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Review & Giveaway: Holding on Loosely by Dana Knox Wright

HOLDING ON LOOSELY

by
DANA KNOX WRIGHT
Genre: Narrative Nonfiction / Memoir / Self Help
Publisher: Carpenter’s Son / Clovercroft Publishing
Date of Publication: August 24, 2021
Number of Pages: 208 pages
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Helicopter parents. Control freaks. Perfectionists. Intolerants. Over-consumers. Social media junkies. We all fit in there somewhere. Read one woman’s stories of clinging, turning loose, and becoming free.

We are overly busy helicopter parents, control freaks, perfectionists, intolerants, over-consumers and social media junkies–who worry, fear, laugh less, and always want more. In the midst of it, we wonder what it would feel like to open our hands and turn loose of all of it.

In HOLDING ON LOOSELY: Opening My Hands, Lightening My Load, and Seeing Something Else, author Dana Knox Wright tells stories of one who is hardwired to cling. To her children when they asked for a blessing to go. To someone else’s ideas, when she didn’t trust her own. She held on to prejudice when she would tell you she didn’t. She shut down for days while clinging to fear. She clung to youthfulness as if what would come next couldn’t be her life’s cherry on top.

In a particular season of her life, she recognized her bent to possess, to keep, to hold tightly, and to control was completely contrary to Jesus’ example. This is one woman’s history of holding on and her stories of turning loose–stories of the gentle and firm, humorous and heartbreaking ways God led her to turn loose. It is living minimally from the inside out.

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Review

Holding on Loosely by Dana Knox Wright couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. A whole book filled with meaningful stories about letting go. Letting go of material things, old beliefs and behaviors, and even people. Ironically, I am clinging so tightly to those stories about losing people because of the place I am in currently. In the wake of a divorce, I’ve lost my last grandparent and the best friend that I ever had. I chose to let go of my husband, I had no choice about losing my grandmother, and by acting childish, I lost a dear friend.

Wright’s words are a balm to my wounds, knowing that maybe years from now, I can reflect on these losses with sage-like clarity. Because I can tell you that at this moment, I am hurting so badly and it often feels like I can’t catch my breath. The optimism in these pages gives me hope that time will ease the pain and that I can learn to open my hands and let things and people go. Let that butterfly rise into the sun, hold more sand in my open hands, that sort of thing.

Perhaps if I wasn’t disillusioned with Christianity at the moment, I could feel something other than bitterness with the occasional dash of sadness. Wright is frank about the times that fellow Christians have wounded her or others, and I wish that I was that secure in my beliefs to act the same. If she says it in the book, I missed it, but I think that the key to letting go is often forgiveness. Not always, but I think it often is the answer. Forgiving someone for their wrongdoing, even if that person is yourself. Maybe especially if that person is yourself.

This book is for anyone who is struggling with change. While Wright does include stories from her childhood and adolescence, I think that this book is really aimed at more seasoned readers.

Dana Knox Wright began letting go of fear at fifty. It’s the decade where, in an odd twist, Sandra Bullock asked for her autograph—the decade she began hiking to places with seriously wild animals, rafting in crazy rivers and eating wild blackberries with only mild concern rabid foxes eat from the plants, too. After a long career in radio voiceover, she found a passion for spreading goodness and living to the full. She has offered readers encouragement, hope and sisterhood for almost ten years through her essays published on her blog. Dana holds a degree in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and is the author of Saving Stories: Afternoons with Darrell (2017). She is the mother of three adult children and three grandchildren and currently lives in a small river town in the Texas Hill Country with her husband and an English Mastiff named Pearl.

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Review & Giveaway: Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt

ONCE UPON A CAMEL
by Kathi Appelt
Categories: Middle Grade Fiction / Historical / Friendship / Ages 8-12
Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Pub Date: September 7, 2021
Pages: 336 pages

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Zada is a camel with a treasure trove of stories to tell. She’s won camel races for the royal Pasha of Smyrna, crossed treacherous oceans to new land, led army missions with her best camel friend by her side, and outsmarted a far too pompous mountain lion. But those stories were from before.
Now, Zada wanders the desert as the last camel in Texas. But she’s not alone. Two tiny kestrel chicks are nestled in the fluff of fur between her ears—kee-killy-keeing for their missing parents—and a dust storm the size of a mountain is taking Zada on one more grand adventure. And it could lead to this achy old camel’s most brilliant story yet.

