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Review & Giveaway: Harmon General by Kimberly Fish

 
HARMON GENERAL
Misfits and Millionaires #2 
by
KIMBERLY FISH
Genre: Historical Fiction / WWII / Spies
Publisher: Fish Tales, LLC 
Date of Publication: June 16, 2018
Number of Pages: 330Scroll down for giveaway!

In 1943, Lane Mercer and Emmie Tesco had nothing in common. Well, nothing stronger than a town neither of them chose and careers they couldn’t advertise as agents within the Office of Strategic Services. During the days of Longview, Texas’s Friendly Trek Homecoming Parade, Lane was gearing up for the grand opening of a bookshop that also disguised an espionage safe house, and Emmie was chasing a criminal with evil intent through the US Army’s new medical facility, Harmon General Hospital, treating diseased and amputated soldiers. Emmie ropes Lane into international threats at Harmon General, making it increasingly hard for the two spies to navigate the Junior Service League, church life, or anything else that might be considered normal for a town sizzling with oil boom wealth. A friend from Lane’s past arrives and pushes against the fiction she’s created to distance her spy history from the wedding bells ringing her future. Emmie flirts with the idea of finding a life outside of the OSS but justifies the danger as a way to make amends for those she’s betrayed. Connecting the two women, to their surprise, is a rogue agent who targets them for crimes he believes they created. For better, or worse, they have to put aside their differences to share responsibility for stopping “The Grasshopper” before he blows apart the Big Inch Pipeline project and Harmon General Hospital. The hope of malaria treatments for US soldiers depends on it, and justice of the heart demands it. 

PRAISE FOR HARMON GENERAL:
“The war that changed the world brought the world to East Texas through Harmon General, a significant US Army hospital that treated thousands of wounded soldiers in Longview.  In Harmon General, we meet again Lane Mercer, a World War II heroine, and we enjoy again how the drama of her secret service to the nation and her complicated personal relationships pull us into the vast impact of the world war.” — Dale Lunsford, Ph.D., President, LeTourneau University

Harmon General is a brilliant story for historical fiction readers! Set in World War II, the female spies, Army hospital setting, and drama amongst the Longview townsfolk kept me riveted and engaged until the very end.” – Jody T. Morse

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review
It’s been a while since I read book one, The Big Inch, but I’m glad to see that my wish to read more about Sergeant Tesco (Emmie) has been granted. I’m glad to see that Lane is still as strong and independent as ever, but it looks like she hasn’t improved on reading people yet.
From the beginning of book two, you know that Emmie and Lane are secret agents; but what you don’t know is why their relationship seems tense. You later learn that the two ladies stayed at the same boardinghouse at one time, and obviously they have the same occupation. It makes you think that they would be more friendly with each other, especially since they’re on the same side (you assume, since they have the same boss). It got me thinking that maybe Fish was making a comment on how women tend to get in each other’s way rather than help each other excel. At any rate, she introduces a small collection of men from both the civilian and spy sects who further muddle the relationship.
Understandably, it takes a while to unravel a story when you have so many interesting characters, but I was antsy for the action to begin. Heck, it took about halfway through the book for Lane to have the very serious conversation with her fiancé that we are expecting from the moment we find out the widow is already engaged to another man. But once we hit that halfway point, strap in folks. There is definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to these characters. I guess that’s why they are spies, right?
If this series gets picked up for the big screen, do not turn your HD on. The Texas heat is a character of its own that makes the spies miss Europe. I felt their pain every time Fish detailed the way perspiration ran rampant on everybody. Fish’s attention to detail goes far beyond climate, but these were details that really stood out to me and made me smile because I’m living in the same hell every time I walk out the door.
So, go get The Big Inch and read it, pick up Harmon General and read it, and then eagerly anticipate book three. You’re welcome.

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For the first five days of the Lone Star Book Blog Tours promotion of Harmon General, the Kindle  e-book of The Big Inch is FREE!!  That’s right, from June 22-27, the e-book that started the whole Misfits and Millionaires adventure costs nada! Click to download your copy!

