Monthly Archives: July 2016

Review: Summer Vacation by Belinda Everette

 SUMMER VACATION

 

The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen

 

Book One, Second Edition

 

by 

 

Belinda Everette 

Genre: Middle Grade / Contemporary Fiction

Date of Publication: June 12, 2016
# of pages: 70
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It’s the beginning of summer and Uncle Mike and Aunt Melanie invite Mackenzie for an extended summer vacation in their hometown of Houston, Texas. On the first day, Mackenzie finds her cousins, Cristen and Chloe, helping their parents prepare a special meal. Come and learn about the holiday and celebration of Juneteenth with this first book in The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen, a cultural journey of joy, family, and fun! 

 

Summer Vacation is the first installment in The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen, a five part journey of family love and fun.  Each adventure finds the cousins learning history, exploring cultural themes and traditions, and discovering the joy in the world around them.

PRAISE FOR SUMMER VACATION:

 

“I read Summer Vacation by Belinda Everette.  I thought it was educational regarding the true history of Juneteenth and portrayed realistic events in the lives of the characters.  I did pass it on to one of my daughters with a special interest in children’s books.  This seems to be a good moment for this kind of story, with increased interest in African-American history with readers of all ages.”

 

 — Ronne Hartfield, Co-Chair, Harvard University Arts Education Council, Executive Director, Art Institute of Chicago, Author

 

 

Summer Vacation is very good.  This book is entertaining and informative.  The author has given us a unique way of presenting history to our children.  This book should be published in Spanish and other languages to share this history with other cultures.”

 

— Irma P. Hall, Academy Award nominated American Actress,  Poet, Author, Language Educator (ret), Dallas Public School System,  30 years.
  CLICK TO PURCHASE 
Everette’s writing pulls you in by appealing to your senses. Her visual descriptions make it easy to picture the scene and you can smell the food as Mackenzie’s Texas family prepares for the celebration.
I can’t remember what grade I was in when I learned about Juneteenth, but I do know that there wasn’t much detail about the celebration. Basically, we knew that it was a Black American celebration of freedom in America, but that was just about it. So I found it interesting to learn about the tradition of eating and drinking foods that slaves were forced to serve to their masters, but were never allowed to consume themselves. I had no idea that red soda water existed back then!
I like how Everette shows how progress has been made with Juneteenth becoming an official national American holiday. But she also points out that there is still a ways to come when the caucasian twins next door share their story of a country club, made up exclusively of exclusively white members, celebrates Juneteenth but doesn’t allow their black employees to have the day off. They also comment that the club’s staff is mainly black and Hispanic.
This little book makes a big impression. I only wish that the title was a little more interesting than “Summer Vacation.” But this is only book one of Mackenzie and Cristen’s adventures, so I hope Everette gives the rest of the series titles that reflect their fun and educating nature. The cover art is cute pencil work, but I think it would really pop if the artist used Photoshop or some other program to digitally color in everything.

Like most people, when life throws lemons, you make lemonade and that was certainly the case for Belinda Everette, the author of The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen book series.   After twenty-six years as a Senior Vice-President for several Fortune 500 financial institutions, life circumstances required a change.  Belinda put down her briefcase, enrolled in Rice University’s creative writing program, and began to pursue her lifelong dream of writing. 
When not writing, Belinda supports several of her favorite charities which focus on providing housing and improving living conditions for those in need, including Houston’s Star of Hope, Covenant House, and Houston Achievement Place.
“Family is my greatest joy,” Belinda adds “nothing is better than a houseful of family and friends with lots of children running around, enjoying a delicious meal and good Christian fellowship.”  Cooking, entertaining, and music along with daughter Ashley, son-in-law Ron, and grandchildren, Mackenzie and Evan, keep live full and happy.  Belinda and her constant companion, a four-year old Shih Tzu, reside in suburban Houston, Texas.

 

 

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Signed Copies of Summer Vacation  and It’s Just A Song, plus a tote bag
2 Other Winners each win:
Signed Copies of Summer Vacation plus mouse pads
  July 20 – July 29, 2016

Check out the other great blogs on the tour! 