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Review

Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt is a heartfelt story with beautiful illustrations by Eric Rohmann. It is a delightful mix of prose and adorable puns, as well as a tale of adventure and true-blue friendship. What could have easily just been the journey of a camel traversing a Texas desert with two baby birds on her head, Appelt has painted a lush tale of immigration from Turkey to West Texas. She envelopes the reader’s every sense in her description of the sights, sounds, and smells of each location.

Appelt also deftly slips in educational tidbits quite effortlessly (i.e., historical facts, the evolution of a species, etc.) without being distracting. There are even links in the back of the book for anyone who wants to learn more about camels and West Texas. While I didn’t need it personally, I appreciate that she also placed a glossary in the back of the book to define the Turkish, Latin, and French phrases used throughout. I feel that Appelt does an excellent job of providing context clues so that young readers can surmise the definition of an unfamiliar word or phrase. She provides a fun way for children to practice the various reading skills that are taught in school.

This book is targeted towards children in grades 3-7, but I think that it could even be used in the upper grade levels because of how much substance resides within the pages. I hope that I don’t ruin the story for anyone, but I feel like it is a commentary on issues such as identity, gender roles, prejudice, self-esteem, class systems, and I’m sure that I’m missing many more. I would also definitely recommend that this book be included in children’s literature courses at the college level.

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award Finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Mogie, the Heart of the House. She lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and five gifted and talented cats.

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Review & Giveaway: Rio Bonito by Preston Lewis

RIO BONITO
The Three Rivers Trilogy, Book 2
By PRESTON LEWIS
Categories: Western / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Pub Date: August 18, 2021
Pages: 336 pages
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With Lincoln County teetering on the edge of lawless turmoil, small rancher Wes Bracken avoids taking sides, but his goal is complicated by his devotion to what he sees as justice and by his friendship with William H. Bonney, who’s developing a reputation as Billy the Kid.

As Lincoln County devolves into explosive violence, Bracken must skirt the edge of the law to guarantee the survival of his family, his spread, and his dream. But dangers abound from both factions for a man refusing to take sides. Before the Lincoln County War culminates on the banks of the Rio Bonito during a five-day shootout in Lincoln, Bracken is accused of being both a vigilante and a rustler. As the law stands idly by, Bracken’s ranch is torched, and his wife is assaulted by the notorious outlaw Jesse Evans. Survival trumps vengeance, though, as Bracken tries to outlast the dueling factions aimed at destroying him.

At every turn Bracken must counter the devious ploys of both factions and fight against lawmen and a court system skewed to protect the powerful and politically connected. Against overwhelming odds, Bracken challenges the wicked forces arrayed against him in hopes of a better life for himself, for his family, and for New Mexico Territory. And throughout it all, Bracken stands in the growing shadow of his sometime pal, Billy the Kid.

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Review
Rio Bonito by Preston Lewis is the third book that I have read by this author. Given how much I enjoyed two of his other books, I knew that I would be in for a wild ride. Even though I had not read the first book in this Three Rivers Trilogy, I feel like Lewis did an excellent job of bringing the reader up to speed. I quickly felt like I knew Wes Bracken and admired his devotion to his wife and stepson, as well as his best friend and partner Jace Cousins.

To be completely honest, I was waiting for the punchline for a few chapters because the two H.H. Lomax books that I read were these historical reimaginings softened by some slapstick comedy. But at some point it finally dawned on me that I was reading a pretty serious story about a man just trying to live as straight as possible in a town run by outlaws.

To say that things are complicated would be a severe understatement. In order to protect his family and the friends that he cares about, Bracken often has to resort to criminal activity himself in the name of justice. When the law is doled out by men easily swayed by money or power, how do you define justice? And who is really the keeper and enforcer of it? I don’t know if the final installment will answer these questions, but I do know that it will be an exciting and interesting story nonetheless.

I am a huge fan of bringing in historical figures into fiction, so you can bet that I was delighted to see Billy the Kid in this book. The Kid’s charm and bucktooth grin were pretty much the only comedy in the story, but they were replaced with something very grave and dangerous by the end. The transformation would be startling if not for the harrowing turn of events that Lewis unravels at a perfect pace. I truly look forward to seeing what happens next and you can bet that I will backtrack and read the first book in the series beforehand.

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of 40 westerns, historical novels, juvenile books and memoirs. He has received national awards for his novels, articles, short stories and humor.

In 2021 he was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters for his literary accomplishments. Lewis is past president of Western Writers of America and the West Texas Historical Association.

His historical novel Blood of Texas on the Texas Revolution earned a Spur Award as did his True West article on the Battle of Yellow House Canyon. He developed the Memoirs of H.H. Lomax series, which includes two Spur finalists and a Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award for western humor for his novel Bluster’s Last Stand on the battle of Little Big Horn. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin and two of his YA novels have won Elmer Kelton Awards for best creative work on West Texas from the West Texas Historical Association.

