinating characters, including a whistleblower who died in suspicious circumstances, an oilman who added a phone line to his mausoleum, and the events that caused two “frenemies” to be chained together in death.
 
 
Review

I was very excited to get my hands on 6 Feet Under Texas: Unique, Famous, & Historic Graves in the Lone Star State by Tui Snider for two reasons. Reason one, I loved Paranormal Texas – Snider’s writing style is so fun to read and you can really tell that she did her homework. Reason two, I’m too much of a weenie to actually go to haunted places, but I can handle visiting graves in broad daylight.

Although the subject material has changed, Snider has not. She still writes like that fun friend who shares the best stories at every party. And these stories – not matter how fantastical they seem- are not pulled out of thin air. She will give you websites and books to reference, and encourages you to fact check her or share your own theories and findings.

The gravesites are organized alphabetically by the city they are located in and each chapter is preceded by a simple Texas map with a star on the featured location. Snider picked a lot of cities that I’ve never heard of, but I hope to someday stop at some of them on my next road trip. I really appreciated the variety of graves that she selected – from fun stories like a space alien in Aurora, to reverent ones from historic times, to more recent tragedies like the namesake of the Amber Alert – Snider approaches each story with respect and aims to give us the most accurate information possible. If she hit a dead end or had multiple theories that are yet to be proven, she tells us.

In true guidebook fashion, Snider gives us the address, website if available, and markers to go by. As someone who had to track down a famous writer’s grave for creative writing eons ago, I am a big fan of the markers and photos of significant landmarks that help the readers locate the graves. Speaking of photos, I really wish that they had been printed in color. “Graves in color?” you might ask. Not all of the photos are gravestones. There’s a huge stamp mural that I would have loved to see in color and some interesting structures with details that are lost in black and white.

Despite the array of stories told, some even intertwining to great effect, I finished this book wishing there was more. It turns out that COVID-19 threw a wrench into Snider’s tour across Texas. But on the upside, we will be getting a volume two! Be sure to let Snider know on social media if there is anything in particular that you want her to check out.

The timing of this book couldn’t have been better with Halloween just around the corner. I recommend this book to people who like history, travel, and quirky books.

Tui Snider is an author, speaker, photographer, YouTuber, podcast host, and musician who researches historic cemeteries and symbolism, offbeat Texas travel, overlooked history, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction–but then I moved to Texas!”
 
Snider’s best-selling books include Understanding Cemetery Symbols, 100 Things to Do in Dallas-Fort Worth Before You Die, Paranormal Texas, and many more. Snider has several books in progress and enjoys connecting with readers all over the globe through social media, her weekly newsletter, and website: TuiSnider.com.
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  September 29-October 9, 2020
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9/29/20

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9/29/20

Review

Rainy
Days with Amanda

9/30/20

Review

Momma
on the Rocks

10/1/20

Review

Missus
Gonzo

10/1/20

Review

The
Clueless Gent

10/2/20

Review

Reading by Moonlight

10/2/20

Review

The
Adventures of a Travelers Wife

10/3/20

Review

Forgotten Winds

10/4/20

Review

That’s
What She’s Reading

10/5/20

Review

Chapter Break Book Blog

10/6/20

Review

Hall
Ways Blog

10/7/20

Review

Max Knight

10/7/20

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All
the Ups and Downs

10/8/20

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Not All Gravy

10/8/20

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Review & Giveaway: Something Worth Doing by Jane Kirkpatrick

SOMETHING WORTH DOING
A Novel of an Early Suffragist
by
Jane Kirkpatrick
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction 
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: September 1, 2020 
Number of Pages: 336
 
 Scroll down for the giveaway!
 

Some things are worth doingeven when the cost is great

In 1853, Abigail Scott was a nineteen-year-old schoolteacher in Oregon Territory when she married Ben Duniway. Marriage meant giving up on teaching, but Abigail always believed she was meant to be more than a good wife and mother. When Abigail becomes the primary breadwinner for her growing family, what she sees as a working woman appalls herand prompts her to devote her life to fighting for the rights of women, including the right to vote. 


Based on a true story, Something Worth Doing will resonate with modern women who still grapple with the pull between career and family, finding their place in the public sphere, and dealing with frustrations and prejudices when competing in male-dominated spaces.
 
