Monthly Archives: September 2015

Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas

From New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas comes the first book in a compelling, emotionally resonant series set in a remote west Texas town—where family can be made by blood or by choice.
Rancher Staten Kirkland, the last descendant of Ransom Canyon’s founding father, is rugged and practical to the last. No one knows that when his troubling memories threaten to overwhelm him, he runs to lovely, reclusive Quinn O’Grady…or that she has her own secret that no one living knows.
Young Lucas Reyes has his eye on the prize—college, and the chance to become something more than a ranch hand’s son. But one night, one wrong decision, will set his life on a course even he hadn’t imagined.
Yancy Grey is running hard from his troubled past. He doesn’t plan to stick around Ransom Canyon, just long enough to learn the town’s weaknesses and how to use them for personal gain. Only Yancy, a common criminal since he was old enough to reach a car’s pedals, isn’t prepared for what he encounters.
In this dramatic new series, the lives, loves and ambitions of four families will converge, set against a landscape that can be as unforgiving as it is beautiful, where passion, property and pride are worth fighting—and even dying—for.
 

 
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Praise for Ransom Canyon
 
Ransom Canyon is a tale of redemption and hope filled with authentic dialogue and characters engaging enough to chat with over a cup of coffee.” – Fort Worth Star Telegram


“Western romance legend Thomas opens her latest series in a small Texas town…. Ransom Canyon will warm readers with its huge heart and gentle souls. For all romance collections.” – Library Journal


Once again a delightful entry into a new series by a favorite of mine. Jodi Thomas has the ability to reel me in every time with her enterprising, intelligent and caring cast of characters and RANSOM CANYON has some of the best yet. ” – Fresh Fiction

Review
This book had some interesting love stories in it. If I hadn’t recently read another novel where a man left his wife to his best friend in the event of his death, I don’t know if I would have believed the idea of a man having an affair (much less falling in love) with his deceased wife’s best friend.
While I found Staten and Quinn’s relationship a bit shaky, I thought their characters were interesting. Their interactions had real weight and I was excited to see what they did next. Thomas fleshed those two characters, and those of the senior citizens in town, in a believable manner. But Yancy the ex-con and the teenager characters were a bit wooden in my ears. I think Thomas probably doesn’t interact with many ruffians or youngsters very often, and that’s why I don’t find those characters very believable. However, I thought the plot was interesting and definitely not overdone. I can honestly say that as I was reading, I never once thought, “Haven’t I read this before?” or “This reminds me of…”
In the end, I was glad that Thomas tied the three storylines together well, while setting up the series nicely. I had started out caring the least about Yancy, but ended up not minding the idea of reading another book about what happens to him next. I liked the Lucas character from the beginning but didn’t really care about where he was headed. I thought Lauren was annoying, so I guess I would be curious to see if their relationship implodes in the books that followed.
 

 
A fifth-generation Texan, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Jodi Thomas chooses to set the majority of her novels in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A former teacher, Thomas traces the beginning of her storytelling career to the days when her twin sisters were young and impressionable.
When not working on a novel or inspiring students to pursue a writing career, Thomas enjoys traveling with her husband, renovating a historic home they bought in Amarillo and “checking up” on their two grown sons.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Mysteries of Love and Grief by Sandra Scofield

Reflections on a Plainswoman’s Life
by 
Sandra Scofield
Frieda Harms was born into a farming family in Indian Territory in 1906. Widowed at thirty and left with three children in the midst of the Great Depression, she worked as a farmer, a railroad cook, a mill worker, and a nurse in four states. She died in 1983.
Sandra Scofield spent most of her childhood with her grandmother Frieda and remained close to her in adulthood. When Frieda died, Sandra received her Bible and boxes of her photographs, letters, and notes. For thirty years, Sandra dipped into that cache.
Sandra always sensed an undercurrent of hard feelings within her grandmother, but it was not until she sifted through Frieda’s belongings that she began to understand how much her life had demanded, and how much she had given. At the same time, questions in Sandra’s own history began to be answered, especially about the tug-of-war between her mother and grandmother. At last, in Mysteries of Love and Grief, Scofield wrestles with the meaning of her grandmother’s saga of labor and loss, trying to balance her need to understand with respect for Frieda’s mystery.
 