A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR:

Kimberly Fish started writing professionally with the birth of her second child and the purchase of a home computer. Having found this dubious outlet, she then entered and won The Writer’s League of Texas manuscript contest which fed her on-going fascination with story crafting. 


She has since published in magazines, newspapers, and online formats and in January 2017, released the first novel in the Misfits and Millionaires series set during the World War II years in Longview, Texas—The Big Inch. Her second book, Comfort Plans, was published later that same year.

She lives with her family in East Texas.


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Review & Giveaway: Cinco de Murder by Rebecca Adler

 

CINCO DE MURDER
A Taste of Texas Mystery, #3
by
Rebecca Adler
Genre:  Texas Cozy Mystery
Date of Publication: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Number of Pages: 304

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Tex-Mex waitress and part-time reporter Josie Callahan serves up more Lone Star justice in this spicy mystery from the author of The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole.It’s fiesta time in Broken Boot, Texas, and tourists are pouring into town faster than free beer at a bull roping for the mouthwatering Cinco de Mayo festivities. Tex-Mex waitress Josie Callahan, her feisty abuela, and even her spunky Chihuahua Lenny are polishing their folklórico dances for Saturday’s big parade, while Uncle Eddie is adding his own spicy event to the fiesta menu: Broken Boot’s First Annual Charity Chili Cook-off.

But Uncle Eddie’s hopes of impressing the town council go up in smoke when cantankerous chili cook Lucky Straw is found dead in his tent. And when Josie’s beloved uncle is accused of fatal negligence, she, Lenny, and the steadfast Detective Lightfoot must uncover who ended the ambitious chilihead’s life–before another cook kicks the bucket.

PRAISE FOR CINCO DE MURDER:

“I enjoyed every minute of this high fa looting Texas escapade. The authentic Texas sayings had me rolling on the floor. I’m a Texan and boy did I relate to the towns and chili cook-off so well.”
Texas Book-aholic

 

“I enjoy the Texas flair and touch while all the food talk just makes me hungry. If you enjoy a good cozy mystery that features an adorable dog and a culinary touch then this is the book/series for you.”~Books a Plenty Book Reviews

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review
I don’t know that I would ever visit a town like Broken Boot, Texas, but I do know that I found the people and the vibe so quaint that I didn’t want to see anyone get murdered. But then those pesky tourists come in and I start thinking, “I wouldn’t miss that Lucky Straw guy at all.” I suppose that Adler felt the same way since she decided to off him as soon as she could. Well, I have to admit that I was halfway wrong about nobody missing the big lug. Surprisingly, a few of the chili cooks who have made the circuit with him shed a tear or two while others only lament that they didn’t get to steal his chili championship title before he died.
Josie Callahan, already in the thick of things since her family is in charge of the chili cook off, wades in even deeper as she tries to prove herself worthy of the criminal reporter position with the town’s newspaper. When she isn’t busy trying to please her adopted family or negotiate her way through a subtle love triangle, she is channelling Nancy Drew and coming up with theories that no one takes seriously for some reason.
Adler kept me hooked with her colorful cast and funny dialogue. There were a few times that even Josie acknowledged her use of corny cliches, while other times some slipped by without comment. It’s a little silly, but I would have liked to see Lenny the dog have a more varied vocabulary since I know that dogs can say a lot more than, “yip.”
There were a few times that I felt like Adler was hitting us over the head with details to make sure that we didn’t miss them. For example, Lightfoot’s ponytail and his various Native American accessory choices. I’m not sure why those details were so important to bring up so often, especially when there’s a whole tense conversation between Lightfoot and Josie about his ethnicity.
Overall, Adler writes a cute story with great use of misdirection to keep the reader guessing. Once you track down the other books in the series, grab a margarita and enjoy.

