Monthly Archives: August 2018

Review & Giveaway: The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck

THE THEORY OF
HAPPILY EVER AFTER
by
KRISTIN BILLERBECK
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: May 1, 2018
Number of Pages: 288
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According to Dr. Maggie Maguire, happiness is serious—serious science, that is. But science can’t always account for life’s anomalies, like why her fiancé dumped her for a silk-scarf acrobat and how the breakup sent Maggie spiraling into an extended ice cream–fueled chick flick binge.
Concerned that she might never pull herself out of this nosedive, Maggie’s friends book her as a speaker on a “New Year, New You” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Maggie wonders if she’s qualified to teach others about happiness when she can’t muster up any for herself. But when a handsome stranger on board insists that smart women can’t ever be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way she may discover that happiness has far less to do with the head than with the heart.
Filled with unforgettable characters, snappy dialogue, and touching romance, The Theory of Happily Ever After shows that the search for happiness may be futile—because sometimes happiness is already out there searching for you.

PRAISE FOR THE THEORY OF HAPPILY EVER AFTER: 

“. . .the sweet will-they-or-won’t-they of Sam and Maggie’s courtship will please readers. . .”
                        —Publishers Weekly
“Billerbeck returns with a light Christian chick-lit novel just in time for the summer beach-read season, taking on stereotypes of femininity, intellect, and worth within an exciting cruise-ship setting with plenty of sunshine and gelato.”
                        —Booklist
“Billerbeck’s latest is full of memorable characters and witty dialogue. . . .The overall story reminds the reader that sometimes happiness will find you, no matter what you may do to avoid it.”
RT Book Reviews  Four Star Review
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review

Right away I could tell that I would have trouble putting this book down. So I approached reading it the way any other rational person would: I cleared my day of all commitments so that I could read without any interruptions. To be completely honest, there were interruptions despite my best intentions. I would guffaw at something, my husband would look at me questioningly, and then I had no choice but to read some choice lines aloud to him.

One of my favorite lines that I spent 5 minutes flipping through the book to find, so you have no choice but to read it: “There’s little doubt that Jake’s soaring, Lycra-wearing Tinkerbell sprinkled pixie dust in her wake and left him feeling as if he too could fly, while a scientific downer like me spread nothing but Spock-like facts and despair — covering a room with a dark, dingy feeling similar to volcanic ash.” [pp. 37-38]. So many references and imagery in one funny sentence! And the book is chock full of gems like this. Many quick, one-liners, but even some fun paragraph-long inner (and outer) dialogue full of quirks. I found myself hoping to find a friend as witty as the author one day.

I was a little surprised that this book wasn’t tagged as Christian (although Booklist did identify it as light Christian chick-lit) because there are definite references here and there that a Bible studier would catch. When faith and Christianity are discussed head on, it makes a little more sense that the story lacks the typical debauchery and maybe even a little premarital activity that you would expect to occur on a cruise ship full of singles, especially in a romance novel.

The way that Billerbeck pokes fun at her heroine’s obsession with the Hallmark channel and storybook romances makes this surprisingly chaste read anything but boring. As much as Maggie tries to paint herself as this dry, data driven nerd with librarian fashion sense (I sort of resent that!), you get a sense that she suffers from some sort of body and soul dysmorphia. Despite being flanked by two gorgeous and confident friends, she manages to take her pick of the only two charming and good-looking men on the ship. Oh, if only that were really the case in real life. Am I right, ladies?

You know me, I don’t ruin books for y’all. The after taste of this one sort of reminded of a Bridget Jones’s Diary – probably because the main character is self deprecating, yet is caught in a great love triangle, and has colorful friends. Also, even though everyone is from California or Texas, a few of the characters seem to have a slip of nationality and use words like “bin” and … ugh, I knew I should have made a list.

