Monthly Archives: November 2020

Blitz: The Cowyboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas

The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas


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!


“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

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!

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.


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.

Signed copy of Mia and Nattie, Nattie Plush, Nattie Mousepad, and a Nattie pendant
2ND PRIZE (US only): Signed copy of Mia and Nattie
3RD PRIZE (US only): Signed copy of Mia and Nattie
Giveaway ends at midnight, CST, 11/25/2020
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11/16/2020 Review That’s What She’s Reading
11/16/2020 Character Spotlight Book Fidelity
11/16/2020 Review Jennifer Silverwood
11/16/2020 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
11/17/2020 Review Forgotten Winds
11/17/2020 Sneak Peek The Clueless Gent
11/17/2020 Review Momma on the Rocks
11/18/2020 Review Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
11/18/2020 Top 5 List All the Ups and Downs
11/18/2020 Review Missus Gonzo
11/19/2020 Review Book Bustle
11/19/2020 Excerpt Max Knight
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11/20/2020 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
11/20/2020 Character Interview Sybrina’s Book Blog
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Review & Giveaway: Araceli’s Path by Marion Surles


Among Angels
and Devils in Juarez
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


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.

TWO WINNERS: Autographed copies of Araceli’s Path and Grit in
(choice of English or Spanish), Day of the Dead shopping bag &
plate, Mexican coin purse, Mexican candy.
NOVEMBER 5-15, 2020
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Review & Giveaway: The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano

Joanna Davidson Politano
Genre: Christian / Historical Fiction / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Number of Pages: 400
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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.



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
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ONE WINNER: Copy of The Love Note + $25 B&N Gift
Card + Pack of 50 Love Notes Cards.
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Strong from the Heart by Jon Land

Strong from the Heart

(Caitlin Strong #11)

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.


“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


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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10/29/2020 Character Spotlight Chapter Break Book Blog
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10/31/2020 Review Reading by Moonlight
11/1/2020 Top 9 List Missus Gonzo
11/2/2020 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
11/3/2020 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
11/4/2020 Top 10 List Texas Book Lover
11/5/2020 Guest Post Forgotten Winds
11/5/2020 Review The Clueless Gent
11/6/2020 Top 10 List KayBee’s Book Shelf
11/7/2020 Review That’s What She’s Reading
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