BUY LINKS: AMAZON ~ Texas Tech Press ~ B&N
 
 
Praise for MYSTERIES OF LOVE AND GRIEF
 
Throughout her depiction of her own family, Scofield kept me surprised—a moment of generosity when I didn’t expect it or of anger when I didn’t expect that. Mysteries remain as they must, but I trusted the insights as well as the mysteries. I thought it was a very beautiful book, smart and sharp.
Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club
 
Largely ungoverned by chronology, Scofield’s journey of discovery unfolds organically, true to the way memory works. Seeking to know her grandmother, she honors the lives and artistic bent of many women marginalized by gender and poverty in the early to mid-twentieth century. This is a unique and necessary work.
Lorraine M. López, author of Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories and The Darling
Review
I have no idea why I was expecting a Little House on the Prairie type experience (maybe because she references the series a few times in the book), but this was not it. That’s not a bad thing when you consider that Little House glosses over things like extreme poverty, death, and doing illegal activities (shame on you, Pa). The pain and confusion Scofield feels for her mother and grandmother are evident throughout the memoir. While I was confused now and then (I could never get the hang of her calling everyone by first name rather than “Mother” and “Aunt”), I could relate to the mixed feelings about family. I know all too well the wanting to move away and move on, but finding yourself running back to where you came from. My takeaway from this writing was that we don’t always get to know the truth, definitely not all of it, but we should embrace the love while it’s with us. Also, Texas breeds some strong ass, independent women. I think I would love having a coffee talk with Scofield.
 
 

A native Texan, Sandra Scofield divides her time between Missoula, Montana, and Portland, Oregon. 
 
She has written seven novels, a memoir, and a craft book for writers. An excerpt from Mysteries of Love and Grief won first place in Narrative magazine’s 2014 Spring Story Contest. She is an avid landscape painter.
 
 
 
 
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Fate’s Betrayal by Beth Ann Stifflemire with Diana Schalk

Desire and despise. Two insanely contradicting emotions that the dark haired, well-built, irrefutably handsome musician Riley evokes in simple but attractive, fashion savvy, Austinite Brooke. Initially unequivocally turned-off by the brash but striking Riley she develops a fascination for his seductive charms as Riley reels Brooke into a world of ravenous love she never knew existed. What they create together is oh-so-much more than beautiful music. It’s a roller coaster ride of awe-inspiring and heartbreaking emotion, passion, hidden secrets and an ending that will leave you utterly breathless. The way they become eternally bound sets the heart afire when fate unleashes the ultimate betrayal.







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Beth Ann is a wife, mother, blogger and book lover from Texas. Her passion is writing stories that draw a reader into a world where they can become the characters and experience a gamut of emotions. When she’s not writing, she love’s to be home with my family and two yellow labs. In addition she’s a sucker for super sappy romance movies, loves trying out Texas wines, is an avid hot tea drinker and enjoys checking items off of her ever-growing bucket list.












 
 
 
 
 
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Schooled for Murder by Cindy Muir

Title: SCHOOLED FOR MURDER

Author: Cindy Muir

Genre: Mystery (cozy)

# of Pages: 200

Pub Date: July 11, 2014

Publisher:  Black Rose Writing

 

 

Laurel Franks is a dedicated mom, volunteer extraordinaire and active on the PTA Board. She is also, however, a enthusiastic Jimmy Buffet fan and wanna-be Trop Rock singer. Laurel finds out through the local grapevine that the despicable local School Superintendent has been murdered and the sheriff’s office seems to be unusually mum about the investigation.

 

With her best friend and sidekick Sherry Sharp, Laurel decides to hone her investigative skills and search out suspect possibilities she comes up with in her volunteer and community world. Her husband, obsolete in the thought processes of a modern woman, wants her to devote her time and energy to her volunteer work and family only, but Laurel is spurred on with her investigation.