Rebecca Adler grew up on the sugar beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast. Drawn to the Big Apple by the sweet smell of wishful thinking, she studied acting on Broadway until a dark-eyed cowboy flung her over his saddle and hightailed it to the Southwest.
She’s currently content to pour her melodramatic tendencies into writing the Taste of Texas culinary mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime: Here Today, Gone Tamale; The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole; and Cinco de Murder. Set in far West Texas, her humorous stories are filled with delicious suspense and scrumptious Tex-Mex recipes. Her alter ego, Gina Lee Nelson, writes contemporary romance with a sweet, Southern-fried flavor. 
A former president of North Texas Romance Writers, Rebecca is currently a member of Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America. When not writing, she spends a great deal of time on her other favorite pastime, directing high school theatre. 
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Notable Quotable & Giveaway: The Widow’s Watcher by Eliza Maxwell

 
THE WIDOW’S WATCHER
by
ELIZA MAXWELL
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Press
Date of Publication: March 29, 2018
Number of Pages: 286Scroll down for the giveaway!

From Eliza Maxwell, the bestselling author of The Unremembered Girl, comes a gripping novel about the mysteries that haunt us and the twists of fate that can unravel them…
Living in the shadow of a decades-old crime that stole his children from him, reclusive Lars Jorgensen is an unlikely savior. But when a stranger walks onto the ice of a frozen Minnesota lake, her intentions are brutally clear, and the old man isn’t about to let her follow through.
Jenna Shaw didn’t ask for Lars’s help, nor does she want it. After he pulls her from the brink, however, Jenna finds her desire to give up challenged by their unlikely friendship. In Jenna, Lars recognizes his last chance for redemption. And in her quest to solve the mysteries of Lars’s past and bring him closure, Jenna may find the way out of her own darkness. 
But the truth that waits threatens to shatter it all. When secrets are surrendered and lies are laid bare, Jenna and Lars may find that accepting the past isn’t their greatest challenge. Can they afford the heartbreaking price of forgiveness?
PRAISE FOR THE WIDOW’S WATCHER:
“There was a moment I had to tell myself that this is just a book…”
Goodreads reviewer
“A well-paced story of healing, forgiveness and tragedy, with enough unexpected twists to keep readers guessing.”
— Amber Cowie, author of Rapid Falls

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Eliza Maxwell lives in Texas with her ever-patient husband and two kids. She’s an artist and writer, an introvert and a British cop drama addict. She loves nothing more than to hear from readers.
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Review & Giveaway: Dam Nation by Hays & McFall

BNR Dam Nation Tour JPG

 

DAM NATION

Bonnie and Clyde #2

by

CLARK HAYS AND KATHLEEN McFALL

Genre: Historical / Alternative History / Romance

Publisher: Pumpjack Press on Facebook

Date of Publication: March 24, 2018

Number of Pages: 266

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Bonnie and Clyde: Defending the working class from a river of greed.

The year is 1935 and the Great Depression has America in a death grip of poverty, unemployment and starvation. But the New Deal is rekindling hope, with federally funded infrastructure projects, like Hoover Dam, putting people back to work. Set to harness the mighty Colorado River for electricity and irrigation, the dam is an engineering marvel and symbol of American can-do spirit.

So, why is someone trying to blow it up?

When an informant on the construction site is murdered, Bonnie and Clyde—spared from their gruesome deaths and forced into a covert life working for the government—are given their second assignment: stop the bomb and protect the thousands of laborers and families in the company town. It’s their most dangerous mission yet: working for a living.

Can the notorious lovers put aside their criminal ways long enough to find out who wants to extinguish the American dream, and hopefully reclaim a shred of redemption along the way?

The thrilling story cuts back and forth between the modern era where a reporter interviews the now-elderly Bonnie Parker, and the dangerous 1930s undercover exploits of Bonnie and Clyde, as they are thrust into a fight to defend the working class against corporate greed.

