Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review & Giveaway: Infinity’s Gateway by James S. Parker

INFINITY’S GATEWAY
by JAMES S. PARKER
Published by: Morgan James Publishing
Series: The Infinity’s Gateway Trilogy
Pages: 361 Pages
Pub Date: January 26th, 2021
Categories: Science Fiction / Adventure / Action
Scroll for Giveaway!

Every year, all across the planet, people simply vanish, completely disappear and are never seen again. Some areas of the world are well known for this phenomenon. Infinity’s Gateway opens with a very famous incident that took place just after the end of World War II with the United States Navy. The story then jumps to the present day with an unexplainable event that occurs off the coast of Florida, an event that cannot be ignored by the military.
The Navy ship Eclipse and its crew are sent to investigate, but after several days come up empty. Two days before returning to port, the event reoccurs, and the Eclipse is caught up in something it cannot escape. The Eclipse and its crew suddenly find themselves completely isolated, all communication lost, surrounded by a terribly hostile environment where each day is a struggle to survive. Infinity’s Gateway is an intense, action packed story of survival, self-reliance, and discovery.

PRAISE FOR INFINITY’S GATEWAY:

Infinity’s Gateway is an engaging science fiction thriller with tones of Michael Crichton Tom Clancy. To fans of the science fiction genre it will feel like an old friend with a surprising, and exciting new makeover.” —Joseph Mauceri, Executive Editor, Fearsmag.com.

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon | Google Play Books | Barnes and Noble

Review

Infinity’s Gateway by James S. Parker was a timely read for me since I have a Florida trip coming up and also have a Bermuda Triangle story of my own. When I was 8, I was on the maiden voyage of Carnival Cruise’s Ecstasy that sailed out to the Bahamas. When we were in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, something shut off (the stabilizers perhaps?) and tons of people were getting seasick. I am not a conspiracy theorist but I am terrified of the Bermuda Triangle to this day because of the experience.

Parker’s characters obviously faced greater obstacles than getting seasick. I can’t imagine the terror of flying and suddenly losing all communication and instruments. I was invested from the onset with Parker’s choice to reimagine Flight 19 and the frenzied orchestration of people that were desperate to bring everyone home safely. You know that it’s not going to end well, but that doesn’t stop you from hoping that it will all work out.

When we are brought to the present, it feels like everyone is trying their best to not utter the name “Bermuda Triangle.” On one hand, I get it. These are military people who operate off of cold hard facts and not tabloids. On the other hand, Area 51… but I digress. While I felt that the scenes leading up to the actual departure of the Eclipse were a bit long, it was interesting to hear all of the different theories of what the gateway was. I won’t go into them because that kind of spoils the point of reading the book, but I liked getting a glimpse into the military mindset of things.

What really makes or breaks a story for me are the characters. I don’t have to like them necessarily, but they have to be interesting and believable. Brett Colton is compared to James Bond and I have to agree with that assessment. Colton appears to harbor very few secrets but at the same time, holds his true self very close to his vest. It’s kind of like how everybody knows what James Bond’s real name is (isn’t that a no no if you’re a secret agent?) but they don’t know what really goes on in his heart. There are other characters that are equally interesting as well that I hope get fleshed out even more in the next book.

While slow at times, I really enjoyed the series of events that occurred and could imagine them playing out on the big screen. I envision a Predator meets The X-Files type flick with a leading man that is unquestionably strong and manly with just a hint of sarcasm. Try as I might, I had trouble picturing anyone other than Michelle Rodriguez as badass Garrett. Parker doesn’t give much of a physical description for Father Ryan, but I couldn’t help but imagine a handsome, older yet physically fit priest. Forgive me Father for I have sinned.

There were so many different directions that Parker could have taken with this book and I am excited about the choices that he made. I truly look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Every now and then author James S. Parker has a vision. And, when he does, he sees people and places off in the misty distance. Sometimes these visions are futuristic and filled with danger. Most often they are mystical, with good and evil and a cast of characters who beautifully represent both.

In his high school years James experienced a spine-tingling brush with the supernatural. That single event – complete with the sound of heavy footsteps and an invisible visitor – etched forever in his mind the idea that life is much more mysterious than we oftentimes admit — that the spiritual world is all around us, and that its impact on us cannot be denied.

Though he sees through a glass darkly, he writes as though he has been granted a glimpse into the unknown, one that has informed his novels and their powerful stories of good and evil and the struggles we all face every day to assure that good wins.

Infinity’s Gateway, the first book in a fascinating sci-fi adventure trilogy, is his latest work. James lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Margaret. He is available for in-person and online book club visits.

Facebook | Instagram | Amazon | Website

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review & Giveaway: The Mad Ramblings of a Joker by Brandon Dillon

THE MAD RAMBLINGS OF A JOKER
By Brandon Dillon
Publisher: Paper Airplane Publishing
Pub Date: January 24, 2021
Pages: 156 pages
Categories: Poetry / Psychology / PTSD / Veteran Stories

Scroll for Giveaway!