 

Laurel and Sherry traverse the Hill Country north of San Antonio, Texas and meet some wacky characters, many of whom seem to have a motive for rubbing out the School Superintendent. Fueled by Trop Rock music and inspired by Jimmy Buffett lyrics, Laurel finally solves the crime, but at the near cost of her own life.

 

 

 

 

I’m one of those who has always loved music. My earliest performance memory was at age four at church and by age 8, I was studying piano. The choral and solo road continued and I wound up with two music degrees from Baylor University. I’m a former elementary music teacher and directed church children’s choirs for 32 years.

Somewhere along the way, I expanded my musical horizons and was listening to

Jimmy Buffett by the early 90s. When I attended my first concert back in 1991, I was hooked. After several years of Buffett concerts, reading his books and learning about him, I finally joined the San Antonio Parrot Head Club. It was through the club that I began to learn about Trop Rock and the singers/ songwriters who make the music.

A couple of years ago, I started writing a column about Parrot Heads and Trop Rock for a now-defunct magazine. And I truly became hooked on meeting and interviewing the musicians. One of my favorite parts of going to MOTM, Pardi Gras, or other Trop Rock music events is to forge new musical relationships. I also began to weave a story about an amateur sleuth who also dreams of being a Trop Rock singer. After years of writing and re-writing, “Schooled For Murder” is my first cozy mystery novel. Black Rose Writing was extremely gracious to take the chance of being the book’s publisher.

I have a beautiful daughter, Lauren Bates, who lives in Dallas and is an artist. And I’m newly married to wonderful Don Muir, whom I’ve known for years through the San Antonio Parrot Head Club. Jerry Diaz was gracious to let us be married on the stage erected for the Pardi Gras Street Party and after the ceremony, a second line jazz band paraded us up to the top of the Tropical Isle, where we had cake for whomever joined us.

I’m also caretaker for the “Jimmy Buffett Museum of Port Aransas, TX,” which is my second home. Come see me if you’re ever on that part of the Gulf Coast. We’ll share a cold libation and listen to…   what else? Trop Rock!

 

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Hail of Fire by Randy Fritz

Lone Star Literary Life Blog Tours

 

presents

HAIL OF FIRE

by 

Randy Fritz

 

 

 

Hail of Fire: A Man and His Family Face Natural Disaster is an intimate account of the third worst wildfire in modern U.S. history, and the most destructive in the history of Texas. It is a memoir of what happened to Randy Fritz, an artist turned politician turned public policy leader, and his family during and after the Bastrop County Complex fire in September 2011. Combining a searing account of the fire as it grew to apocalyptic strength with universal themes of loss and grief, Fritz gives a first-person account of the emotional turmoil that comes with rebuilding one’s life after a calamitous event.

The wildfire itself was traumatic to those who witnessed it and suffered its immediate aftermath. But the most significant impact came in the months and years following, as families grieved, struggling to adapt to a new world and accept the destruction of an iconic forest of internationally acclaimed great natural beauty—the Lost Pines. Neighbors once close worried for each other, while others discovered new friendships that transcended the boundaries of race, class, and family lineage. Fritz struggled as his wife and daughter tried to make sense of their losses. He never imagined the impact this disaster would have on them individually and as a family, as well as the visceral toll he would pay in the journey to make sense of it all.

Hail of Fire is an unflinching story of how a man and his tight-knit family found grace after losing everything. Fritz’s hard-won insights provide inspiration to anyone on the search for what truly matters, particularly those who have undergone an unexpected and life-changing event and those who love and care for them.