Dam Nation, a historical thriller with unsettling contemporary parallels, continues the explosive “what-if” series, started in Resurrection Road, about two unlikely heroes fighting to defend the working class during America’s Great Depression.

PRAISE

Crisply written, well-researched, thoroughly entertaining. As in Resurrection Road, Hays and McFall evoke time and place well in this sequel. The story’s politics are fresh and timely. Readers will find Bonnie and Clyde to be great company, and the novel’s framing story (the widowed Bonnie’s 1984 recollections) gives their relationship an extra layer of poignancy. — Kirkus Reviews

“Dam Nation” highlights the real-life turmoil of the 1930s as only Hays and McFall can — shadowy intrigue, plenty of suspects and enough behind-the-scenes and under-the-covers action to keep the narrative sizzling along to the final page. — East Oregonian

A rollicking good read. The real history of the rise of unions and worker rights against the backdrop of a nation recovering from the Great Depression contributes an engrossing, realistic scenario; a vivid read that blends fiction with nonfiction elements in a way that makes the book hard to put down. — Midwest Book Review

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER FOR RESURRECTION ROAD, BOOK ONE IN THE BONNIE AND CLYDE SERIES

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review

Imagine that Bonnie and Clyde didn’t die in 1934. Imagine that another couple had been ambushed in Sailes and that the real Bonnie and Clyde were recruited – well, maybe blackmailed is a better word – to do bad things in order to protect the good things in America. Book 1 of the Bonnie and Clyde series, Resurrection Road, kicked off that very premise and posed the questions: (1) who are Bonnie and Clyde working for and (2) who is the couple that got killed?

Dam Nation, the sequel, continues the pursuit for those answers since book 1 didn’t even come close to revealing them. Other things that carry over from the first book is the fast paced writing and witty dialogue. There is never a dull moment in these books. Every character is colorful, even if that color might be a little gray, and there is certainly a large cast. Surprisingly, I didn’t need to refer back to remember who was whom since the character names were so different from each other and they were truly unique individuals.

Bonnie and Clyde have always been romanticized as the original ride or die couple, and this book backs that claim up. Not only are the two super hot and heavy at the drop of a hat, but they are fiercely protective of each other. I especially enjoyed how Clyde would say something to the effect of, “Oh, you’re in trouble now” or “she’s the one you should be worried about” when their foes try to belittle Bonnie. It’s hard to dislike the notorious couple when you see their compassion spread outward to their few friends.

This book ties up all the loose ends from the prequel but it ends on a somewhat dissonant note. It makes me wonder if there will be a third book. If there is, I’m reading it.

Clark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed. Dam Nation is their sixth co-authored book.

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Review & Giveaway: Beyond Control by Kat Martin

 
BEYOND CONTROL
The Texas Trilogy, Book 3
by
Kat Martin
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Zebra
Date of Publication: May 29, 2018
Number of Pages: 368
  
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Present Danger
When Victoria Bradford got engaged, she told herself to give love a chance. Six months later, she’s on the run from her angry, abusive ex-fiancé with her four-year-old daughter and nowhere to go.

Seventy miles north of Dallas, the Iron River Ranch is pretty much nowhere. That’s what its new owner, Josh Cain, wanted when he came back from Afghanistan. Big skies, quiet nights, no trouble.

One look tells Josh the pretty redhead with the adorable little girl will give him trouble of the most personal kind. But he’s seen trouble before, and he doesn’t scare easy. Not when “accidents” start happening around the ranch. Not when Tory’s best friend back in Phoenix is abducted and brutalized. Not even when it looks like their current problems are only the tip of the iceberg.