He began his writing career working for Texas daily newspapers in Abilene, Waco, Orange and Lubbock before going into university administration. During his 35-year career in higher education, he directed communications and marketing offices at Texas Tech University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Angelo State University.

Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University and master’s degrees from Ohio State in journalism and Angelo State in history. He lives in San Angelo with his wife, Harriet.


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Review & Giveaway: Creatrix Rising by Stephanie Raffelock

CREATRIX RISING: UNLOCKING THE POWER
OF MIDLIFE WOMEN
By Stephanie Raffelock
Categories: Nonfiction / Self Help Memoir
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub Date: August 24, 2021
Pages:176 Pages
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From the author of the award-winning book A Delightful Little Book on Aging comes a new self-help memoir Creatrix Rising: Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women. In her new book, Stephanie Raffelock liberates mold-defying midlife women, tired of the oft-inaccurate characterization of the “old crone,” to amplify the resounding strength within.

Ever since Eve was banned from the garden, women have endured the oftentimes painful and inaccurate definitions foisted upon them by the patriarchy. Maiden, mother, and crone, representing the three stages assigned to a woman’s life cycle, have been the limiting categories of both ancient and modern (neo-pagan) mythology. And one label in particular rankles: crone. The word conjures a wizened hag—useless for the most part, marginalized by appearance and ability.

None of us has ever truly fit the old-crone image, and for today’s midlife women, a new archetype is being birthed: the Creatrix.

In Creatrix Rising, Raffelock lays out—through personal stories and essays—the highlights of the past fifty years, in which women have gone from a quiet strength to a resounding voice. She invites us along on her own transformational journey by providing probing questions for reflection so that we can flesh out and bring to life this new archetype within ourselves. If what the Dalai Lama has predicted—that women will save the world—proves true, then the Creatrix will for certain be out front, leading the pack.

PRAISE FOR CREATRIX RISING:

“The perfect topic at the perfect time, Stephanie Raffelock’s self-help memoir, Creatrix Rising, identifies a new archetype, the Creatrix, that transcends the old archetype of Crone. Her stories and insights about how far women have come is nothing short of inspirational. A must-read for any woman who wants to embrace the strength and creativity of midlife.” -Marci Shimoff, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Happy for No Reason and Chicken Soup for the Women’s Soul

“Poetic and philosophical, Creatrix Rising will inspire readers to claim the courage and confidence that already lives inside of them. An intimate story of transformation, of journeying through life on your own terms without apology.”
Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet and author of How to Love a Country

“The new archetype Stephanie Raffelock assigns to midlife women underscores the assets and wisdom older women bring to our culture and to the greater good. Creatrix Rising is an affirmation and celebration of the feminine story taking place in leadership and creativity throughout our country.”
Gabby Reese, volleyball legend, Nike’s first female spokeswoman, and New York Times best-selling author
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Review

To be completely honest, I have no idea where to begin when describing the effect that Creatrix Rising by Stephanie Raffelock has had on me. I can tell you that my initial thoughts were: (1) pretty cover, clearly a book on female empowerment; (2) Creatrix – that’s a cool word; and (3) Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women – I’m almost to midlife, so let’s do this!

I’m going to say some things that seem completely contradictory, but I hope that you will stay with me. This book was everything that I expected from it yet so much more at the same time. I figured that this book would be written from the perspective of an older and wiser woman with the aim to motivate middle-aged women to fulfill their hidden potential. I was curious about this potential, so I dived in looking for these answers. What I found was something different and, dare I say, better.

It could be a coincidence, but I think that the universe has been working in mysterious ways for me lately. Today, my brother told me about a Harvard study which stated that females pass down mitochondria to only their female offspring. Which prompted my mother to add that people who claim to be Jewish are only really Jewish if their mother is. So, of course, I had to add a really cool genetic nesting doll idea that I came across years ago about how since females have all of the eggs that they will ever have in their lifetime in their bodies, then I was already inside of my very first female ancestor however many years ago that was.

You’re probably thinking, “Cool, but what does that have to do with anything?” Raffelock talks about how she has “felt her ancestors walking with her, whispering to her.” She is “not the only woman who feels connected to the spiritual DNA of her ancestors, the ancient women who sang ancient songs.” I truly believe that it is this science and spirituality that makes women special and something to truly celebrate. So yes, Raffelock is a mature woman who likes to motivate women, but that is not the only thing she does in this book.