Poet Brandon Dillon makes his debut with The Mad Ramblings of a Joker, a brutally honest collection full of metaphor and vibrant imagery. His work covers topics such as PTSD, depression, and heartbreak, and softer moments of hope and reflective peace.
His poetry is deep and unforgettable, a beacon for a dark world that needs a friend to say, “I’ve been there. I understand.”
PURCHASE:
Review

I had a mission when I picked up The Mad Ramblings of a Joker by Brandon Dillon. I have an online friend who is suffering from PTSD, and I wanted to get more insight on what she is experiencing. I didn’t expect to relate to anything within the slim book of poetry, but so much resonated with me. And I think that anyone, man or woman, ex-military or lifelong civilian, can relate to Dillon’s inner thoughts that he so graciously shares on the page.

You would be hard pressed to find someone who has never said one thing when they meant something completely different. A person who doesn’t deliberately hide their feelings because they know that the other person couldn’t handle them, would maybe sit through them uncomfortably, but then sneak away and never return. I think we have all, at one time or another, wondered about the point of this life and wished for something better, to be a better person.

For someone who rambles, Dillon has a delightful symmetry to his writing. Many of his poems have an opening that is echoed, either exactly or slightly altered, in the last stanza. Or a short line is repeated throughout with a different response – sort of like the congregational response part of a church service (but in reverse). Sometimes the poetry is more free form – whole paragraphs of ideas that are too large to be confined by stanzas. And although he flits between time and place, there is a flow from each poem to the next. It made me wonder if Dillon curated his collection before publishing or if this was the natural order they were written in whatever notebook he might have jotted them down in.

I like how open and honest the poems are. Not a shred of pretentiousness that I often detect in collections of poetry. Like the writer remembered all the rules of poetry from school and deliberately applied them while overusing a thesaurus at the same time. Dillon does none of those things and it is a breath of fresh air.

As someone who grew up Christian but now identifies more as a spiritual person who still has questions, I very much identified with the poem “Pointless.” This line in particular hit me hard, “What if I do not want to live forever; what if I do not want to be reborn?” The other poem that I felt a particularly strong connection with was “New Year, New Me.” The message that we shouldn’t make false promises to ourselves but “Instead, look back honestly on your year and build upon the success you have had, and learn from the mistakes you have made…”

While on the topic of mistakes, there were typos in this book that I feel like could have been avoided with some editing. I acknowledge that rambling might break the conventions of punctuation, but the typos and misspellings that are scattered throughout the pages were distracting. (The publisher has a revised version in the works now.)

I don’t keep much poetry on my bookshelf, but this book will definitely have a place in my collection. I have bookmarked several poems that I plan to share with my friend and other poems that I plan to reread and meditate on later. This is the sort of book that I know I will reference later for different seasons in my life or to share with someone else.

Brandon Dillon is an award-winning poet who writes from the soul about his life as a child born into poverty, his travels around the world as a U.S. Marine, love won and love lost, and the trauma that life brings. If you ask him his biggest accomplishments thus far, he will tell you they are the laughter and tears of the audience as he reads his words on the stage for them. He is amazed when people feel his emotion and in turn show him their emotion.
He has twice performed by invitation, reading his poetry at the FASOLT Fine Arts Expo, and has participated twice in “Color: Story,” a collaboration between poets and visual artists, winning first place in 2019. When he is not working or taking care of his two sons, Brandon frequents open mic readings for poetry and all genres of writing with the group Writespace and performs at open mic and slam poetry events with the group Write About Now, at times reading something he just wrote that day.
He is never far from his notebook, fitting his writing in between shifts at work, kids and homework, and sleeping. Brandon lives in Houston, Texas.
Connect with Paper Airplane Publishing:
—————————————————————————————————-
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!

ONE
WINNER:
Autographed copy of The Mad Ramblings of a Joker
+ leather journal (5.7” x 8.5”)

(US only. Ends midnight, CDT, April 26, 2021)

GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
or visit the blogs directly:

4/20/21

Notable Quotable

Hall
Ways Blog

4/20/21

Review

Missus
Gonzo

4/20/21

BONUS Promo

LSBBT Blog

4/21/21

Excerpt

StoreyBook
Reviews

4/21/21

Review

Forgotten Winds

4/22/21

Review

It’s
Not All Gravy

4/22/21

Top Five List

The
Clueless Gent

4/23/21

Author Interview

Texas
Book Lover

4/23/21

Review

Reading by
Moonlight

Book Touring Services Provided by:

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Blitz & Review: Stiff Lizard by Lisa Haneberg

STIFF LIZARD
by
LISA HANEBERG

Series: A Spy Shop Mystery
Publisher: Written Pursuits Press
Pages: 364 pages
Pub Date: March 13th, 2021
Categories: Women Sleuths / Cozy Mystery / Private Investigator / Humor

Rodent Roger, a popular Galveston Island exterminator, goes missing the day after he tells private investigator and spy shop owner Xena Cali about a concerning uptick in green iguana sightings on the island. They’re crapping in people’s boats and falling from trees. Are the lizards swimming over from Florida to escape the pythons, or is it something more nefarious? Can Xena help untangle the mess before the raucous reptiles take over Galveston?