7/20    Hall Ways Blog         – Review
7/21    Country Girl Bookaholic – Excerpt #1
7/22    Reading By Moonlight  Author Interview #1
7/23    Margie’s Must Reads           – Review
7/24    StoreyBook Reviews           – Guest Post       
7/25    The Crazy Booksellers  Excerpt #2
7/26    Missus GonzoReview
7/27    Byers Editing Reviews & Blog  – Author Interview #2 
7/28    The Librarian Talks  – Promo       
7/29    My Book Fix Blog Review          

 

 

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Review: What Matters Most by Kellie Coates Gilbert

WHAT MATTERS MOST 
(TEXAS GOLD COLLECTION BOOK #4)
 

 

by

 

 

 

Kellie Coates Gilbert
Genre: Contemporary Inspirational Romance / Christian
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: July 5, 2016
Number of Pages: 320
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Love and Politics Collide in This Emotion-Packed 
Fourth Texas Gold Novel

 

 

Kellie Coates Gilbert strikes gold once again in the latest book in the Texas Gold Collection. Readers will be drawn into the story through Gilbert’s deeply emotional writing that highlights the complexities of human relationships.

 

 

Out of her desire to care for her mother who is suffering from dementia, Leta Breckenridge drops out of college. Her next step means leaving her comfort zone. After learning that a delinquent account may force her mother into a less desirable facility, Leta takes a leap and lands a high-paying job at an Austin public relations firm. But her dream job soon turns into a nightmare when she learns that the firm she is working for is a front for a political opposition organization—and that the research she has been collecting will be used against Nathan Emerson, the handsome senator she’s swiftly falling in love with.

 

 

Nathan is a rising political star being pressured to run a bid to unseat the current governor of Texas. He’s already in a relationship with a woman much better suited to be a politician’s wife, but he’s never met anyone like Leta. Could this feisty woman hold the key to his heart—and his future?

 

Praise for the Texas Gold Collection
“This tale of family and faith brings to light what truly matters in life.”—RT Book Reviews, 4 stars
Kellie Coates Gilbert delivers emotionally gripping plots and authentic characters.LifeIsStory.com

“Well-drawn, sympathetic characters and graceful language make this an engaging choice for readers.”Library Journal

 
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AMAZON          CHRISTIANBOOK.COM

  

Kellie Coates Gilbert is a former legal investigator and trial paralegal, as well as the author of A Woman of Fortune, Where Rivers Part, and A Reason to Stay. Gilbert crafts her emotionally charged stories about women in life-changing circumstances in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband.

 

300b2-review
From the beginning, you feel compassion toward Leta without pitying her. Although her college aspirations were interrupted in the 11th hour, she didn’t waste time moping. She juggles two jobs (at one point, three!) to support a mother who doesn’t even recognize her most days. You have to respect someone who sacrifices so much to care for another person who doesn’t even realize what’s being done for them. I think that many people in Leta’s predicament would have chosen a cheap facility to put their parent in if it meant less financial strain in already dire circumstances.
Gilbert doesn’t dwell on Leta’s looks, but I’m guessing that they’re striking enough for some man (who turns out to be a senator potentially running for governor) to notice her while she arranges flowers at Central Market. And while her distress might have been enough for him to forgive her damaging his car without seeking any sort of compensation (or insurance information for that matter), you get the feeling that her attractiveness might have played a role as well. Of course, as their relationship goes from casual to personal, his appreciation of her looks become more evident. However, Gilbert makes it clear that the good senator is mostly infatuated with Leta’s heart, not her outward appearance.
While the circumstances of Leta being hired by a PR firm out to slam the senator’s reputation seemed too good to be true, I suspended my disbelief because I wanted to see where things were headed. Gilbert builds some great suspense as you see both Leta and Nate having to choose between their head and their heart. You don’t ever doubt for a moment that the heart will prevail, but it’s exciting to see how everything unfolds anyway. Throw in some dirty tactics (hey, this is politics we’re talking about, right?) and some chilly, reluctant assistance from the ex-girlfriend and you’ve got a wonderful recipe for complicated. Throw in some misunderstanding with a heaping dose of jumping to the wrong conclusions, and the recipe gets 5 stars.
While I like how things are revealed and how the end turns out, it all felt rather rushed. The novel has a great pace throughout – no meandering sweet nothings in this one – but then you get to the last chapter and BAM! The battle was won after a single volley of arrows. There was no grand rush of bodies slamming into each other and clanging of metal. I wish Gilbert didn’t speed through the satisfying takedown. And I especially wish she hadn’t rushed something else as well. But I’m not telling you about that. Just read the book. You’ll be glad you did.
 