She shares stories that demonstrate different struggles that women face, whether during the 1930s or the current Coronavirus pandemic, and leaves us with the inspiration to find the answers or solutions for ourselves, using the path of those before us as a guide, but not necessarily as a turn-by-turn map. She encourages connection, especially with other women, but she subscribes to the notion that there are sometimes people who come into your life for a reason or a season. So do not despair over what you think you may have lost, whether that is some object, a person, or even some former version of yourself.

Creatrix Rising is a call to action, for women to set aside the idea that even though your reproductive years are behind you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create. As a soon-to-be-divorced woman on the cusp of midlife, I am inspired to take my destiny in my own hands and find the path to my creative calling. For such a short book, there is so much ground covered and really great questions and writing prompts at the end of each chapter that can help you sort through your thoughts and goals.

If you are a woman who struggles with some obstacle in your life, whether it’s a job or relationship issue, a deep-seated insecurity, or a general feeling of not knowing what to do next; I think that this book can shed some light on various paths that you might consider exploring. Even if it means just meandering a different path in your mind before committing to making new moves. That’s sort of the point of sharing experiences with other people, and both accepting and giving the gift of experience by living vicariously through each other.

I am really surprised that this book was written and published during the pandemic. It is very well thought out and the prose is beautiful like poetry. Not to mention, the whole package is pristine: from the beautiful cover art, to the nicely constructed hardcover, to the impeccable editing. While obviously timely, I think that this book is also timeless. It has earned a permanent spot on my bookshelf and will be referenced at various intervals in my life. Not to mention, I will definitely share it with other women as well.

Stephanie Raffelock is the author of Creatrix Rising, Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women, (She Writes Press – August, 2021). She also penned the award winning book, A Delightful Little Book on Aging.

A graduate of Naropa University’s program in Writing and Poetics, Stephanie was a contributor to The Rogue Valley Messenger in Oregon. She has blogged for Nexus Magazine, Omaha Lifestyles, Care2.com, as well as SixtyandMe.com.

A former i-Heart Radio host, she is now a popular guest on podcasts, where she inspires women to embrace the strength and passion of their personal story. Stephanie continues to build her speaker’s resume by giving presentations for groups like The Ashland Literary Arts Festival, Breaking the Glass, WINS at Charles Schwab and Southern Oregon University, Friends of the Hannon Library. Her commitment to uplift women extends to teaching personal development classes for incarcerated women and non-profits, including Dress for Success, Austin.

A recent transplant to Austin, Texas Stephanie enjoys an active life with her husband, Dean, and their Labrador retriever, Mickey Mantel Raffelock.

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Review & Giveaway: No Names to Be Given by Julia Brewer Daily

NO NAMES TO BE GIVEN
By
JULIA BREWER DAILY

Categories: Women’s Fiction / Vintage Fiction / Adoption / 1960s
Publisher: Admission Press Inc.
Pub Date: August 3, 2021
Pages: 334 pages
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1965. Sandy runs away from home to escape her mother’s abusive boyfriend. Becca falls in love with the wrong man. And Faith suffers a devastating attack. With no support and no other options, these three young, unwed women meet at a maternity home hospital in New Orleans where they are expected to relinquish their babies and return home as if nothing transpired.

But such a life-altering event can never be forgotten, and no secret remains buried forever. Twenty-five years later, the women are reunited by a blackmailer, who threatens to expose their secrets and destroy the lives they’ve built. That shattering revelation would shake their very foundations—and reverberate all the way to the White House.

Told from the three women’s perspectives in alternating chapters, this mesmerizing story is based on actual experiences of women in the 1960s who found themselves pregnant but unmarried, pressured by family and society to make horrific decisions. How that inconceivable act changed women forever is the story of No Names to Be Given, a heartbreaking but uplifting novel of family and redemption.

PRAISE FOR NO NAMES TO BE GIVEN:

A gorgeous, thrilling, and important novel! These strong women will capture your heart. Stacey Swann, author of Olympus, Texas.

An insightful and sympathetic view offered into the lives of those who were adopted and those who adopted them. Pam Johnson, author of Justice for Ella.

A novel worthy of a Lifetime movie adaptation. Jess Hagemann, author of Headcheese.

Readers can expect deep knowledge of the world the characters inhabit. Sara Kocek, author of Promise Me Something.