Either way, this is the perfect beach read. But to be honest, I can see myself cozying up with a cup of hot tea as well. It’s a feel good book whose chapter intros even include mantras from Maggie’s fictional book, The Science of Bliss. I will leave you with this particular quote that feels like equal parts Namaste, fortune cookie wisdom, and just plain common sense: “Savor the good times in life. Studies tell us people who savor happy experiences in life are more likely to be optimistic about their past outcomes and their future.” [p. 150].

Kristin Billerbeck is the author of more than thirty novels, including What a Girl Wants and the Ashley Stockingdale and Spa Girls series. She is a fourth-generation Californian who loves her state and the writing fodder it provides.
————————————— 
GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
GRAND PRIZE: Copy of The Theory of Happily Ever After + Bookish Beach Towel, Tumbler, & Book Sleeve
2ND PRIZE:Copy of The Theory of Happily Ever After
+ $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
3RD PRIZE:Copy of The Theory of Happily Ever After
+ $10 Starbucks Gift Card
(US ONLY)
August 22-31, 2018
CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
8/22/18
Excerpt, Part 1
8/22/18
BONUS Post
8/23/18
Excerpt, Part 2
8/24/18
Review
8/25/18
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8/26/18
Review
8/27/18
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8/28/18
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8/29/18
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8/30/18
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Review
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Review: The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch by Bill Sarpalius

THE GRAND DUKE FROM BOYS RANCH
EUGENIA AND HUGH M. STEWART ’26 SERIES
by
BILL SARPALIUS
foreword by Bill Hobby
Genre: Memoir / Texana / Politics / Eastern European History
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
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Date of Publication: April 16, 2018
Number of Pages: 336 pages w/50 B&W photos
As a boy in Houston, Bill Sarpalius, his brothers, and their mother lived an itinerant life. Bill dug food out of trashcans, and he and his brothers moved from one school to the next. They squatted in a vacant home while their mother, affectionately called “Honey,” battled alcoholism and suicidal tendencies. In an act of desperation, she handed her three sons over to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch north of Amarillo.

At the time, Bill was thirteen years old and could not read. Life at Boys Ranch had its own set of harrowing challenges, however. He found himself living in fear of some staff and older boys. He became involved in Future Farmers of America and discovered a talent for public speaking. When he graduated, he had a hundred dollars and no place to go. He worked hard, earned a scholarship from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and obtained a college degree. After a brief career as a teacher and in agribusiness, he won a seat in the Texas Senate. Driven by the memory of his suffering mother, he launched the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse in an effort to help people struggling with addiction.
Sarpalius later served in the United States Congress. As a Lithuanian American, he took a special interest in that nation’s fight for independence from the Soviet Union. For his efforts, Sarpalius received the highest honor possible to a non-Lithuanian citizen and was named a “Grand Duke.”The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch is a unique political memoir—the story of a life full of unlikely paths that is at once heartbreaking and inspirational.

 
PRAISE FOR THE GRAND DUKE FROM BOYS RANCH: 

“The autobiography of Bill Sarpalius reads like a 20 -century version of the American dream – equal parts heartbreak and inspiration, culminating in an unlikely political career capped by three terms in the U.S. Congress.” — University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs
“The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch is an inspiring tale of perseverance and personal courage.” — Si Dunn, Lone Star Literary Life
 