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Prize 1: Box of Texas Treats & Signed Book

 

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   June 11 – July 25, 2016

CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

 

7/11    Margie’s Must Reads  – Review

 

7/12    Hall Ways Blog – Author Interview #1


7/13    The Page Unbound – Excerpt

 

7/14    Reading By Moonlight Review

 

7/15    It’s a Jenn WorldPromo

 

7/16    Country Girl Bookaholic – Guest Post #1

 

7/17    My Book Fix Blog Review

 

7/18    The Crazy Booksellers  – Author Interview #2

 

7/19    Chapter Break Book Blog – Guest Post #2

 

7/20    StoreyBook ReviewsReview

 

7/21    The Librarian Talks – Author Interview #3

 

7/22    All for the Love of the Word Promo

 

7/23    Byers Editing Reviews & Blog Review

 

7/24    A Novel Reality Promo

 

7/25    Missus Gonzo Review


 

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Review: A Kineno’s Journey by Lauro F. Cavazos & Gene P. Preuss

A Kineño’s Journey:

 

On Family, Learning, and Public Service
(Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest)   
by

 

Lauro F. Cavazos & Gene P. Preuss

 

Genre: Memoir / Education
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
TTU Press: on Facebook     on Twitter
Date of Publication: June 30, 2016
# of pages: 352

On September 20, 1988, the United States Senate unanimously confirmed Lauro F. Cavazos as the fourth Secretary of Education in President Ronald Reagan’s administration. A sixth-generation Texan and Kineño—a descendant of Mexican citizens who accepted work on Texas’s King Ranch in the 19th century—Cavazos was the first Hispanic appointed to a position in an American Presidential Cabinet.
The story of Cavazos’s journey leading up to his cabinet appointment is a portrait of a life devoted to the principles of education. In 1954, Cavazos married Peggy Ann Murdock; the couple had ten children, all of whom were educated in public schools. To enhance their children’s education, the Cavazoses traveled extensively, living out the principle that a holistic education includes exposure to others’ worldviews. During his service as Secretary of Education, Cavazos insisted that all children in America be educated to their fullest potential. A key tenet of Cavazos’s service was an emphasis on educating minority students—a passion Cavazos formed early on in his career, first as a faculty member at the Medical College of Virginia, then as a professor and Dean at the Tufts University School of Medicine, and later as President of Texas Tech University.

 

**************************************
From the book:
My father told me when I was a young boy that he had three expectations of me. Dad said that I was expected to educate myself, serve my country, and never disgrace the Cavazos name. These three simple admonitions formed the bedrock of my future life, the foundation upon which my father told me to stand firm.

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email: ttup@ttu.edu

 