This book is a relevant read and one that will keep readers guessing page after page until the very end. The US Review of Books

Today’s young women, especially, need to absorb No Names to Be Given. Midwest Book Review, D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer

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Review
No Names to Be Given by Julia Brewer Daily is a fascinating story filled with every human emotion, especially fear, desire, distress, and confusion. Daily pulls you in from the first chapter as we meet the three young girls on the day that they each give birth to unplanned babies. For 1965, you couldn’t meet a threesome as different as Sandy, Becca, and Faith. I really admire the lengths that the author goes to, gently pulling each girl’s story like taffy, making us feel like we know each girl intimately and the people that either influence or directly control the path that they have taken. Rich or poor, sweet or abrasive, you cannot help but empathize with the three and you are anxious to see how not only their lives turn out, but those of their children as well.

In school, we learned about the social issues that took place during the 1960s. Daily has clearly done her research to portray a time period where women don’t have control over what happens to their own bodies and African Americans are still discriminated against. Sadly, 60 years later, we are still at war with these social injustices. I don’t know if that sad fact is part of the reason that Daily wrote this novel, but the message of caution, the call to action, and the hope for change are very timely and needed in our country today.

As someone who has grown up in the South, in a traditional Filipino family, and raised as a strict Baptist, I could relate to the shame of not fulfilling certain expectations and the pressure to live a certain life. As I take my own destiny in my hands, it has been truly inspiring to hear how these three girls rose above their circumstances and forged lives that no one else could have predicted they would be capable of creating. You might scoff and say that this is a work of fiction, so how can I be inspired? This book is loosely based on true stories that Daily found during her research. And in my experience, even the most fantastical tale can be found in the real world if you dig deep enough.

I think that many readers will enjoy this well-crafted story, but I think it will especially speak to those who are adopted, who plan to adopt, or are debating whether to put a child up for adoption. And if you don’t fall in any of those categories, I think you will find value in the story of perseverance, friendship, and self-love.


Julia Brewer Daily is a Texan with a southern accent. She holds a B.S. in English and a M.S. degree in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has been a Communications Adjunct Professor at Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi, and Public Relations Director of the Mississippi Department of Education and Millsaps College, a liberal arts college in Jackson, MS. She was the founding director of the Greater Belhaven Market, a producers’ only market in a historic neighborhood in Jackson, and even shadowed Martha Stewart. As the Executive Director of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi (300 artisans from 19 states) which operates the Mississippi Craft Center, she wrote their stories to introduce them to the public. Daily is an adopted child from a maternity home hospital in New Orleans. She searched and found her birth mother and through a DNA test, her birth father’s family, as well. A lifelong southerner, she now resides on a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband Emmerson and Labrador retrievers, Memphis Belle and Texas Star.

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Review & Giveaway: Crude Ambition by Patricia Hunt Holmes

CRUDE AMBITION
by
Patricia Hunt Holmes
Categories: Mystery / Thriller / Women’s Fiction
Publisher: River Grove Books (Greenleaf Book Group)
Date of Publication: June 8, 2021
Number of Pages: 326
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A Texas Reckoning

In the early morning hours after a law firm recruiting party at a beachside house on Galveston Island, a female summer intern is found lying on the floor, bruised, bleeding and unconscious. Four men and one young woman attorney who were staying at the house know something terrible happened.

The woman attorney takes her to a hospital but the next day the intern disappears. All of them decide to keep silent, doing nothing about the incident in order to further their own career ambitions while the events of that night haunt the two women. Time passes and then ten years later, crime and hubris bring the former intern back into their lives. Only this time she has the power and the truth is finally brought to light, uprooting everyone’s plans.

From the power centers of Houston law and oil to the fracking fields of South Texas to the Jersey Shore and Washington D.C., this story chronicles the struggles of two ambitious young women in their quest for legal success and justice.

PRAISE FOR CRUDE AMBITION:

“Crude Ambition is a great read. It is an authentic look at big law in Houston and the Texas oil business. Patricia Hunt Holmes weaves a story of ambition, greed, romance and revenge that kept me turning the pages until all the just desserts were served.”

Marc Grossberg, J.D., Author of The Best People: A Tale of Trials and Errors

“In Crude Ambition, Patricia Hunt Holmes shows she knows Texas in the way Grisham knows Mississippi—politics, environment, strong men and strong women, egos, oil, arrogance, influence and hunger for power. I don’t think anyone could have nailed it better.”

— Bill Sarpalius, Former U.S. Congressman, Author of The Grand Duke of Boys’ Ranch

Review

Crude Ambition by Patricia Hunt Holmes is the second book that I have read by this talented author. I have read many books where the writer has obviously done their research, and then there is this whole other level of writing that comes from a place of having lived what the story is about. While the acknowledgements section suggests that Holmes is of the research variety, my hunch is that she very much draws from her personal experience as well. There is an intimacy to her storytelling that can only come from knowing a city and a profession to the extent that the reader can truly immerse themselves in the story without confusion or disbelief clouding their experience.