But if he gets too close to fierce, determined Tory, Josh knows his nights are going to be anything but quiet. And that’s one possibility no amount of training can prepare him for…

PRAISE FOR BEYOND CONTROL:

“As the excitement in Iron Springs continues, two strangers with tragic pasts form an unbreakable bond. Beyond Control is the last installment in the Texas Trilogy. It’s delightfully fast-paced, riveting, and amazingly compelling. Martin has outdone herself with unpredictable twists and suspense that will leave readers panting for more. Definitely a must-read for readers who enjoy mystery, thrills, and romance to spice up their life.” – RT Reviews Top Pick

“Bestseller Martin brings her Texas Trilogy … to a hair-raising finish with the gripping tale of a single mother on the run and the Marine veteran who offers her a second chance at happily-ever-after. Martin has a consummate skill for developing the most loveable and the most despicable characters; readers will cheer when sadistic Damon meets his well-deserved end. Martin’s finely described Texas is a delight.” – Publishers Weekly

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review
I promise that I am not exaggerating when I say that I could not put this book down. From the onset, my heart went out to this young widow with a small child who thought that she found her second true love. I know what it feels like to be swept up in an all-consuming love affair, and I also know what it feels like when things start going terribly wrong. Unfortunately for Tory, her new fiancee is a closet psychopath who takes pleasure in abusing her. My heart sank to hear how he would stalk her and managed to find her no matter where she ran. So when her resources were all but depleted and she found safety on Iron River Ranch, I couldn’t help but sigh in relief.
As I waited for the crazy ex to find her, I luxuriated in the sensual descriptions of Josh Cain and fanned myself after every heated encounter between him and Tory. Just when I thought that Martin couldn’t possibly come up with another way to describe how rugged and manly Josh looked in a T-shirt and jeans, she proved me wrong. She was also able to emulate the inner workings of the male mind when she would describe how tempting Tory looked in her bedazzled jeans and figure-hugging tops. I swear, there is only one or two not good looking people in this book. But looks aside, you become invested in the characters.
I like the pace of the story and the subplot that comes in, which makes you question just how diabolical a person can really be. Martin does a great job of throwing a wrench into the works just when you think you have things all figured out. The love scenes were blush-worthy yet tasteful. (Although I wonder if Martin has children since I don’t know many 4-year-olds that never wake up in the middle of the night looking for mom.) I almost wanted to say that the choice to include love scenes of another couple was maybe a little gratuitous, but I think that Martin wanted to shed some additional light on the struggles of a particular population in our country. I would say more but I don’t want to ruin the surprise of another great coupling.
Some might think it’s a bit on the nose, but I love the story arc of Tory’s relationship with Josh’s dangerous horse, Satan’s Star. I like how Martin uses the horse’s issues to parallel those of the humans around him. I just like animals in general, so I always got a cozy feeling when the horses were in the scene.
I highly recommend this book to people who enjoy romance and/or suspense novels. It definitely makes me want to read the other two books in the trilogy.

 

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.
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Review & Giveaway: Searching for Pilar by Patricia Hunt Holmes

 

SEARCHING FOR PILAR
by
PATRICIA HUNT HOLMES
Genre: Contemporary Suspense / Thriller
Publisher: River Grove Books
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Number of Pages: 320 pages

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Pilar, an innocent young wife and mother, is abducted during a fake job interview in Mexico City and forced into sex slavery in Houston. Can she survive the horrors of a world—one which many good Americans don’t see or ignore—long enough for her brother Diego to find her?

Searching for Pilar breaks open the secretive and dangerous world of sex trafficking, while exploring human nature and our connections to each another. Diego’s guilt transforms him from a rudderless youth into a man of purpose, and courage. While he searches, Pilar finds a strength that could save herself and a young girl who needs her. The themes of family, love, faith and the law intertwine in this action-packed tale of the Bayou City.

PRAISE FOR SEARCHING FOR PILAR:

“Patricia Holmes fictionalizes the heartbreaking reality of cross-border sex trafficking in her novel, Searching for Pilar. This cautionary tale should be required reading for high school classes to foster awareness, understanding, and ultimately solutions to this horrific epidemic.”  —Joanne F. Phillips, author of Revenge of the Cube Dweller.