phone: 800.742.2982
I can only imagine what education in the U.S. would be like today if Cavazos had not been asked to resign as Secretary of Education by President George H. W. Bush. He recognized many issues back then that are prevalent today: lack of educational support for minority children (particularly those of Native Americans), overemphasis on standardized testing, and the need to make college education affordable. I don’t know if his dismissal came because he already achieved what the administration expected (more Hispanic support), or if his approach, which they saw as passive, was ineffective. But seeing the impact he had on Texas Tech University, Cavazos was anything but ineffective. Personally, I think they just didn’t know what to do with a political figure who didn’t thump his chest and yell like a politician. I think it’s sad that they didn’t see the value of a man who had all the right values: maintaining a close relationship with one’s spouse, providing love, care, and education for one’s children, listening to the people you aim to serve through your work.
Cavazos paints the very sad and real portrait of politics in Washington. Too much importance is placed on party affiliations, and not enough on working together for the common good of all. Nothing disgusts me more than when a person argues against a great idea just because it isn’t their idea. If I were in Cavazos’ place, I would have taken so many things personally and probably burned some bridges on my way out, but he was ever the gentleman. I love how his wife Peggy points out that he is the same gentleman leaving Washington. Politics didn’t change him a bit.
Speaking of Peggy and Cavazos’ relationship, I respect a man that can recognize that his wife is his intellectual equal and sometimes hero. It was great hearing how Peggy saved him from delivering a plagiarized speech and how she supported every step of his career. It was inspiring to hear that a woman who accomplished her dream to have 10 children managed to never put them in daycare and return back to work once they started school. That her and Cavazos’ joint efforts to educate their children at home translated into children who worked hard in school. And can I say that Peggy’s figure is fabulous after having TEN children?!
If all children in America had the loving care and support of two parents (like the Cavazos family), I think that education would improve. Cavazos points out the divide between black and hispanic students in comparison to white and Asian, but he doesn’t explain why it exists. At the risk of overgeneralizing, many black children do not have both parents around and do not have enough to eat. Without food to fuel the brain and parents to encourage you to finish school, it is difficult to break outside of your community’s norm. I can’t say for certain, but I’m thinking many Hispanic children face the same difficulties as black children.
It was really timely for me to read this book since I feel like I’m having trouble balancing my work and family life. It reminds me to have faith that God or the universe will provide for my needs if I keep an open heart and mind.
I think my only critique of this book is that I wished the timeline was more linear. It jumps around a bit but I didn’t get confused.

Former Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos was born on the vast King Ranch in South Texas, where his father was the foreman. He received an M.A. in zoology from Texas Tech University and holds a doctoral degree in physiology from Iowa State University. He taught at the Medical College of Virginia and at the Tufts University School of Medicine, where he was Dean for five years. Cavazos returned to Texas Tech University in 1980 to become its tenth president—the first Hispanic and first graduate of the university to hold that office. He is a professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. He and his wife divide their time between Concord, Massachusetts and Port Aransas, Texas.
Gene B. Preuss is an associate professor of history and Special Assistant to the President at the University of Houston-Downtown. He is the author of To Get a Better School System: One Hundred Years of School Reform in Texas.

 

Check out the other great blogs on the tour! 

7/15    Country Girl BookaholicReview

7/16    Blogging for the Love of Authors and Their Books

7/17    The Page Unbound

7/18    Missus GonzoReview

7/19    Texas Book Lover

7/20    My Book Fix Blog

7/21    Forgotten Winds – Review

7/22    It’s a Jenn World

7/23    StoreyBook Reviews

7/24    Hall Ways Blog – Review


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NOTE FROM KRISTINE at HALL WAYS: With the exception of the Hall Ways Review, the content of this promo post was provided by Lone Star Book Blog Tours.  If you’re a Texas blogger interested in joining the ranks as a blogger for Lone Star Book Blog Tours, contact Kristine via the Contact Form found at the bottom of the Hall Ways blog.
 

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Review: The District Manager by Matt Minor

THE DISTRICT MANAGER
by
Matt Minor
Genre: Political Suspense
Publisher: Dead Tree
Date of Publication: June 30, 2016
Number of Pages: 266
Scroll down for Giveaway!

 

“Doing the right thing means you don’t eat”
So begins the sweltering narrative of District Manager, Mason Dixon, a haunted man serving Texas House District 100. After a constituent reaches out to his office with disturbing information about twisted activities going on in district, Mason finds himself drawn into a game of cat and mouse with a malevolent entity.
While these events unfold, Mason begins dating a county judge’s assistant. Brenna is a single mother who is ready to start the next chapter of her life. Can she and the stoical Mason connect? Or will she become collateral damage to his unorthodox, occupational hazards?
Mason soon finds that the danger has reached the highest ranks of the district, and that the century-old structure where he offices is not haunted, but instead possessed by an all too real menace.
Can a man who is profoundly broken restore order when the very core of order itself has been corrupted? 
“Matt Minor knows Texas politics from the inside, and he weaves a devious tale of deceit and death and even a little romance. Buckle your seat belt and hang on for the ride.”  — Bill Crider

 