Much like in Searching for Pilar, the city of Houston is a character that Holmes enjoys sharing secrets and tidbits about here and there. Despite my humble upbringing in a northern suburb of Houston, I am well aware of the fancy side of town and enjoy the references to places I have only glimpsed from the outside. Holmes flexes her knowledge of Texas terrain in this book a bit by also taking us to Galveston Island and the Hill Country. This tour of the land made me realize and appreciate just how multifaceted this great state is. Well, when it’s not crawling with corruption, I suppose.

I know that this is only the second book that I have read by Holmes, but I feel like she has already established a signature flair for writing about difficult social issues in a way that is equal parts cautionary and informative. In this particular story, there is this very thin line between ambition and greed. And it is fascinating to see how people from all different walks of life pick a path and, if they are fortunate enough, are allowed the opportunity to change course before it is too late.

If you enjoy a good legal drama, this book is definitely for you. If you like stories about second chances and rising above, this book is also for you. If you are anything like me and enjoy a well-written book that features your hometown, just pick up this book already. Trust me, this book has it all: intrigue, love, betrayal, you name it. You’re welcome.

Patricia Hunt Holmes spent 30 years as a public finance attorney with a large international law firm, specializing in nonprofit healthcare finance and rural electric cooperative finance. Consistently listed in Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, and Top Lawyers in Houston, she was a frequent speaker at national public finance and health care conferences. Patricia has also served on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She has written and published in the fields of intellectual history and law.

In addition to her legal career, Patricia has been a member and board member of several social
service organizations throughout Houston, including the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast Women’s Initiative, Dress for Success Houston, the University of Houston Women’s Studies Program, University of Houston Law Review Board of Directors, is a Trustee of the Houston Grand Opera, and Houston Justice for Our Neighbors.

Patricia grew up in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey but has lived in Houston for over 40 years. She has two daughters, Hillary and Ashley, who have successful careers as an attorney and a geologist, and three adorable grandsons. She is an avid golfer and traveler.

Patricia holds a BA in English and History, an MA in History, and a PhD in Russian and South Asian History with honors, all from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center and was an editor on the Houston Law Review.


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Author Interview & Giveaway: Making It Home by Teddy Jones

MAKING IT HOME
By Teddy Jones
Publisher: MidTown Publishing
Pub Date: July 26, 2021
Series: Jackson’s Pond, Texas Series
Stand Alone: YES
Pages: 275
Categories: Family Fiction / Racism / Ku Klux Klan / Texas Women’s Fiction / Rural Fiction
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In this third novel in the Jackson’s Pond, Texas series, fifty-five-year-old Melanie Jackson Banks encounters racism, intolerance, and violence both in her family’s distant past and in current day Jackson’s Pond. She leads family and community efforts to create reconciliation for past wrongs and also to demonstrate strength and defiance in the face of vandalism, cross-burning, domestic violence, threats to Jackson Ranch’s operation, and kidnapping. In the midst of this stormy period, she finds allies in her mother’s long-time companion, Robert Stanley; her mother, Willa Jackson; her daughter Claire Havlicek; and many others.
Praise for Making It Home

“Making It Home could not be a more timely book… We live in an imperfect world, but it is still possible to think, imagine and make things better. The cast of characters in this strong family affirms this through their hope, decency, and tenacity!” —Eleanor Morse, author of Margreete’s Harbor

“Jones’ talent for creating indelible characters endures, as does her way with a compelling plot. … This is a timely page-turner.”  Robin Lippincott, author of Blue Territory: A Meditation on the Life and Art of Joan Mitchell

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Author Interview

Interview with Teddy Jones

 

What kind of writing do you do?

I write realist fiction, both novels and short stories. I do not confine myself to present day material but have never written about times earlier than the nineteenth century.

Has Texas influenced your writing in any way?

Yes. I respond deeply to places, not only the scenery and typical weather of a spot, but also the sights of life in that place, what’s present and what’s not. I also respond to the language of places and the idiom particular to people in those places. Because I have lived a large portion of my life in Texas, it’s the place (the mixture of the many places that Texas is) that I am drawn to have my characters respond to and reflect.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I strive to create memorable characters, not through detailed description of their appearances, but by putting them in situations that affect them and then showing from their points of view their reactions and actions, dialogue, and silences. Readers’ comments suggest that this depth of character is a quality they appreciate in my writing.

Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer?  How does this affect your writing?

I am fortunate to have writing as my full-time occupation. By that I mean that I have no paid job waiting for my attention. As a result, I either work on an existing project (short story or novel) each day or when I don’t have a defined project underway, I write “bits.” Those bits may be thoughts prompted by reflection on some reading or they might be pieces of conversations overheard, or descriptions of a situation or a character. Those bits end up in notebooks that I keep and return to when I choose a project to begin. I may find something there for the new project. Then I write straight ahead on the chosen project until I’ve told myself the story of that full story. After that comes revision after revision. Being a full-time writer means I have the time to indulge that process. And it means I have no excuse not to.

What was the hardest part of writing Making It Home?

The initial conflict in this story began in the past before the present-day characters were born. Learning of the racial tensions that created that early stain on the family’s history is now reflected in and worsened by present day bigotry and escalating violence that threatens the Jackson family and the town of Jackson’s Pond. I labored because I set myself the challenge of ‘getting it right.” I didn’t want to deal in stereotypes; the characters with the most detestable of behavior had to be real people, not stereotypes. In real life, I want people to be happy and live in harmony. So, for me, dwelling in the lives of characters in conflict is difficult, but necessary to telling the story well. And I had to live there throughout almost this entire novel.

Teddy Jones is the author of three published novels, Halfwide, Jackson’s Pond, Texas, and Well Tended, as well as a collection of short stories, Nowhere Near. Her short fiction received the Gold Medal First Prize in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2015. Jackson’s Pond, Texas was a finalist for the 2014 Willa Award in contemporary fiction from Women Writing the West. Her as yet unpublished novel, Making It Home, was a finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2017 and A Good Family was named finalist in that contest in 2018.
Although her fiction tends to be set in West Texas, her characters’ lives embody issues not bounded by geography of any particular region. Families and loners; communities in flux; people struggling, others successful; some folks satisfied in solitude and others yearning for connection populate her work. And they all have in common that they are more human than otherwise.
Jones grew up in a small Texas town, Iowa Park. Earlier she worked as a nurse, a nurse educator, a nursing college administrator, and as a nurse practitioner in Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. For the past twenty years, she and her husband have lived in the rural West Texas Panhandle where he farms and she writes.

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Blitz & Giveaway: 70% Dark Intentions by Amber Royer

70% DARK INTENTIONS
Bean to Bar Mysteries Book 2
by
AMBER ROYER
Categories: Cozy Mystery / Woman Sleuth / Romance
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Date of Publication: July 20, 2021
Number of Pages: 260 pages
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An Idyllic Chocolate Shop. An island with endangered species. And a murder.
Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand is bringing in plenty of customers – in part due to the notoriety of the recent murder of one of her assistants, which she managed to solve. Things seem to be taking a turn for the better. Her new assistant, Mateo, even gets along with Carmen, the shop’s barista turned pastry chef. Felicity thinks she’s learning to cope with change – right up until one of her friends gets engaged. Everyone’s expecting her to ask Logan, her former bodyguard, to be her plus one. But even the thought of asking out someone else still makes her feel disloyal to her late husband’s memory — so maybe she hasn’t moved on from her husband’s death as much as she thought.

Felicity isn’t planning to contact Logan any time soon. Only, Felicity finds ANOTHER body right outside her shop – making it two murders at Greetings and Felicitations in as many months. That night, Mateo disappears, leaving Felicity to take care of his pet octopus. The police believe that Mateo committed the murder, but Felicity is convinced that, despite the mounting evidence, something more is going on, and Mateo may actually be in trouble.

When Logan assumes that he’s going to help Felicity investigate, she realizes she’s going to have to spend time with him – whether she’s ready to really talk to him or not. Can Felicity find out what happened to Mateo, unmask a killer, and throw an engagement party all at the same time?

PRAISE FOR 70% DARK INTENTIONS:

“Royer has concocted a sweetly dark confection with 70% DARK INTENSIONS, the second serving in her Bean to Bar Mysteries series…You’ll read this yummy treat late into the night.” –Amy Shojai, author of September Day & Shadow pet-centric thrillers

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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.
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Autographed copy of 70% DARK INTENTIONS
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Notable Quotable & Giveaway: Deadly Business by Anita Dickason

DEADLY BUSINESS
by Anita Dickason
Pages: 324 pages
Publication Date: July 4, 2021
Genre: Suspense / Thriller / Crime Thriller


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With You I Am

A Texas Multi-Billion Dollar Lure!

