Tag Archives: Contemporary Fiction

Giveaway: Moved, Left No Address by Vickie Phelps

 

MOVED, LEFT NO ADDRESS

 

 

by


Vickie Phelps

 

  Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Date of Publication: June 10, 2016
Number of Pages: 328

 

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Joel Webster’s uncle disappeared forty years ago without a trace. All he knows about his uncle are the stories his mother has told him. Now his parents are dead and Joel is left alone. When he finds some old postcards with his uncle’s name on them, he decides to search for him. His journey takes him from a small town in Texas to Santa Fe, New Mexico. He encounters danger, death threats, and a beautiful woman he can’t resist as he searches for his long-lost uncle.
 
 
 
Prologue
     My uncle, Joel Webster, disappeared without a trace on June 1, 1949. At the time, he lived on the family farm at Silver Creek, Texas, with my parents. I wasn’t around then, but my mom told me stories about him that intrigued me at an early age. Of course, her stories only went as far as the date of his disappearance.
     On the day he vanished, Dad invited Uncle Joel to go with him and my mother into Silver Creek. “Joel, let’s go into town and pick up some supplies. While we’re there, we’ll get us something cold to drink and visit with some of the other fellows for awhile.”
     Uncle Joel shook his head. “Warner, I think I’m just gonna set on the porch awhile and enjoy the nice weather. We won’t have too many more days like this before the heat sets in. You and Maria go on into town and do your shopping.”
     My mom joined in hoping to persuade him. “It’s your birthday, Joel. Come with us. We’ll treat you to an ice cream soda.”
     But he couldn’t be swayed. They left him sitting on the porch alone, smoking a Viceroy cigarette and blowing smoke rings into the fresh morning air. When they returned later in the day, Uncle Joel was gone.

To keep reading Moved, Left No Address and to sample Vickie’s book, 

 
 
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Vickie Phelps writes to encourage, inspire, and influence. She has published articles, devotionals, and essays in more than fifty magazines and contributed to several anthologies. Vickie is the author of the novels, Postmark From the Past and Moved, Left No Address, and  a devotional book, Psalms for the Common Man. Vickie is coauthor with Jo Huddleston of the gift book, Simply Christmas, and two books on writing, How to Write for the Christian Marketplace, and Writing 101: A Handbook of Tips & Encouragement for Writers.
Vickie is the founder and director of the East Texas Christian Writers Group in Longview, Texas and a member of the Northeast Texas Writers Organization. She worked for eighteen years as a bookseller for Barron’s Books, an independent bookstore in Longview, Texas.

Vickie is a native Texan and lives in Henderson, Texas with her husband, Sonny, and one very spoiled schnauzer. 

 
 

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FOUR WINNERS EACH WIN A SIGNED COPY:
(US ONLY)
November 28 – December 7, 2016
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Review: Summer Vacation by Belinda Everette

 SUMMER VACATION

 

The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen

 

Book One, Second Edition

 

by 

 

Belinda Everette 

Genre: Middle Grade / Contemporary Fiction

Date of Publication: June 12, 2016
# of pages: 70
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It’s the beginning of summer and Uncle Mike and Aunt Melanie invite Mackenzie for an extended summer vacation in their hometown of Houston, Texas. On the first day, Mackenzie finds her cousins, Cristen and Chloe, helping their parents prepare a special meal. Come and learn about the holiday and celebration of Juneteenth with this first book in The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen, a cultural journey of joy, family, and fun! 

 

Summer Vacation is the first installment in The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen, a five part journey of family love and fun.  Each adventure finds the cousins learning history, exploring cultural themes and traditions, and discovering the joy in the world around them.

PRAISE FOR SUMMER VACATION:

 

“I read Summer Vacation by Belinda Everette.  I thought it was educational regarding the true history of Juneteenth and portrayed realistic events in the lives of the characters.  I did pass it on to one of my daughters with a special interest in children’s books.  This seems to be a good moment for this kind of story, with increased interest in African-American history with readers of all ages.”

 

 — Ronne Hartfield, Co-Chair, Harvard University Arts Education Council, Executive Director, Art Institute of Chicago, Author

 

 

Summer Vacation is very good.  This book is entertaining and informative.  The author has given us a unique way of presenting history to our children.  This book should be published in Spanish and other languages to share this history with other cultures.”