Review
I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t retained much from my Texas history or government classes. I went into this novel unsure of what exactly Mason Dixon did for a living, but I remembered the significance of his namesake at least. And this might be a misstep, but I like to have a clear picture of each character so that while I read, I have a movie playing in my head. For some reason, I pictured a Matthew McConaughey type sweating buckets (perspiration is big in this book because the Texas heat is practically a character on its own). But a chapter or two in, Mason turned into more of a Chris Pratt because I found out he’s a lot younger than I thought (35 if I remember correctly), and still acts like a college guy in some respects.
So once I solidified Mason’s looks, I tried to understand what exactly his job was. His boss is this political guy with a very political name (Halliburton Crane), and yet he seems to involve himself in some messy business. I definitely didn’t peg him for someone to actually go out to the middle of the boon to check out a complaint on possible dogfighting with pit bulls. I got the feeling that most people who share his job description were more pencil pushing, phone fundraiser-types, but Mason was anything but that. He can dig into files, but the man knows how to shoot a .38 accurately.
The mystery behind the absent wife sort of unfolds slowly, I suppose to explain his trepidation of starting a relationship with the very sexy Brenna. Maybe it also has to do with Minor’s decision to slowly reveal Mason’s opinion of bad cops. I don’t know how long it took Minor to write this novel, but I found that Mason’s feelings about law enforcement are very timely with what is going on in our country right now. In fact, all of the ugly things in this novel are very relevant today: political corruption (here and Mexico), human trafficking, marijuana (should it be legalized?), and animal abuse.
I would be curious to see what else Mason Dixon gets himself into in the future. I hope that Minor plans on making a series about the guy.
Matt Minor presently serves as a Chief of Staff in the Texas House of Representatives. He has worked as a political campaign manager and is a well-regarded public speaker. Matt has authored official state publications, oversees syndicated editorials, and is a speechwriter and district radio legislative commentator. Prior to his life in state politics Matt was a professional musician and entertainer. Matt’s hobbies are centered on the arts, including the craft of poetry, an interest that has brought academic recognition and numerous awards.
His first novel, The Representative was an Amazon Political Fiction Bestseller the summer of 2015. It was accepted and archived into the Texas State Legislative Library. In April of 2016 The Representative won an IPPY Gold medal for Southern-Region Fiction.
Matt Minor resides with his wife Stacy on their ranch property in Wharton County, Texas. He lives in Austin during legislative session.
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   June 13 – June 22, 2016

 

 


CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

7/13     Country Girl BookaholicReview
7/14     The Page UnboundGuest Post #1
7/15     StoreyBook Reviews Author Interview
7/16     Missus GonzoReview
7/18     Reading By Moonlight  Excerpt
7/19     It’s a Jenn WorldReview
7/20     Forgotten Winds Guest Post #2
7/21     The Crazy Booksellers Promo
7/22     My Book Fix BlogReview

 

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West Texas Middleweight by Frank Sikes

WEST TEXAS MIDDLEWEIGHT
The Story of LaVern Roach
(Sport in the American West Series)
by
Frank Sikes
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Date of Publication: June 30, 2016
Number of Pages: 288
Scroll down for Giveaway!
LaVern Roach, a skinny kid from the small town of Plainview, Texas, rose from obscurity to become one of boxing’s most popular figures during the 1940s. Roach’s rise to prominence occurred during an era when boxing shared the spotlight with baseball as the nation’s top two professional sports. As a result of Roach’s death—which marked the first nationally televised fight during which a boxer died from injuries received in the ring—the sport of boxing came under closer scrutiny by the general public than ever before.
West Texas Middleweight is the story of Roach’s all too brief journey from a West Texas amateur, to enlistment in the US Marines, where he captained the nation’s most successful military boxing team, to becoming a Madison Square Garden main eventer. He received the distinction of being named The Ring Magazine’s “Rookie of the Year” for 1947 and was considered a top ten contender for the middleweight championship of the world. This book chronicles Roach’s road to his final fight—and it explains why, as noted by legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, “boxing changed because of LaVern Roach.”
PURCHASE FROM TEXAS TECH PRESS:
email: ttup@ttu.edu
phone: 800.742.2982
GuestPost
Sikes guest post pic 2

GUEST POST #2

By Frank Sikes

 

The Muhammad Ali-Angelo Dundee partnership created a boxing legend which lasted for over half a century. Ali, arguably the greatest boxer who ever lived, recently died on June 3, 2016 at the age of 74. His partner in fame, Angelo Dundee, arguably the best boxing trainer who ever lived, passed away on February 1, 2012 at the age of 90.