Ultima Penelope Roger is a best-selling writer of romance novels. The Lizard Liquidators have set up shop on Galveston Island. Herpetologist Quintana Flores, PhD, works on a bizarre cruise ship that sails out of the Port of Galveston. Sasha Barlow is a driven junior reporter who’ll do anything to get the story. Ned “The Pelican Man” Quinn writes a column about bird necropsies. Captain Ethan Slaughter is the head of the Major Crimes team at the Galveston Police Department. Xena and her team will have to partner with and/or battle this cast of characters and others to solve what becomes a disturbing murder investigation.

Stiff Lizard is the third full-length book in the Spy Shop Mystery series. If you like fast-paced crime novels, clever satire, and gritty beach towns, then you’ll love Lisa Haneberg’s humorous and contemporary cozy caper.

 

PRAISE FOR STIFF LIZARD

“Lisa Haneberg has a wicked sense of humor. She can also write a fast-moving, totally original mystery.” — Alan Rinzler

Lisa Haneberg’s newest entry in the Spy Shop Mystery Series lives up to its predecessors. A good number of laughs, lots of intrigue, a bit of titillation, lots of interesting information, and lots of mystery make for a good read.” – Verified
purchaser from Amazon 

Review

Stiff Lizard by Lisa Haneberg was as cool and as funny as its protagonist – the amazing Xena Cali. I have said before that I would love to meet a book character in real life, but I have never meant it more than right now. Who wouldn’t want to spend time in a spy shop solving mysteries with a woman who practices parkour and lets people taze and pepper spray her for training?

And as if Xena’s character couldn’t be improved upon even further, I love that she is listening to Dale Carnegie’s classic, How to Win Friends & Influence People, and is seriously applying it to her personal and professional lives. (Side note: My mother has a certificate for completing the leadership training course in New York and has been harassing me to read the book since college. I can now pretend that I have read it, thanks to this wonderful book!)

Haneberg’s writing style is casual and I adore that she breaks the fourth wall repeatedly. I like how she talks about the local places in a way that assumes you know exactly what and where she is describing. I have yet to Google whether each place is actually real, but what I am most interested in researching before my next trip out to Galveston was piqued by this passage: 

“There are dozens of beautiful tree sculptures on Galveston Island carved to look like mermaids, dogs, pelicans, dolphins, angels, and other things. Most were commissioned by wealthier homeowners and nonprofit organizations after Hurricane Ike flooded the island in 2008.” 

I wonder how many of these sculptures I have walked by and never noticed. I will definitely stop by the visitor’s bureau to pick up the Tree Sculpture Tour map during my next trip.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of quirky characters – and this book has them by the bushels! Such a colorful (quite literally at times) cast from the spy shop employees and friends to the locals and, of course, the clientele and the suspects. There is also a character from Houston that I became quite fond of and sincerely hope plays a bigger role in upcoming books.

Haneberg does a great job of getting you up to speed if you haven’t read the previous books (I hadn’t) but she definitely dangles some great tidbits that make you want to go back and devour the entire series. The Spy Shop Mystery series is definitely on my TBR list and I will sign up for notifications so that I know when the next book drops!

 Purchase Links
 Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes and Noble 
 
 
 

Lisa Haneberg loves to explore Galveston Island’s gritty back streets, stellar seafood joints, magnificent natural areas, and all points in between. In addition to the Spy Shop Mysteries, she’s a blogger and has authored over a dozen nonfiction books. She earned an MFA degree from Goddard College and a BS in Behavioral Sciences from the University of Maryland.

Before writing crime fiction, she was a seasoned human resources professional with a strange attraction to gnarly internal investigations. She lives with her husband and dog in Lexington, Kentucky. Lisa once owned a home on Galveston Island and is a frequent visitor.

 

Facebook| Blog | Twitter | Instagram

Amazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page

 

 

 

—————————————————————————————————————————–

VISIT THE
LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE
FOR PARTICIPATING BLOGS 

 

 

Book Touring Services Provided By:

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Guest Post, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review & Giveaway: A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers by Babette Fraser Hale

A WALL OF BRIGHT DEAD FEATHERS
By Babette Fraser Hale
Pages: 216
Pub Date: March 1st, 2021
Categories: Short Stories / Literary Fiction

Scroll for Giveaway! 

 

Most are newcomers to the scenic, rolling countryside of central Texas whose charms they romanticize, even as the troubles they hoped to leave behind persist. Twelve stories highlight “the book’s recurring theme of desire—for freedom, for clarity, for autonomy, and for personal fulfillment…When women are alone, unencumbered and unbeholden to anyone, they engage in intense internal reflection and show reverence for nature—and during these scenes, Hale’s language is luminescent” (Kirkus Reviews). 
 
 
PRAISE FOR A WALL OF BRIGHT DEAD FEATHERS: 
“Hale shows a great respect for her characters and for the difficulty of their deceptively ordered existence, as well as for the problems they suffer because so much cannot be spoken.” — Francine Prose, on “Silences” 
 

“A vivid set of tales about connection to other people and to the natural world…Hale’s lovely prose shows a keen eye for detail…” 

Kirkus Reviews

Purchase Links: 

Winedale PublishingBrazos Bookstore | Amazon

Review

A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers by Babette Fraser Hale is one of those books that made me take a second look at what I thought I knew and realized that while I may have had an inkling, I am definitely not an expert. Intrigued? You should be.