“In Searching for Pilar, Patricia Hunt Holmes makes us aware of the terrible nature of sex trafficking in the context of a fast-paced, exciting Houston story that moves from affluence and glitz to barrio cantinas and the federal courthouse. The charitable, can-do nature of Houston is reflected in the wide cast of residents who help a young man on an extremely dangerous mission to find his kidnapped sister.  This book will be an added weapon in our fight against sex trafficking.” –Sylvester Turner, Mayor, City of Houston

I have never been one of those “H-town represent” type of people, but I am a happy resident of a small suburb of Houston. Searching for Pilar digs deep into the one thing I am ashamed of that happens not only in the seedy parts of the city, but even down the street from my idyllic neighborhood. When a local “massage” parlor is busted and the mugshots of spent women with vacant eyes are plastered all over social media, people (mostly men) will often ridicule their looks and say disgusting, degrading things. Very rarely have I seen anyone come to their defense, explaining that perhaps these women had no choice because they are essentially slaves. While there are women who are voluntary sex workers in this country, I think that many people are unaware of how many women and even children are abducted from their countries and sold into sex slavery. I think that these same people would be even more shocked to realize that this sort of thing happens to U.S. citizens as well. Sometimes their financial situation is so dire that they are tricked and trapped into working as prostitutes. Even our children and teenagers can be lured by promises of modeling contracts or movie stardom, only to be taken to another city or even shipped outside of the U.S.
Holmes was shocked to find that many of her friends were unaware of the fact that Houston is the hub of human trafficking in the U.S. She started writing this book about five years ago, before human trafficking was covered in the media regularly. Despite the lapse in time, this story is still relevant and disturbing. Women and children from all over the world continue to be exploited and it makes my stomach hurt to know that so much of these terrible activities are filtered through my city. It disgusts me that predators from all around visit the city under the guise of watching professional sports.
Although a little farfetched, it is the sports tie which allows Diego, Pilar’s big brother, the luxury to come to Houston to find his sister. The fact that rich and powerful men, including sports stars, have access to underground men’s clubs, makes it plausible that Diego could find clues about his sister’s whereabouts. And while I like the clues used to find Pilar, I thought that Holmes sometimes hit the readers on the nose to make sure they don’t miss anything. I would have liked a little more subtlety in the descriptive passages and less exposition in the dialogue.
Holmes’ knowledge of the city of Houston is intricate and the description of the area is vivid. In fact, her description of the places in Mexico are so well written, it made me wonder if she traveled to any of them for inspiration. I could imagine myself in Pilar’s small village and felt myself tense up as she entered Mexico City. It was in those moments of great writing that I completely forgot that Holmes was a lawyer before becoming a writer. Oftentimes, lawyers turned writers tend to write dry, almost clinical novels, but Holmes’ ear for dialogue and eye for description sets her apart from those writers.
Thankfully, for a book about sex trafficking, the gory details are not in every chapter. I appreciated that Holmes seemed to keep the disturbing descriptions to one chapter. It was difficult to read and probably even more difficult to write. But I believe the chapter serves a purpose and Holmes executes it as tastefully as possible. It gives readers a peek at the horrors that these women and girls go through. One chapter was enough for my eyes, so I couldn’t begin to imagine living that life all day, every day for years.
I don’t want to give anything away because this story really was an exciting thriller. Much like the debates that some of the novel’s characters have, I hope that this book starts a dialogue among people who have hard opinions about topics like illegal aliens and prostitution. I hope that people will see that bad guys won’t have a business if “good” guys would just stop buying the product.
I recommend this book to just about any adult reader, but I especially want the people who mock the mugshots of busted sex workers to open their world up a little bit. Maybe a little awareness will lead to actions that result in big changes.

Patricia Hunt Holmes spent 30 years as a public finance attorney with the international law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP.   She was consistently listed in Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, Top Lawyers in Houston, and awarded the highest degree by her peers in Martindale Hubbell. She was a frequent speaker at national public finance and healthcare conferences.  Patricia has also served on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas Health Science Center Houston. She has written and published in the fields of intellectual history and law.