 

What does this have to do with West Texas Middleweight, the Story of LaVern Roach?

 

Angelo was a seasoned trainer, who had already produced his first world boxing champ in Carmen Basilio, when he first met 18 year old Cassius Marcellus Clay. The relationship got off to a rocky start. After Clay won his gold medal in the 1960 Olympics, all of the trainers were trying to sign him to a professional contract. All with the exception of Dundee, who didn’t want to take the time and trouble in helping turn an amateur into a professional fighter. Fate eventually brought the two together, forming boxing’s most successful boxer/trainer relationship and the rest is history.

 

Go back in time to 1945. World War II was over and the soldiers were coming home. Among them was twenty five year old Angelo Dundee, who in his own words, said “I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life.” His older brother Chris had put together one of the largest boxing teams in the country, called Dundee’s Dandies. He offered Angelo a job, which Angelo best described as a “gopher” – running errands and doing whatever Chris wanted done. Chris discovered that Angelo had a talent for writing and soon had him writing publicity material to send to the young boxer’s hometown newspapers.

 

There was one boxer that he was really impressed with and had no problem in producing sporting clips to send back home. His name was LaVern Roach. LaVern, a twenty year old Texan, had gotten out of the Marine Corps, where he won a national Golden Glove championship, the best fighter to come out of the Marines in World War II, and was named the Amateur Boxer of the Year by Look Magazine. Just like Clay years later, LaVern’s ambition was to become a world champion boxer. Instead of going back to Texas, he decided to stay in New York City, which was the heart of the boxing world. He soon became the star of the Dundee Dandees, forming a friendship with Angelo. In Angelo’s own words, “I had the pleasure and honor to meet LaVern Roach as a person and a human being – great on both accounts – He would have been a fistic star at ‘any time’ – championship material. Walked like a champ in and out of the ring.”

 

Angelo’s skills working with the young boxers were soon recognized by bother Chris, and his duties expanded to where Angie began his training in the boxing ring as a bucket-man, then a cut-man for LaVern and the other boxers.   So before there was an Angelo Dundee, there was a LaVern Roach.

 

Angelo Dundee reached the summit of boxing with Muhammad Ali but received some of his earliest training with LaVern Roach.

 

Angelo’s first words to me were “Boxing Changed because of LaVern Roach.” His parting words were “Good luck with the book. Boxing is in need of a good story.” Angelo died six month later, but not before he attended Ali’s 70th birthday party.

 

Angelo (age 90) and Ali were reunited for the last time at Ali’s 70th birthday party. Angelo Dundee died about two weeks later.

 

Frank Sikes, a third-generation West Texan, grew up in Plainview, where LaVern Roach, along with Jimmy Dean, were hometown heroes.  Sikes graduated from Texas Tech in 1967, then was a US Navy Officer proudly serving aboard the USS Little Rock stationed in Gaeta, Italy from 1968-1970.  He attended the University of Houston School of Business, from 1973 to 1975, and got his master’s degree in religion from Wayland Baptist University in 2011.

Frank and his wife Nancy have been married for 50 years and have two grown children out of the house, and two Boston Terriers, Molly and Maggie (or as some suggest Boston terrorists) who rule the house. Lubbock has been home for the past 30 years with stops in Newport, RI; San Francisco, CA; Gaeta, Italy; Houston, TX; and Albuquerque, NM.  West Texas Middleweight is his first book.
Connect with the author on FACEBOOK.

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 Each Wins a Signed Copy of the Book 
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CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
 

7/1       Country Girl Bookaholic  – Review


7/2       My Book Fix Blog – Author Interview #1

 

7/3       Forgotten Winds – Guest Post #1

 

7/4       Margie’s Must Reads Review

 

 

7/6       StoreyBook Reviews  – Author Interview #2

 

7/7       Book Chase Review

 

7/8       The Page Unbound Author Interview #3

 

7/9       Missus Gonzo  – Guest Post #2

 

7/10    It’s a Jenn World Review

 


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