I have always had mixed feelings about collections of short stories. If I am feeling like a particularly lazy type of reader, I get annoyed when all of the stories don’t converge nicely into a neat little package. Other times, I revel in the author’s ability to evoke such varied and strong emotions from bits and bobs of stories that just materialized in their wonderful mind.

Because I had no clue what I was jumping into exactly, I started reading the first half of this book waiting for the connection between the stories. And once I realized that there was no connecting plot, I was able to sit back and experience the simple, yet complex, characters and be captivated by someone else’s mundane life. That might sound a little boring, but it wasn’t at all. Especially when you take into account the different time periods that Hale sweeps you away to briefly, sometimes a little too briefly. That’s always the problem with short stories, isn’t it? They very often leave you wanting more.

And just as I was accepting the idea that there was no connection between the stories, alas, I found at least one. A woman trying to appease or figure out a man (or boy) at the detriment of her own happiness. I don’t know if that was Hale’s intention, but that was my takeaway from this book. At any rate, I felt like I was reading a cautionary tale of a woman losing herself.

I recall perking up when I got to the “wall of bright dead feathers” part of the book. My brain was jumping up and down, gesticulating wildly for me to sit up and take note. I did, kind of, but I realize that the significance was lost to me until I got to the very end. I guess that taking a mental inventory of the stories when I reached the end helped me to draw my own conclusion about the meaning behind the book’s title.

So who should read this book? Definitely women. There’s a strong vibe of casting off the patriarchy mixed in with a dash of throwing caution to the wind. But I think that the stories are so deeply Texan that this book could be part of the curriculum for a southwestern literature class as well.

Babette Fraser Hale’s fiction has won the Meyerson Award from Southwest Review, a creative artist award from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston, and been recognized among the “other distinguished stories” in Best American Short Stories, 2015. Her story “Drouth” is part of the New York Public Library’s digital collection. Her nonfiction has appeared in Texas Monthly, Houston City, and the Houston Chronicle. She writes a personal essay column for the Fayette County Record.

——————————————————————————

GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!

TWO WINNERS each receive a signed bookplate

+ $20 Brazos Bookstore Gift Card to buy the book

 (US only. Ends midnight, CDT, 4/2/2021.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page
for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, 
or visit the blogs directly:

3/23/21

Author Video

3/23/21

Excerpt

3/24/21

Review

3/24/21

BONUS Promo

3/25/21

Review

3/25/21

Author Interview

3/26/21

Review

3/26/21

BONUS Promo

3/27/21

Excerpt

3/28/21

Guest Post

3/29/21

Review

3/29/21

Author Interview

3/30/21

Review

3/31/21

Review

3/31/21

Guest Post

4/1/21

Review

4/1/21

Review

Book Touring Services Provided by:

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review & Giveaway: All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone by John J. Jacobson

ALL THE COWBOYS AIN’T GONE

BY JOHN J. JACOBSON
 
Pages: 352
Pub Date: February 23, 2021
Categories: Historical Fiction / Action Adventure / Western
 
 
Scroll for Giveaway!
 
All the Cowboys Ain’t Goneis the rollicking adventure story of Lincoln Smith, a young Texan living at the beginning of the twentieth century, who thinks of himself as the last true cowboy. He longs for the days of the Old West, when men like his father, a famous Texas Ranger, lived by the chivalric code. Lincoln finds himself hopelessly out of time and place in the fast-changing United States of the new century. When he gets his heart broken by a sweetheart who doesn’t appreciate his anachronistic tendencies, he does what any sensible young romantic would do: he joins the French Foreign Legion. 
On his way to an ancient and exotic country at the edge of the Sahara, Lincoln encounters a number of curious characters and strange adventures, from a desert hermit who can slow up time to a battle with a crocodile cult that worships the god of death. He meets them all with his own charming brand of courage and resourcefulness.
Purchase: Bookshop.org
Review

All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone by John J. Jacobson surprised me in all the best possible ways. In my typical fashion, I didn’t read the blurb or summary before diving into this beauty, so I thought I was headed for a good ol’ Western. Y’know, cowboys on a trail ride, telling stories by a campfire, and maybe a saloon fight or two. So when we’re introduced to a young Lincoln Smith who gets busted for reading a book about the French Foreign Legion, I immediately knew that I had miscalculated and was eager to read on.

Jacobson’s knack for writing very natural dialogue allows each scene to play out cinematically in my mind. From the strict but doting former schoolteacher (Lincoln’s mother), to the devious and dishonorable Humberto Hill, Jacobson paints a clear portrait of each character and really breathes life into each of them. So much so that I was completely shocked at how much happened in the first part of the book, a scant 31 pages.

While Part One truly reads like a Western, Part Two has a more modern feel as we follow Lincoln through college and his stateside adventures. After a series of mishaps, Lincoln does what many others have done in his position. He remembers the dream of his childhood and, having nothing to hold him back, turns his dream into reality. Though the people who love him try to persuade him otherwise, our young adventurer is wise enough to know that life is too short to not pursue your dreams. With each new chapter of his life unfolding, Lincoln encounters interesting characters, both good and bad, and it’s entertaining to see how he handles himself in the various scrapes he gets into.