 

— Irma P. Hall, Academy Award nominated American Actress,  Poet, Author, Language Educator (ret), Dallas Public School System,  30 years.
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Everette’s writing pulls you in by appealing to your senses. Her visual descriptions make it easy to picture the scene and you can smell the food as Mackenzie’s Texas family prepares for the celebration.
I can’t remember what grade I was in when I learned about Juneteenth, but I do know that there wasn’t much detail about the celebration. Basically, we knew that it was a Black American celebration of freedom in America, but that was just about it. So I found it interesting to learn about the tradition of eating and drinking foods that slaves were forced to serve to their masters, but were never allowed to consume themselves. I had no idea that red soda water existed back then!
I like how Everette shows how progress has been made with Juneteenth becoming an official national American holiday. But she also points out that there is still a ways to come when the caucasian twins next door share their story of a country club, made up exclusively of exclusively white members, celebrates Juneteenth but doesn’t allow their black employees to have the day off. They also comment that the club’s staff is mainly black and Hispanic.
This little book makes a big impression. I only wish that the title was a little more interesting than “Summer Vacation.” But this is only book one of Mackenzie and Cristen’s adventures, so I hope Everette gives the rest of the series titles that reflect their fun and educating nature. The cover art is cute pencil work, but I think it would really pop if the artist used Photoshop or some other program to digitally color in everything.

Like most people, when life throws lemons, you make lemonade and that was certainly the case for Belinda Everette, the author of The Adventures of Mackenzie and Cristen book series.   After twenty-six years as a Senior Vice-President for several Fortune 500 financial institutions, life circumstances required a change.  Belinda put down her briefcase, enrolled in Rice University’s creative writing program, and began to pursue her lifelong dream of writing. 
When not writing, Belinda supports several of her favorite charities which focus on providing housing and improving living conditions for those in need, including Houston’s Star of Hope, Covenant House, and Houston Achievement Place.
“Family is my greatest joy,” Belinda adds “nothing is better than a houseful of family and friends with lots of children running around, enjoying a delicious meal and good Christian fellowship.”  Cooking, entertaining, and music along with daughter Ashley, son-in-law Ron, and grandchildren, Mackenzie and Evan, keep live full and happy.  Belinda and her constant companion, a four-year old Shih Tzu, reside in suburban Houston, Texas.

 

 

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(US ONLY)
1 Grand Prize Winner wins:
Signed Copies of Summer Vacation  and It’s Just A Song, plus a tote bag
2 Other Winners each win:
Signed Copies of Summer Vacation plus mouse pads
  July 20 – July 29, 2016

Check out the other great blogs on the tour! 

7/20    Hall Ways Blog         – Review
7/21    Country Girl Bookaholic – Excerpt #1
7/22    Reading By Moonlight  Author Interview #1
7/23    Margie’s Must Reads           – Review
7/24    StoreyBook Reviews           – Guest Post       
7/25    The Crazy Booksellers  Excerpt #2
7/26    Missus GonzoReview
7/27    Byers Editing Reviews & Blog  – Author Interview #2 
7/28    The Librarian Talks  – Promo       
7/29    My Book Fix Blog Review          

 

 

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Review: Lost Path to Solitude by Maria Elena Sandovici

LOST PATH TO SOLITUDE

 

(A Follow-Up to Dogs With Bagels)


by 


Maria Elena Sandovici
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Date of Publication: February 12, 2016
# of pages: 315
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Once you leave home, can you ever return? Two characters, mother and daughter, contemplate this question in Lost Path to Solitude. Twenty-five years after leaving Romania in order to follow the man she loves to New York, Maria Pop still struggles with accepting her decision. She is determined to go back and recapture the poetry and joy of life in Bucharest, even at the expense of risking her marriage. Meanwhile, her daughter, Liliana, second-guesses her own choice of moving to a small town in Southeast Texas, ironically called Solitude, where she finds herself lonely, bored, and nostalgic for the fast pace of life in New York City. Facing the claustrophobic social climate of a town that goes to bed early, as well as the constrictions of her emerging academic career, Liliana longs for something that would give her existence meaning. The parallel soul-searching and the frustration they experience does little to bring mother and daughter closer. Instead, as each struggles with finding her own place in the world, they become increasingly critical of each other. Will their relationship survive the growing pains they each must suffer in their quest for self-fulfillment?