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review
I thought that a memoir by a politician would read snooty and high falutin, but The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch is a real comfortable conversation with someone you just met but feel like you have known for years. I could imagine myself sitting on a porch, watching horses graze nearby, as I sip a mason jar of ice cold sweet tea and listen to Bill talk about his life.
To say that Bill attended the school of hard knocks would be an understatement. Bill was more like the janitor, ridiculed by staff and students alike, who worked hard and remained kind no matter what. That’s a metaphor by the way. Bill wasn’t a janitor, but he definitely would have taken on such a job since he was a honest worker who did whatever he could to make his life, and the lives of others around him, better.
From the humblest of beginnings, this man fought fairly and let God (and his heart) lead the way. There were some times that I thought things sounded a little too good to be true, but then a hammer dropped and his life would shatter. His faith and his true blue friends would see him through every rough spot in his life, and he would claw his way back to the top. Bill never quit. Bill never fought dirty. And what I really admired about Bill is that he really didn’t let the past get in the way of his future. His eye was ever on the silver lining.
For a book that is written in laymen’s language through and through, there were surprisingly very few errors. For the most part, this book is chronological and has a pretty nice flow to it. Bill has the gift of storytelling, but I think his life is so unique and interesting that I would have still been captivated even if a lesser author penned this book. Sometimes he explains things a little too on the nose, but I like to think that he’s done that for people who might need that extra help with reading comprehension. And anytime you start to wonder if he stretches the truth a little, he has photographic evidence of the people he’s met along the way.
I recommend this book to young people who are struggling in school, to people who are just struggling with life in general, to educators, to administrators, heck, to pretty much anyone who might need to find inspiration or are praying for divine intervention. I closed this book with a renewed spirit to do more and to do good in the world. No excuses, anything is possible.
BILL SARPALIUS represented the Texas 13th Congressional District from 1989 to 1995, and from 1981 to 1989 he served in the Texas State Senate. He currently is a motivational speaker and serves as CEO of Advantage Associates International. He divides his time between Maryland and Houston, Texas.
 
 
MEET THE AUTHOR! 
BARNES & NOBLE, #2665
2:00 PM
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2018
2415 Soncy Road
Amarillo, TX 79124
 

CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

8/21/18
Notable Quotable
8/22/18
Review
8/23/18
Excerpt
8/24/18
Video Interview, Part 1
8/25/18
Review
8/26/18
Excerpt
8/27/18
Scrapbook Page
8/28/18
Review
8/29/18
Video Interview, Part 2
8/30/18
Review
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Excerpt 1 & Giveaway: Justice Betrayed by Patricia Bradley

 

JUSTICE BETRAYED
A MEMPHIS COLD CASE MYSTERY, #3
by
PATRICIA BRADLEY
Genre: Fiction / Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: June 5, 2018
Number of Pages: 352
Scroll down for Giveaway!
It’s Elvis Week in Memphis, and homicide detective Rachel Sloan isn’t sure her day could get any stranger when aging Elvis impersonator Vic Vegas asks to see her. But when he produces a photo of her murdered mother with four Elvis impersonators—one of whom had also been murdered soon after the photo was taken—she’s forced to reevaluate. Is there some connection between the two unsolved cases? And could the recent break-in at Vic’s home be tied to his obsession with finding his friend’s killer?
When yet another person in the photo is murdered, Rachel suddenly has her hands full investigating three cases. Lieutenant Boone Callahan offers his help, but their checkered romantic past threatens to get in the way. Can they solve the cases before the murderer makes Rachel victim number four?
The third installment of Bradley’s Memphis Cold Case series focuses on a cold case related to a homicide detective’s past…Bradley includes the unique character of Erin who seems as if she is a real person and takes great care to portray her respectfully.”
RT Book Reviews
 