Part Three brings about another shift in tone as we arrive in Mur, as it is at the cusp of joining the modern world. Given that Lincoln romanticizes the place for being part of the old world, it is interesting to anticipate how he will feel once he arrives. And as the author envelopes us in this new place, it is difficult, yet exciting, to imagine how Lincoln’s story will intersect with King Suleiman’s. With each reference to legends, history, and archaeology, I have to admit that my brain immediately drew parallels to Indiana Jones. But I found Lincoln to be wiser and more grounded than Doctor Jones. Also, this book has me raring to do some of my own research on the French Foreign Legion and the history of men fighting for other countries to pay for their world travels.

This book might not be a typical Western (although to be honest, there are trail rides, campfire stories, and saloon fights) but I think that it is so much more. Much like the Alexandre Dumas books that are referenced, this book has a swashbuckling hero, true blue friendships, and romantic love that defies fate. It doesn’t read like a sequel, but I would love to hear more about what happens to Lincoln next.

Though John J. Jacobson didn’t join the French Foreign Legion after being jilted by a girlfriend, or over his displeasure of missing the last great cattle drive, he has, borrowing Churchill’s phrase, lived a rather variegated life. He was born in Nevada, grew up in the West, surfed big waves in Hawaii, circled the world thrice, survived the sixties and seventies, corporate America, and grad school. Among other degrees he has an MA in Renaissance literature from Claremont Graduate University.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads / BookBub

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review & Giveaway: Scorched Earth by Kathleen McFall & Clark Hays

SCORCHED EARTH
THE HALO TRILOGY, BOOK 2
by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays
Publisher: Pumpjack Press
Pages: 318
Date of Publication: February 14th, 2021
Categories: Science Fiction / Hard Boiled Detective

Scroll for Giveaway!

The year is 2188 and the Earth—long-ago abandoned for Mars by the plutocrats—is scorched by poverty, disease, and environmental collapse. What these wealthy elite don’t know is that on his last trip upuniverse, Detective Crucial Larsen stumbled onto a secret that could destroy them. But he doesn’t intend to use it. Fighting back against the ruling Five Families of Mars is a fool’s game destined for failure—or worse, he thinks. Plus, he never wants to set foot on that damn planet again. Then Melinda, his long-lost love and a staff scientist on Mars, begs for his help clearing her fiancée of a murder charge. Crucial jumps on the next q-rocket, hoping maybe this time he can patch things up with Mel. His investigation ultimately leads back to the radiation-blasted sunbelt, where cannibal lizard-people—a climate change mitigation genetic experiment gone terribly wrong—hold the key to a different future, if only Crucial can stay alive long enough to unlock it.

 

Praise for Scorched Earth:

“Others have attempted to blend the genres of an investigative detective piece with sci-fi, but few achieve such a seamless integration as do McFall and Hays … a compelling saga, edgy and different, thoroughly absorbing.” 

Midwest Book Review

 

Purchase: Amazon

 

 
 

Review

Scorched Earth by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays is the fourth book I have read by this talented couple, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with their ability to build such a bleak and interesting future. That might sound like an odd thing to say, but I feel like most authors figure out their lane and stay in it. The duo’s Bonnie and Clyde series was so well written that for a second, my brain wouldn’t accept that they co-authored this amazing science fiction novel with the totally rad cover. (Can I get the cover art on a T-shirt, please?) So what is their lane? Anything action packed with brilliant characters and punchy dialogue, apparently.

So, normally I would complain about a book that didn’t do the whole exposition thing thoroughly for the previous books in the series. But I liked how this one gives you just enough information to power through and understand what is going on. And if the intention was to make the reader want to go back and read Book One, mission accomplished. Thankfully, there were only two or three instances where I was kicking myself for not reading the previous book, but they were enough for me to add Gates of Mars to my TBR list. And best believe that it will get read before Book Three comes out.

There is a delicate balance to writing good science fiction. The future has to be different enough from the present to make a plausible and realistic story, but at the same time not be completely off-the-wall to the point that the reader scoffs at the unlikelihood of any of it coming true one day. The idea that humans have migrated to Mars is not a new one – what with all of our Mars missions and other fiction works where science has finally figured out how to sustain life on the Red Planet. What I found particularly compelling in this new world is the monopoly on leading a comfortable life on Mars and the lengths that people will go to fight against or maintain that power.

And it is these people, AI included, that really make this book a fantastic read. Not only do McFall and Hays write a seamless story, a feat that many co-authors are unable to accomplish, but they create these colorful characters with wonderful voices and quirks. Even the characters that you probably won’t care much for, you kind of do, because as annoying as they are, you are now invested in what happens to them.

This is definitely a series that I hope Netflix or some other streaming service will pick up and make into a movie or TV show. Do yourself a favor; make sure you read Gates of Mars if you haven’t already. I bet that there are some truly hilarious and exciting moments in that book, as there will be in Book Three, no doubt.

Clark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.  Scorched Earth is their ninth co-authored book.