 

 

HARDCOVER BOOK DETAILS

Price: $24.95

Pages: 256

Size: 6 x 9

Published: Jun 2015

ISBN: 9781595342591

 

EBOOK DETAILS

Price: $24.95

Published: Jun 2015

ISBN: 9781595342607

 

BUY LINKS:

 

 

Praise for HAIL OF FIRE

 

“If you’ve ever loved a tree—or a person—do yourself a favor: read this book, because at its core love in all its splendor and sadness is what it’s about.” — Jan Jarboe Russell, author of The Train To Crystal City

 

“The power of the book is in the recovery…. [Fritz] finds “mindfulness and acceptance” and the strength to make a fresh start in a place with haunted memories.”  Kirkus Reviews

“Randy Fritz has written a mesmerizing account of the Bastrop fire, the worst in Texas history and one of the worst ever nationally. The heart of Hail of Fire is how an everyday citizen survives the angst and awfulness of a natural disaster. Highly recommended!” — Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast

 

“A roller coaster ride…. brutally honest, intimate and affecting.”  Austin American-Statesman

 

“In this painstakingly written story of ruin and renewal, Fritz eloquently reflects on how the events of the Bastrop fire of September 2011 and their aftermath transformed him, his family and the lives of their closest friends and neighbors.”  San Antonio Express-News

 

“As Fritz and his family deal with shock, instability, and the stress involved in trying to move forward, their perseverance and strength, and that of those around them, demonstrate that life definitely can rise from the ashes.” — Booklist

 

“Though the title of his memoir of the 2011 Bastrop wildfire might suggest that readers will be placed right in the middle of one of the worst conflagrations in Texas history, this Lost Pines resident is more interested in what followed: the displacement of his family after the loss of their house, and the fraught debate over whether to rebuild or walk away from their longtime home.”  Texas Monthly

 

“Every time a fire destroys a family’s home, the media shows up right away to cover the disaster and report what’s happened. But not very often does the media ever tell you what happens after the fire because most victims don’t have the emotional strength to speak out while the smoke is still in the air. This story is told through the eyes of Randy Fritz who experienced the third worst wildfire in modern U.S. history. He tells the story of grief, loss and how his family rebuilt their lives after the calamitous event.” — San Francisco Book Review

 

Fritz is at his best when he recounts the impact the fire had on his own psyche, with raw reflections on the difficult time he had coping and how his depression became difficult for his family. Foreword Reviews

 

 

 

 

My business was urgent. But I stopped at an overlook several hundred feet above the highway. I needed to know if I was about to drive into the fire’s maw.

 

The last time I was here—early afternoon the previous day—cars and pickups were parked at cockeyed angles. The conversations I joined or overheard over the wind’s moan were a mixture of resignation and threadbare hope. Nobody knew for sure what was happening on the ground, but there were a lot of theories.

 


I was certain some of my overlook companions were already wiped out, like my friends at the motel, or about to be. Others would be fine by the time it was all over. I couldn’t imagine how the lucky, including me, would fight back their guilt, or the unlucky their anger and bitterness.


 

From our vantage point, the fire took on two forms. The main one was a vast and heaving cloud of smoke towering many thousands of feet above us. It filled our entire western and southern visual horizon. While it was mainly white, there were dark streaks and blotches in it and lighter spots where the blue sky behind it was almost visible.

 

The other form was a yellow curtain of flame hanging and writhing over the ground. Within it, sharp bursts of light appeared and almost immediately vanished. Each one was like a tweet from the fire informing us that another home had been claimed and the secure future of another family forfeited.

 

While we were a small community of collective ignorance, there was one thing we knew: this fire was vastly more dangerous and destructive than the one two and a half years earlier that took three helicopters, two airplanes, and twenty-two fire departments to contain.

 

That one worried us. This one terrified us.

 

That one threatened dozens of families. This one was a predator of hundreds, if not thousands.

 

That one surrendered in a week. This one looked like it might never give up until its gluttony expired for lack of food.

 

Labor Day 2011 was the first day of a new era in Bastrop County, one in which its most prominent and beloved feature—the Lost Pines—would be ugly and desolate for many years. For those of us in middle age or beyond, our deaths would precede the rejuvenation of the forest into the bounty of life it was when we built our homes and started our families.