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c9819-excerpt
EXCERPT: PROLOGUE
JUSTICE BETRAYED
BY PATRICIA BRADLEY
(used with permission)
Prologue
June 1980
Shirley traced her finger over her mother’s image in the photo, then shoved the picture into the backpack with her other possessions. Every night, she promised herself she’d leave as soon as her father parked himself in front of All in the Family and fell asleep. A band squeezed her lungs, making it impossible to breathe.
You do it tonight.
She clenched her jaw. It wasn’t that she wanted to stay. But what if he came after her and found her? Or what if the law found her? She was only fifteen, and they would drag her back to him.
After all, they’d bought her father’s story that her mom had fallen down the basement steps as she’d carried a basket of clothes to the washer. If the sheriff suspected her father had pushed his wife, he’d kept it to himself. No one wanted to get on the bad side of Big Al in their small community, not even the law.
She flinched as the back screen slapped against the doorframe. “Shir-lee! Shirley Irene, I’m hungry. Get supper on the table.”
Shirley shoved the backpack under her bed and hurried to the
kitchen, stopping at the doorway to take a deep breath. “Evening,” she mumbled.
He ignored her and turned on the television. The actor Ronald Reagan filled the screen in one of his election ads, and he snapped the set off.
“Washington’s never going to stop spending our money,” her father muttered, then he turned and laid his John Deere cap on the red Formica table.
Shirley wanted to snatch the dirty thing off the table her mother had been so proud to get from a neighbor after she updated her kitchen. She sidestepped past him to the avocado-green refrigerator to take out a package of pork chops. The sour odor of beer and sweat made her want to gag.
“Where were you this afternoon?”
She averted her eyes. “The teacher asked me to stay and help with cleaning up.”
“Look at me when I ask you a question.”
Shirley pulled her gaze past the beer gut hanging over his belt to his ruddy face and dead brown eyes.
“That’s better. You aren’t worth anything to me helping somebody else. I needed you to help load logs. Next time you tell her you have other jobs to do.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, rubbing her thumbs over the calluses on her fingers. He worked her like a mule.
“Now get supper on the table.”
Shirley grabbed an apron and tied it around her waist. At the sink, she scrubbed her hands with the pumice soap until they were almost raw. Green sink, green stove, green refrigerator. She hated green. Her heart leaped into her throat as her gaze settled on the straight razor on the counter and then traveled to the leather strap hanging on the wall. She’d forgotten to sharpen his razor. That meant another beating if she didn’t get it done before morning.
Or maybe not. She wouldn’t be here by then. She would be gone.
With her spirits lighter, she lit the fire under the pot of beans and set a skillet on another burner and fried the pork chops, not even minding when the grease popped out, burning her arm. In twenty minutes, she had supper on the table and held her breath as he tasted the food.
“Girl, can’t you do anything right? You got the beans too salty.” He shoved away from the table and stood.
Her heart plummeted. But this time she wasn’t going to take it. “You’re not going to beat me again.”
“I wouldn’t have to if you didn’t mess up all the time.” He yanked the leather strap from the wall and marched toward her. “Any fifteen-year-old should be able to cook a simple meal without ruining it.”
“I won’t do it again.” She backed up against the sink.
“This is to make sure you don’t.”
She screamed as the strap came down and barely turned in time to protect her face as the strap stung her back.
“I told you not to scream. Now you’ve gone and done it, and I have to correct you again. Turn around and face me.”
“No!” The straight razor lay on the counter waiting for her to sharpen it. She grabbed it.
“You always say that.” His fingers closed on her shoulder, and he yanked her back.
She came around swinging the knife at his throat. Blood spurted from his neck.
He grabbed his throat and staggered back. “What have you done, girl? Call an ambulance!”
With every heartbeat came more blood.
“No.” He’d beat her for sure if he lived. Shirley sucked in air. “You shouldn’t have made me do it.”
“Girl, I’m sorry.” His breath came shorter. “I won’t do it again. Now call that ambulance.”
She pressed her fingers against her mouth. He couldn’t die here. The law might not believe her. “I’ll drive you to the hospital.”
“You . . . better . . . hope I don’ . . . die.” His voice grew weaker. “Haunt you . . . never get away from me.”
Can he do that? No. When you’re dead, you’re dead.
He grasped her wrist. “Help me!”
Blood dripped onto her hair as she half supported and half dragged him through the door. “You’ve got to help me,” she said through gritted teeth. Shirley didn’t know if he heard her or not. Then he got his feet under him, barely lightening her load. “Good,” she said with a grunt.
For once she was glad of the man’s work he’d forced her to do. They stumbled once in the pitch dark of the moonless night but finally made it to the old pickup. Once she had him inside the cab, he leaned against the door, and Shirley drove toward town. They’d just reached the tavern he’d just come from when death rattled in his chest.
A quarter of a mile past the tavern, she pulled over on the shoulder of the road and stopped. The dim light of the dashboard revealed his chest no longer rose and fell as his breathing became shallower. When he took his last breath, she rested her head against the back of the seat. He was beyond hurting her ever again.
This wasn’t her fault.
“You shouldn’t have made me do it,” she said softly.
She couldn’t leave him here like this, though.
Shirley angled the pickup toward the deep ravine on the side of the road. Then she pulled his body into the driver’s seat.
After wiping the steering wheel clean, she put the truck in neutral. Then she climbed out of the pickup. Slowly, it inched toward the ravine, picking up speed until it shot down the steep grade. Shirley ran like the hound of the Pit was after her.
The explosion happened just as she got past the tavern. She looked over her shoulder as a ball of fire rose from the trees.
For the first time in her life, she drew a free breath.
Click to read Chapter 1, Part 1, coming tomorrow on the Lone Star Book Blog Tours 8/16 stop!
Patricia Bradley is the award-winning author of Justice Delayed and Justice Buried, as well as the Logan Point series. She is cofounder of Aiming for Healthy Families, Inc., and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She lives in Mississippi.
 