Pumpjack Press  ║  Pumpjack Press on Facebook ║ Authors’ Facebook ║ Authors’ Instagram

Connect with Kathleen
Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter

Connect with Clark
Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review & Giveaway: Dreams Rekindled by Amanda Cabot

BNR Dreams Rekindled

DREAMS REKINDLED

Mesquite Springs, Book 2

BY AMANDA CABOT

Categories: Christian Historical Fiction/ Romance/ Stand-Alone

Publisher: Revell

Date of Publication: March 2, 2021

Pages: 352

 

Scroll Down for Giveaway!

 

He’s bound and determined to find peace . . . but she’s about to stir things up. 
 
Dorothy Clark dreams of writing something that will challenge people as much as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin seems to have. But in 1850s Mesquite Springs, there are few opportunities for writers–until newspaperman Brandon Holloway arrives, that is. 
 
Brandon Holloway has seen firsthand the disastrous effects of challenging others. He has no intention of repeating that mistake. Instead of following his dreams, he’s committed to making a new–and completely uncontroversial–start in the Hill Country. 
 
As Dorothy’s involvement in the fledgling newspaper grows from convenient to essential, the same change seems to be happening in Brandon’s heart. But before romance can bloom, Dorothy and Brandon must work together to discover who’s determined to divide the town and destroy Brandon’s livelihood. 

CLICK TO BUY: 

Baker Books (Revell) | Amazon | BN | Christianbook.com

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review & Giveaway: Alfie Carter by BJ Mayo

BNR Alfie Carter

ALFIE CARTER
by
BJ Mayo
 
Published by Skyhorse Publishing
Pages: 288
Published: January 19th, 2021
Categories: Southern Fiction / Rural Fiction / Mystery
Scroll down for Giveaway!

jMwm_j1A

Cover Alfie Carter med res

The seemingly never-ending Cabinda War (1975—) has left multitudes dead in its wake and thousands of children homeless and orphaned.

Jackaleena N’denga, a young Angolan girl, has become the sole survivor of one specifically brutal village massacre carried out by a band of guerrilla boy-soldiers.

Jackaleena’s resilience leads her to an orphanage on the west coast of Africa, known as Benguela by the Sea, where she and other children are taken in and protected. Her brilliant mind and endless questions capture the heart of her mentor, Margaret, who ensures her that her survival thus far—especially being the survivor from her village—must mean she has big things ahead of her. When the opportunity arises, she must find her purpose.

Not without a plan, Jackaleena stows away on a mercy ship that has made its yearly visit to the orphanage and is now preparing to return to America. Her journey takes her across the ocean, into the arms of New York City’s customs officials, and finally into placement in a temporary foster home in Texas.

Enter Alfie Carter—a workaholic, small-town detective who is also battling memories of his past. His life is forever changed when he meets a young African girl looking for her higher purpose.

Purchase: Skyhorse Publishing

Review

Alfie Carter by BJ Mayo is a book that cannot be judged by its cover. Don’t get me wrong, the cover is quite beautiful, as is the heart of the story. But that does not begin to touch the darkness contained within its pages and the resilience of the characters to overcome it. If you were to pick this book up with the intent of reading a fluffy, inspirational novel, you would be rocked to your core.

The premise of the book is very interesting and, to be completely honest, had so much going on that I felt like this story should have been broken up into two, if not three, separate books. When we begin with the stoic Jackaleena breaking down over the brutal attack on a young girl, we know that we are about to hear a horrific story. For anyone who has kept up with the news in Africa, the crimes against humanity, especially women and young girls, is not a secret. Mayo’s ability to write from the perspective of this brave young girl is believable with its seemingly contradicting qualities of awareness and innocence. His treatment of the violence is handled with honesty and as much sensitivity as an author can use to describe such evil.

When we switch gears to follow around the Alfie character, you get to understand why the book is named after him. I imagine that the people in his town, and even his own wife, sometimes think that there’s not much complication to the man. But, thankfully, we the readers are privy to his innermost thoughts and feelings. A quick glance at Mayo’s biography has me thinking that Alfie most likely was not based on himself, but his familiarity with the character has me believe that he knows someone like Alfie in real life. The character is too complex and too visceral to not be based on a real person, even just a little bit.

I think the story could have hit even harder with some good editing, both on the line edit level and the overall shaping of the novel. Certain scenes just ran too long in my opinion, and the synopsis of the book misleads you into thinking that there is more interaction between Alfie and Jackaleena than we actually get to see. To be fair, it sounds like the sequel will definitely provide more of those details, but I was setup to believe that they would be revealed in this book, not the next. Also, with the amount of God and Christianity talk, I think that this book should have been labeled as a Christian novel.

I recommend this book to people who are interested in reading about a place very different from where most of us reside, but who are not squeamish about violence. This book makes you think about the things and the people you might take for granted. I look forward to reading more about these characters. Four stars for an uplifting story of hope and making new beginnings.

-v5gIwrg

author pic Mayo

BJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. He spent the first few years of his life living in a company field camp twenty-five miles from the closest town. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola West Africa. He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years with two grown children. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.
Visit BJ Mayo at his website: https://bjmayo.com/

GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!

THREE WINNERS each receive an autographed copy of ALFIE CARTER

US only. Ends midnight, CST, March 5, 2021.