PRAISE FOR SOMETHING WORTH DOING:

“I have long admired Jane Kirkpatrick’s rich historical fiction, and Something Worth Doing is well worth reading! Oregonian Abigail Duniway is a vibrant, fiercely passionate, and determined activist who fought for women’s suffrage. Women of today have cause to respect and admire heras well as the loving, patient, and supportive husband who encouraged her to continue ‘the silent hunt.'” Francine Rivers, author of Redeeming Love 

 
“On the trail to Oregon, young Jenny Scott lost her beloved mother and little brother and learned that no matter what, she must persist until she reaches her goal. Remembering her mother’s words‘a woman’s life is so hard’the young woman who became Abigail Scott Duniway came to understand through observation and experience that law and custom favored men. The author brings alive Abigail’s struggles as frontier wife and mother turned newspaper publisher, prolific writer, and activist in her lifelong battle to win the vote and other rights for women in Oregon and beyond. Jane Kirkpatrick’s story of this persistent, passionate, and bold Oregon icon is indeed Something Worth Doing!” Susan G. Butruille, author of Women’s Voices from the Oregon Trail, now in a 25th anniversary edition

Something Worth Doing by Jane Kirkpatrick is an eye-opening look at the lives of women in 19th century America. As someone who views that period through a lens of Laura Ingalls Wilder mixed with historical romance books, it was a bit jarring to read about a woman who describes herself as strident. I’m not going to lie, I had to look that one up. A quick search defines strident as “loud and harsh; grating,” also “presenting a point of view, especially a controversial one, in an excessively and unpleasantly forceful way.” I think that the first definition was a more accurate description of Abigail Scott Duniway, but I could see how people in her time saw her as the second.

To be honest, I cared more for Jenny Scott – Abigail’s nickname before she married – who had a softness to her before marriage and life in general wore her down like a child’s teddy bear. She was still smart and headstrong in those early days, but you got the feeling that she smiled and laughed more often then too. I guess marrying a man before you were sure about whether you loved him or not could do that to you. But even after she realized that Ben was a good husband to her and an advocate for her passions, her cynicism could be overwhelming at times.

That feels unfair now that I’ve typed it. I hate doing laundry even with the wonderful modern inventions of the washing machine and dryer. There are days that I wish that I could quit working and do what I really love. Heck, hire a housekeeper so that I don’t have to vacuum my house ever again. And I can. Because women like Abigail broke the mold and fought for women’s suffrage. Equality has a long way to go yet, but because of women’s rights activists, I am not limited to certain jobs or activities because of my gender. I realize now that tact is a four-letter word when one needs ferocity and tenacity to breakdown oppression.

Kirkpatrick’s ability to create a captivating story from pieces of personal correspondence and archival research is truly remarkable. I would have to read all of the author’s source material to ascertain where the real Abigail Scott Duniway ended and the fictional shading to bring her to life began. With the exception of a small section where the narrative shifts to Ben’s point of view, the entire novel is seamless. I felt fully immersed in the time period and was excited to see which business venture Abigail tackled next. I related to her struggle of pursuing her dreams while taking care of her family at the same time. Although her mission was much more noble than any of my own undertakings.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history, but especially to women who want more adventure in their life or those who worry that they are spreading themselves thin. I know that’s a wide spread, but there are so many connections to today’s modern woman that make this book a real gem.

Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than thirty books, including One More River to Cross, Everything She Didn’t Say, All Together in One Place, A Light in the Wilderness, The Memory Weaver, This Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. 
 
Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award. Jane divides her time between Central Oregon and California with her husband, Jerry, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Caesar.
 


———————————
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THREE WINNERS!
1st: Copy of Something Worth Doing + Oregon Map Bag
+ $25 Barnes and Noble Gift Card;
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Copy of Something Worth Doing + $10 Barnes and Noble Gift Card. 
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9/15/20
Character Interview
9/15/20
BONUS Post
9/16/20
Review
9/17/20
Excerpt
9/18/20
Review
9/19/20
Author Interview
9/20/20
Scrapbook Page
9/21/20
Review
9/22/20
Deleted Scene
9/22/20
BONUS Post
9/23/20
Review
9/24/20
BONUS Review
9/24/20
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