Following a tactical raid at an Oklahoma farm, a phone call sends U.S. Deputy Marshal Piper McKay rushing back to the East Texas cattle ranch where she grew up. Her grandmother, Jennie Layton, is near death from a crushed skull. When local authorities claim the cause of the injury was an accident, Piper isn’t convinced.

Who wants Jennie dead and why? Is the reason connected to a dubious contract Piper finds in Jennie’s desk? Piper realizes her grandmother isn’t the only one in danger when she barely escapes a deadly attack. Thrust into the middle of a high-stakes, high-risk shell game, Piper’s become the target. The case takes a bizarre turn when Piper unknowingly crosses paths with a Special Ranger. If he can’t derail her investigation, it could cost him his life.

With millions of dollars on the line, nothing will stop a ring of cold-blooded killers, including the murders of a U.S. Marshal and a Special Ranger.

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About the Author

Anita Dickason

Award-winning Author Anita Dickason is a twenty-two veteran of the Dallas Police Department. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics detective, advanced accident investigator, tactical officer, and first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.
Anita writes about what she knows, cops and crime. Her police background provides an unending source of inspiration for her plots and characters. Many incidents and characters portrayed in her books are based on personal experience. For her, the characters are the fun part of writing as she never knows where they will take her. There is always something out of the ordinary in her stories.
In Anita’s debut novel, Sentinels of the Night, she created an elite FBI Unit, the Trackers. Since then, she has added three more Tracker crime thrillers, Going Gone!, A u 7 9, and Operation Navajo. The novels are not a series and can be read in any order.
As a Texas author, many of Anita’s books are based in Texas, or there is a link to Texas. When she stepped outside of the Tracker novels and wrote, Not Dead, she selected Meridian, a small community in central Texas for the location.

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st: Autographed hardcover copy + tote back, mousepad, pen, & bookmark;
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rd & 4th: eBook copy.

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Deadly Business Giveaway

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Review & Giveaway: The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner

THE NATURE OF SMALL BIRDS
BY SUSIE FINKBEINER

Publisher: Revell
Pub Date: July 6, 2021
Pages: 368 pages
Categories: Fiction / Christian / General

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In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

“Susie Finkbeiner has such an inviting and distinctive voice as a writer that you’ll gladly follow it–and follow her–to any setting.”–Valerie Fraser Luesse, Christy Award-winning author of Under the Bayou Moon

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Review

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner is a beautifully written novel that spans nearly four decades and is told from the perspective of a father, mother, and their first born daughter. At first glance, this book is about the impact of adopting a Vietnamese orphan at a time when our nation was divided over its involvement in the Vietnam War. A timely narrative given our current state of affairs, definitely. But if the title of the book is a clue to the deeper meaning behind this story, I would say that this is more about how people in general are essentially the same; specifically, small children (the metaphorical small birds) and their inevitable departure from the nest.

The perspective and the timeline shifts every chapter. In 2013, we get Bruce’s point of view as a man providing emotional support to his family, particularly the women, as they struggle with their various stages of life. In 1975, we see things from Linda’s perspective as a woman who set aside dreams of being a musician to live a simple life – or so she thought. In 1988, we get Sonny’s delightfully angsty point of view as a teenage girl with a complicated but loving relationship with her adopted sister Mindy. 

Finkbeiner does an excellent job of differentiating between the characters and maintaining credible voices while driving the story forward. I really admire her choice to stick to one character’s viewpoint for each time period because it allows us to see how every character – not just the narrator at that particular point in time – develops as they interact with each other and face difficult times, both as individuals and together as a family.

As the story of Mindy’s adoption and integration into the family and their small community unfolds, there are so many wonderfully vivid moments that we are privy to that range from comical to frustrating, but with a constant undertone of sentimentality. My only real complaint about this story is the omission of certain details that I am sure other readers would want to know. I will not elaborate further on this because I do not want to spoil any of the plot. But I think it speaks volumes to the talent of an author when the only critique is that she should have given us more to read.

So who is this story for? I think that anyone who enjoys reading will love this book. But I think that this novel will especially speak to those who love books like Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club and Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook. I know I know, those books are completely different from each other, but I think that once you read The Nature of Small Birds, you will catch my drift.

Susie Finkbeiner is the CBA bestselling author of All Manner of Things, which was selected as a 2020 Michigan Notable Book, and Stories That Bind Us,as well as A Cup of Dust, A Trail of Crumbs, and A Song of Home. She serves on the Fiction Readers Summit planning committee, volunteers her time at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and speaks at retreats and women’s events across the country. Susie and her husband have three children and live in West Michigan.

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