Giveaway Alfie Carter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
or visit the blogs directly:
 

2/23/21

Review

Reading
by Moonlight

2/23/21

BONUS Promo

All the Ups and Downs

2/23/21

BONUS Promo

LSBBT Blog

2/24/21

Review

Missus Gonzo

2/24/21

Review

The Clueless Gent

2/25/21

Review

StoreyBook Reviews

2/25/21

BONUS Promo

Hall Ways Blog

2/26/21

Review

Jennie
Reads

2/26/21

Review

Jennifer Silverwood

2/27/21

Review

Bibliotica

2/28/21

Review

Carpe Diem Chronicles

3/1/21

Review

Book Fidelity

3/1/21

Review

That’s What She’s Reading

3/2/21

Review

The Adventures of a Travelers Wife

3/3/21

Review

Forgotten
Winds

3/3/21

Review

Librariel Book Adventures

3/4/21

Review

It’s Not All Gravy

3/4/21

Review

The Plain-Spoken Pen

 
 
Ua9ZXeEA
Blog Touring Services Provided By
sgaprp4g

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review & Giveaway: At Close Range by Leesa Ross

TpzpNyXA

AT CLOSE RANGE: A MEMOIR
OF TRAGEDY AND ADVOCACY
By Leesa Ross
 
Categories: Nonfiction / Memoir / Personal Transformation / Advocacy
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Pages: 192
Publication Date: April 15, 2020

Scroll down for the giveaway!

 

44zmhHrw

Leesa Ross did not expect to write a book. Neither did she expect the tragedy that her family endured, a horrific and sudden death that led her to write At Close Range. Her debut memoir is the story of what happened after her son Jon died in a freak gun accident at a party. Ross unsparingly shares the complexities of grief as it ripples through the generations of her family, then chronicles how the loss of Jon has sparked a new life for her as a prominent advocate for gun safety.  Before the accident, Ross never had a motivation to consider the role that guns played in her life. Now, she revisits ways in which guns became a part of everyday life for her three sons and their friends.

Ross’s attitude towards guns is thorny. She has collectors and hunters in her family. To balance her advocacy, she joined both Moms Demand Action and the NRA. Through At Close Range, the national conversation about gun control plays out in one family’s catalyzing moment and its aftermath. However, At Close Range ultimately shows one mother’s effort to create meaning from tragedy and find a universally reasonable position and focal point: gun safety and responsible ownership.

Purchase: Texas Tech University Press

Review
At Close Range: A Memoir of Tragedy and Advocacy by Leesa Ross is a sobering story of loss and the choices a person can make after. In typical fashion, I did not read the summaries or blurbs before reading this book, so I will be addressing the many assumptions that I made in addition to my thoughts on the writing specifically. First of all, I assumed that this book was written by a mother who lost a small child in one of the terrible school shootings that have happened in our country. It is not; but that does not make the story any less tragic.

As the mother of an 8-year-old boy, I know that even when my son has grown taller than me and possibly has children of his own, I will always want to protect him. And God forbid if anything ever happened to him, I would want answers and maybe even look for meaning behind it all. It is never the right time to lose someone you love. Ross lost her first-born son just as he was turning over a new leaf. For a young man in his early 20s, Jon contained thoughts and artistic abilities that the people in his life did not understand. So when his life is ended, presumably with his own hand, the authorities are quick to call it a suicide.

Ross’s choice to recreate the scene in the first chapter was unexpected and powerful. I don’t know how much of it was accurate, but it really gave me the sense that the author knew her son in a way that many parents who live in a completely different state do not know their own children. No one knows what Jon’s state of mind was, but this opening definitely underlines the feeling that everything that transpired next was not premeditated. If this were my own story, I can tell you that this would have quickly become an investigation rather than an advocacy message.

The author’s writing style is clean and easy to follow. There were a few passages where it seemed an idea or even a whole paragraph was echoed pages later. But otherwise, the writing and editing were solid. While the tone switches between emotional and factual, the strength behind the words is ever present. I am in awe of Ross’s ability to stand up and seek change to protect others from pain like hers. If this book is an indication of her oratory skills, I am sure that she is educating so many people and making a real difference in their lives.

I recommend this book to people who have children or young people in their lives. I like the idea of having “The New Talk” about gun safety. I only wish that there was a resource page within it. Although, to be fair, it is easy enough to simply look for Lock Arms for Life and Texas Gun Sense online. I think that this book would also be a good gift to someone you care about who does not take gun safety seriously. Unfortunately, I think many of us can think of at least one person like this. Perhaps this book can be a safe conversation starter.

-v5gIwrg

H8_bxXlw

Leesa Ross is a debut author who’s transformed a tragedy into a mission for safety. After losing a son to a shooting accident, she formed Lock Arms for Life, an educational organization teaching gun safety. A Texas mother of three, she leads Lock Arms, sits on the board of Texas Gun Sense, and belongs to the NRA.

 

GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!

FIVE WINNERS each get a hardcover copy of At Close Range.