 
 
————————————— 
GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
GRAND PRIZE: All Three Books in the Memphis Cold Case Series + Elvis Umbrella + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
2ND PRIZE: All Three Books in the Memphis Cold Case Series
+ $15 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
3RD PRIZE: All Three Books in the Memphis Cold Case Series
+ $10 Starbucks Gift Card
(US ONLY)
August 15-24, 2018
 
CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
8/15/18
Excerpt Part 1
8/15/18
BONUS post
8/16/18
Excerpt Part 2
8/17/18
Review
8/18/18
Author Video
8/19/18
Review
8/20/18
Character Interview
8/21/18
Review
8/22/18
Excerpt Part 3
8/23/18
Excerpt Part 4
8/24/18
Review
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Blitz: The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham

THE HOPE OF
AZURE SPRINGS 
by
RACHEL FORDHAM
Genre: Inspirational Historical Romance 
Date of Publication: July 3, 2018
Publisher: Revell

Number of Pages: 336

ABOUT THE BOOK: Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.
Welcome to the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.
 
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PRAISE FOR THE HOPE OF AZURE SPRINGS: “In her promising first novel, Fordham assembles an endearing cast of characters in the rugged Midwest plains for a tale about surviving and thriving. . . .Fordham depicts heartbreaking emotional and physical suffering, while beautifully illustrating the power in simple acts of kindness to foster healing, hope, and happiness.”
Booklist

EXCERPT: PROLOGUE
FROM THE HOPE OF AZURE SPRINGS

Iowa, 1881

     She dead?”
     Em heard a man’s voice from somewhere above her. A strange thumping pulsed through her with each word he spoke. Her throat burned, screaming for water, but she could not cry out.
     “There’s life in her. Not much of it though,” a second, raspier voice answered. She felt a hand press against her throat and then move over her body, gently probing. “She’s bleeding pretty bad.”
     “Gunshot?” the first voice asked.
     If only her eyes would open, and she could see them. Straining, she struggled to pull her heavy eyelids open. Finally, bits of light darted in front of her eyes, but she could not focus. The faces above her were fuzzy and indiscernible.
     Fear swept through her, suddenly waking her battered body. Afraid the men from before had returned, she opened her eyes wide, finding strength that only moments before she had lacked. With thrashing arms, she flailed at the men. Her arms flopped about but offered little defense—she was too weak from blood loss. And then they moved no longer, subdued by large, strong hands.
     “Easy, girl. We aren’t going to hurt you. We just want to help. Take you into town, that’s all. There’s a good doctor there.” The man’s deep voice sounded gentle, but still she did not trust him. Voices could be deceiving. Arms could hurt as well as help. She knew these things well.
     Soon she felt her body being raised above the ground, and moments later the hard planks of a wagon became the resting place for her injured frame. Too weak to move, she lay looking at the sky, wishing there were a way to end the agony, but knowing that for Lucy she would fight on.
     Once the wagon lurched forward, she lost track of everything again. The wheels bouncing over ruts made her pain so intense that everything closed around her and then faded to black.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Fordham started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. She hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

 
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