 

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Review

Let me begin by saying that this man’s prose is beautiful. Once you get past the newspaper-like report of weather conditions leading up to the wildfire, the writing is so fluid and natural. As I got to know Fritz through the multiple flashbacks (sometimes confusing but provided great backstory), I felt a little jealous of the guy. Hippie potter builds his own home and garden with his own two hands, becomes a great pianist late in life, goes to college a little late as well and later becomes a judge, and goes on to occupy a few local government positions of importance. But he overcame a lot of obstacles to get where he was: artisans don’t often make a lot of money and early on one of his daughters develops a cognitive disability. And then of course, there’s the huge obstacle of the wildfire.

While I braced myself for a harrowing tale of this family of five (plus 3 dogs) running through flames and smoke to escape, it never came. While one daughter, grown and living on her own, almost meets calamity, we never hear about it. Fritz puts himself in danger (not obvious at first, but still quite serious you later learn) to try to save some items, and beats himself up on his choices through a big part of the book. There were some times that I found myself chanting, “First world problems,” in my head over and over.

I felt less guilty about not feeling so terrible about their situation since Fritz himself even acknowledges that their family was fortunate that they had good insurance and never went hungry or homeless. (Some might even say that their accommodations during the disaster were better than their original home.) What I do appreciate about this book is his candidness about seeking professional help for his guilt, depression, and anger from the experience, and the resources and tips he provides for people who are caught in or recovering from a natural disaster.

 

 

 

Randy Fritz is the former chief operating officer of the Texas Department of State Health Services, the state’s public and mental health agency. He helped coordinate the state’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and led the team that implemented the Children’s Health Insurance Program in Texas. Fritz lives in Bastrop, Texas, with his wife, Holly, and their youngest daughter, Miranda.

 

 

 

 

 

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Giveaway time

One of my fellow bloggers is giving away a signed copy of The Neptune Challenge by Polly Holyoke and a dolphin jewelry set!

The Neptune Challenge

Click here and scroll down to enter the giveaway!

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Dark Places by Reavis Wortham

DARK PLACES
by Reavis Wortham
 
 
At the tail end of 1967, the Parker family once again finds it impossible to hide from a world spinning out of control. Fourteen-year-old Top still can’t fit in with their Center Springs, Texas, community or forget recent, vicious crimes. His near-twin cousin Pepper, desperate to escape her own demons, rashly joins the Flower Children flocking to California―just as two businessmen are kidnapped and murdered in the Red River bottoms on the same night a deadly hit and run kills a farmer. Constable Ned Parker wonders if these crimes are connected, but he goes after Pepper, leaving the investigation in the hands of Sheriff Cody Parker. Parker hires Deputy Anna Sloan, an investigator with an eye toward detail as everyone is eyeing her. Yet it is instinct that propels her after killers through a world nearly forgotten, the hunt’s backdrop one of continuous rain, gloomy skies, and floods. When she’s ambushed, the investigation accelerates into gunfire, chases, and hair-raising suspense. What of Pepper? Out on Route 66, the Mother Road to California, a man named Crow isn’t what he seems. Lies, deceptions, and a band of outlaw motorcyclists proves to the Parkers that no matter where you turn, no matter what you do, the world is full of such darkness that even grandmothers are capable of unspeakable deeds.
 
 
 
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As a boy, award-winning writer Reavis Z. Wortham hunted and fished the river bottoms near Chicota, Texas, the inspiration for his fictional Center Springs. Reavis Z. Wortham’s critically acclaimed debut novel, The Rock Hole, was listed in a Starred Review by Kirkus Reviews as one of their “Top Mysteries of 2011.” Burrows, the second novel in this critically acclaimed series received a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly, and The Library Journal listed it as One of Nine Historical Mysteries for the Summer of 2012. Vengeance is Mine, Book 4, was listed by True West magazine as one of their Top 5 Modern Westerns of 2015. A retired educator of 35 years, Reavis and wife Shana live in Frisco, Texas.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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