Review
If I don’t judge a book by its cover, I have a tendency to judge it by its synopsis. At first glance, I decided rather quickly that this book would be interesting but not something that I could relate to. I was very wrong.
I’m the same age as Liliana but our lives have followed very different paths. She’s single due to a broken engagement 10 years prior and on track for tenure at the university she works for. I’m married with a kid and working from home. But we both struggle with the question of whether that is all there is to us. And throw in the drama with our mothers, and I think that Liliana and I could hang out all day after a yoga class.
On the surface, it might seem I could relate more to Liliana’s mother, Maria. She studied to be a librarian and a string of events prevented her from working in the field. I actually quit working as a librarian to raise my son. Ok, well, maybe we don’t have as much in common as I thought. But we do have that existential crisis thing going for us like Liliana. Also, when she makes the decision to stop speaking to Liliana, I can definitely relate. If only my family were like hers, letting the two quarrelers be and not getting in the middle.
I don’t know a lot about Romania and its people, but it was interesting how much the culture and people seem to parallel people in the Philippines (my parents’ homeland). I thought it was hilarious that the family from America was expected to bring back gifts that could probably be purchased in Romania. Or that you had to stay with family when you visited rather than stay at a hotel even though it might be uncomfortable or inconvenient. Don’t even get me started on the sexism, religious fanaticism, and general hypocrisy. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s not pleasant. But when you read about it or think about it in retrospect, it’s pretty entertaining. It’s nice to know that this translates across so many cultures. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out.
In a funny coincidence, just the other day my brother-in-law, who is a flight attendant, was explaining to me the difference between Texans and New Yorkers. Both BIL and book pointed out that New Yorkers are very straight forward and don’t sugarcoat things and waste your time like Texans often do. How New Yorkers can be misconstrued as rude because of this, whereas Texans seem sweet even when they insult you with a “Bless your heart.” This might not be earth shattering news, but I felt like it deserved a mention since I felt like New York and Texas were sort of characters as well. Romania, too, of course. But like I’ve said previously, I know nothing of Romania.
Sandovici writes a great tale. My only nitpick on this book is that I wished she put the name of the character at the beginning of each section when she switched perspectives. I sometimes had to read a whole page before figuring out who it was about, and then circling back to the start of the section so that I fully understood what was happening.
I applaud her writing style because of the subtle things. Like Maria’s broken English when she’s speaking to her kids, non-Romanian friends, and strangers. But then her vast vocabulary and colorful dialogue when speaking to her husband and those who do speak Romanian. It’s these little things that speak volumes about an author’s abilities.
Maria Elena Sandovici moved to Texas on a Greyhound bus in the summer of 2005. It would be the beginning of a great adventure. Born in Bucharest, Romania, a place she loves and where she returns often, she’d spend the requisite time in Manhattan to call herself a New Yorker, but also to know she was looking for something else. Her debut novel, Dogs with Bagels, is very much a New York story: the story of an immigrant family forging new identities for themselves in the city that never sleeps. 

Her second novel, Stray Dogs and Lonely Beaches, is the story of a young woman traveling the world in search of herself. This theme persists in Lost Path to Solitude, her third novel, in which characters suffering an identity crisis are caught in a search for the ideal place to call home. Three locales dominate the story: New York City, Bucharest, and an imaginary, caricaturized town in Southeast Texas, called Solitude.In addition to writing fiction, Maria Elena Sandovici paints every day. She has a studio at Hardy and Nance Studios in Houston, and also shows her daily watercolors on her blog, Have Watercolors Will Travel, accompanied by essays about whatever inspires or obsesses her at any given moment.

To support her art and writing, she teaches Political Science at Lamar University. She is also the well-behaved human of a feisty little dog. 

Her favorite places in Texas are Houston and Galveston. 

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GIVEAWAY! TWO WINNERS EACH RECEIVE  COPIES OF BOTH DOGS WITH BAGELS & LOST PATH TO SOLITUDE

 

  May 23 – June 1, 2016
Check out the other great blogs on the tour!  

5/23   Missus Gonzo  –  Review
5/24   It’s a Jenn World – Author Interview #1
5/25   Country Girl Bookaholic  – Promo
5/26   Forgotten Winds  — Review
5/27   Texas Book Lover  – Guest Post #1
5/28   My Book Fix Blog – Excerpt
5/29   Hall Ways BlogReview
5/30   The Page Unbound – Author Interview #2
5/31   StoreyBook Reviews      – Review
6/1     A Novel Reality– Guest Post #2
 
 
 
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