Patricia has been a member and board member of social service organizations in Houston that focus on helping women, including the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast Women’s Initiative, Dress for Success Houston, and the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red.  She was a founding member and first board chair of Houston Justice for Our Neighbors, which provides free and low cost legal services to immigrants.  For the past five years, she has been taking writing workshops with Inprint, associated with the outstanding University of Houston Creative Writing Program.  She began to write Searching for Pilar in a workshop after learning that Houston is one of the biggest hubs for sex trafficking in the country.

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Review: Blood and Remembrance by Chris Manno

 
BLOOD AND REMEMBRANCE
by
CHRIS MANNO
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Publication Date: March 3, 2018
Number of Pages: 321 pages

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Blood and Remembrance is the prequel to the award-winning Texas novel, East JesusThis new, stand-alone story rampages from the west Texas plains to Huntsville’s Death Row and back. Cowboys, ranchers, driven oilmen, desperate convicts and headstrong women grapple with truths of the heart, of life, and the coming of age in a dramatic struggle you’ll live yourself and never forget.
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review
It is hard to believe that it has been two years since I reviewed East Jesus. But when I started reading this prequel to East Jesus, I was immediately transported back to that foreign feeling version of Texas that Manno describes so vividly. Everything feels real, a little too real at times, but it’s such a different version of my great state than I am used to. I won’t go into detail about that all over again, but I can’t help but marvel at how vast and different Texas can be.
The writing reminds me of some of these great short stories we read in my Southwestern Literature days at UT. I can’t remember the titles or authors unfortunately, but I remember the way they made me feel. Those stories made me feel like this one did, the desire to lean in and recoil simultaneously. I suppose it was the fascinating characters that drew me in, but their actions or the situations that they found themselves in would have me back peddling pretty quick too.
I wonder if Manno writes from some imaginary movie that plays in his head. Because this book, much like the sequel, is cinematic. And a very stylistic cinematic work at that. While Tarantino would be the obvious comparison, I see Manno’s style as more of a Wes Anderson. His work is very much character driven and there’s really not a whole lot going on when you attempt to analyze the plot. There are multiple storylines running parallel to each other as you follow one main character for a bit and then another, and they do converge at multiple points. With most novels that use that technique, you nervously anticipate the final collision. But with Manno’s laidback, cowboy pace, you just sort of lope along with the story and know that it will happen whenever it will happen.
For me, the real gem in this book is the dialogue. In East Jesus, Manno did a masterful job of writing teen speak, so I’m not at all surprised that I am a huge fan of the dialogue in this book as well. It makes me wonder how many convicts and cowboys he’s run into over his lifetime. He does a great job writing lines for the sassy women in the book as well. My favorite line is this bit of inner dialogue, “I’m still on hiatus, blessedly suspended between the sins I’ve committed and those yet ahead.”
There were some spots that could have used more editing, but thankfully they didn’t pull me out of the story.
Blood and Remembrance will transport you with its powerful simplicity. There’s a grotesque beauty to the setting and the characters. Immerse yourself fully and pick up East Jesus if you crave more.

Chris Manno of Fort Worth, Texas, earned a doctorate in English from Texas Christian University and teaches writing at Texas Wesleyan University. 

East Jesus, his first novel, was named “finalist” (second place) for Best Fiction of 2017 by the North Texas Book Festival. The novel takes a close-up, visceral look at West Texas life in 1969 and the good folks who lived it, grappling with notions of family, patriotism and violence, both domestic and in a far-off, unpopular war. 

Blood and Remembrance is the prequel to East Jesus, tracing the roots of the main characters in both books, examining the harsh but classically All-American story of life in the Texas panhandle. 

Manno is also the author of a third novel, Voodoo Rush, winner for Best Fiction of 2018 by the North Texas Book Festival, and a collection of short stories titled Short Fiction for the Impatient Reader. Both books are available from White Bird Publications of Austin Texas. 


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