US Only. Ends midnight, CST, 2/26/21

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE

FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,

or visit the blogs directly:

2/16/21 Review Hall Ways Blog
2/16/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
2/17/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
2/17/21 Review Missus Gonzo
2/18/21 Review The Clueless Gent
2/18/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
2/19/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
2/20/21 Review Tangled in Text
2/21/21 Review Jennie Reads
2/22/21 Review Julia Picks 1
2/22/21 Review Book Fidelity
2/23/21 Review The Page Unbound
2/24/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
2/24/21 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
2/25/21 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
2/25/21 Review Forgotten Winds

Ua9ZXeEA

Blog Tour Services Provided by

sgaprp4g

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review & Giveaway: Grand Openings Can Be Murder by Amber Royer

GRAND OPENINGS
CAN BE MURDER
Bean to Bar Mysteries Book 1
by
AMBER ROYER
Categories: Cozy Mystery / Woman Sleuth / Romance
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Date of Publication: February 2, 2021
Number of Pages: 266 pages
Scroll down for Giveaway!

Felicity Koerber has had a rough year. She’s moving back to Galveston Island and opening a bean to bar chocolate factory, fulfilling a dream she and her late husband, Kevin, had shared. Craft chocolate means a chance to travel the world, meeting with farmers and bringing back beans she can turn into little blocks of happiness, right close to home and family. She thinks trouble has walked into her carefully re-built world when puddle-jump pilot Logan Hanlon shows up at her grand opening to order custom chocolates. Then one of her employees drops dead at the party, and Felicity’s one-who-got-away ex-boyfriend – who’s now a cop – thinks Felicity is a suspect.
As the murder victim’s life becomes more and more of a mystery, Felicity realizes that if she’s going to clear her name in time to save her business, she might need Logan’s help. Though she’s not sure if she’s ready to let anyone into her life – even if it is to protect her from being the killer’s next victim. For Felicity, Galveston is all about history, and a love-hate relationship with the ocean, which keeps threatening to deliver another hurricane – right into the middle of her investigation. Can she figure it out before all the clues get washed away? FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!

PRAISE FOR GRAND OPENINGS CAN BE MURDER:

“With as many unpredictable twists and turns as the hurricane approaching Galveston, Grand Openings Can Be Murder is an intriguing cozy mystery set in a new chocolate shop along the island’s historic Strand. Readers will love learning about the bean-to-bar chocolate-making process while the store’s owner, Felicity, pursues truth, justice, and the perfect chocolate bar.”

— Diane Kelly, Award-winning author of the Death & Taxes, Paw Enforcement, House Flipper, and Busted mystery series.

CLICK TO PURCHASE!

Review

Grand Openings Can Be Murder by Amber Royer is a fun whodunnit written by an author who clearly did her research on Galveston, hurricanes, and (most importantly) chocolate. As a Houston native who regularly goes to the island, I really enjoyed walking the Strand and enjoying the historical buildings through Felicity’s eyes. 

It is difficult to put into words why Felicity quickly won my heart. Maybe it is because she is clearly talented, smart, and beautiful, yet is self deprecating and just a wonderfully kind human being. The little details that add up to this interesting person makes me believe that if she wasn’t based on Royer, she must be based on someone the author knows very well. There is an intimacy between the author and this character, and I found that to be the best part of this book.

I found the mystery exciting with little twists here and there, and the added danger of a looming hurricane definitely added an urgency that pushed the pace in a normally sleepy town. Although I figured out early on who the killer was, I just could not wrap my brain around the why. As Felicity works through the clues with her murder mystery book and TV show education (her admitting that was fantastic!), I enjoyed getting to know the other characters and their obvious love and respect for their small town.

I don’t know much about the people who live in Galveston, but this book gives me the impression that tourists visit and fall in love to the extent that they relocate. That Galveston natives might feel their need to spread their wings and move away at some point, but that there’s a likelihood that they will be back. Like birds who travel afar searching for better opportunities to flourish, the islanders find themselves migrating back home to the south when winter approaches. Royer gives us just the right amount of backstory about each of the characters to drive home this concept.

While there were a few typos here and there, Royer’s skill at crafting complex characters, a transportive setting, and thrilling scenes shines through brilliantly. She clearly saw each piece of this story in her mind and was able to translate it in a way that only good storytellers know how. I am excited to read the next installment of this series. I hope that each book will let us get to know more about Felicity’s friends and introduce us to places we have not yet discovered in Galveston.

Amber Royer writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com. She also teaches creative writing for both UT Arlington Continuing Education and Writing Workshops Dallas. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes.
WEBSITEBLOG
FACEBOOKTWITTER
AMAZONGOODREADS
INSTAGRAM YOUTUBE
—————————————
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
ONE WINNER
Autographed copy of GRAND OPENINGS CAN BE MURDER
and a $25 Gift Card to Dandelion Chocolate
(US only. Ends Midnight, CST, February 19, 2021)
FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
or visit the blogs directly:
2/9/21 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
2/9/21 BONUS Guest Post Hall Ways Blog
2/9/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
2/10/21 Top Ten That’s What She’s Reading
2/11/21 Review Missus Gonzo
2/12/21 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
2/13/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
2/14/21 Author Interview Rebecca R. Cahill, Author
2/15/21 Review Forgotten Winds
2/16/21 Scrapbook Page KayBee’s Book Shelf
2/17/21 Review The Page Unbound
2/18/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
blog tour services provided by

4 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours