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Review & Giveaway: The Encouragement Letters by Shanna Spence

THE ENCOURAGEMENT
LETTERS
by
SHANNA SPENCE
Sub-genre: Middle Grade / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Date of Publication: November 22, 2017
Number of Pages: 180
Scroll down for the giveaway! 
WILLIAM CROMWELL, at age eleven, knew what it was like living with new changes. In 1865, Manchester, England a new textile factory moved into town and after a tragedy that befell him and his mum, they struggled to live. With so many things going on in his young life he wanted to be the encouragement that his father was to him.
As everything changes along with terrible hardships, just maybe the hope he gives to the growing town will find its way to Will…
PRAISE FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT LETTERS: 
This was such an uplifting wholesome book! It was so nice to read something positive about a time when people were so willing to step in and help someone in need without expecting anything in return! I couldn’t put it down!– 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer
Excellent read!! This story speaks to people in all walks of life. It is encouraging, sweet, and funny at the same time. I would recommend this book to anyone needing to see what it means to “treat others as you want to be treated.” — 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer

 
A very inspiring book from a great new author! — 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer

A charming tale of a simpler time. Yet, the message is ageless. I congratulate Ms. Spence on this her first effort and look forward to more entertaining reads from her in the future.— 5 Stars, Kindle reviewer
 
review
At first glance you can already tell that this book is historical. But the cover is so mature looking that I thought it might be a nonfiction book intended for adults. However, the book’s slight profile and, as I began to read, tone tipped me off to the intended middle grade audience. While an adult fiction book would ease the reader slowly into its world and gradually unfold the protagonist’s innermost desires or struggles, middle grade books tend to be more straight forward and honest with their intentions. I enjoy a flowery passage here or there, but the direct delivery found in books like this can be refreshing when you want to immerse yourself in a different world and just get down to the nitty gritty.
And poor little Will’s world is very gritty. Tragedy hasn’t lost his address as it continues to visit him at every turn. First his beloved father dies, then he worries that his mother is ill with the same affliction, and… well, I don’t want to ruin the story for you. But know that this young man is made of such wonderful moral fiber that he repays other people’s kindness with beautifully crafted, anonymous letters of encouragement until he is able to repay them properly. What really struck my heartstrings was the love and respect that he had for his mother. No matter how dire their situation, he never went against her wishes for him to continue his schooling and not work in a factory.
Spence did a really lovely job of creating characters that I cared about and set them in a time and place in history that I wasn’t very familiar with. I’ve read my fair share of books set across the pond or books that took place in the 1800s, but I’ve never read a combination of the two before. I was fully invested in the people, especially Will, and loved reading about a village that was helping to raise a good man.
I highly recommend this book to young readers and older readers alike. I think that this would be a great book to read in history class preceding lessons on the industrial revolution or child labor. But this is also a great book to read when life is getting you down and you need to pick yourself up.
Shanna Spence is a wife, mother, and registered nurse of over twenty years. She has written poetry since the age of thirteen and always dreamed of writing books. Raised in a small East Texas town, she pursued a career of nursing in Dallas, Texas but eventually went back to East Texas to settle down and raise a family.
Now she finally has found the time to fulfill her dream of writing stories that will hopefully bring out the imagination in others — as well as inspiration. She is currently living in Longview, Texas. 
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Review & Giveaway: The Fleecing of Fort Griffin by Preston Lewis

 

THE FLEECING 
OF FORT GRIFFIN
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Western Humor 
Publisher: Wild Horse Press
Date of Publication: May 19, 2016
Number of Pages: 234

2017 Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association:
Best Creative Work on West Texas


Scroll down for the giveaway!

 When the young Englishman Baron Jerome Manchester Paget arrives in 1878 Fort Griffin with a satchel full of money to start a buffalo ranch and find a bride, a horde of colorful swindlers from throughout Texas arrive to help themselves to a rich serving of his naiveté to frontier ways.  
  With a passel of oddball characters and more twists and turns than a stagecoach trail, The Fleecing of Fort Griffin pits the baron against crooked gamblers, a one-eyed gunfighter, a savvy marshal, conniving females, a duplicitous cavalry officer and a worldly stump preacher. 
   To stay rich, the baron must stay alive!  And to stay alive, the baron must rely on a fourteen-year-old orphan and a rooster that serves as his guard animal.  Even so, the odds and the cards are stacked against the Englishman and his bold vision of becoming the baron of bison in West Texas. 
   Written by Spur Award-winning author Preston Lewis, a master of western plot twists and humor, The Fleecing of Fort Griffin takes readers on an unconventional and uproarious journey through the Old West and some of its unsavory characters.  

PRAISE FOR THE FLEECING OF FORT GRIFFIN:

“… a work of colorful and humorous fiction,”
                             Albany Review
The Fleecing of Fort Griffin by Preston Lewis of San Angelo is one of the funniest westerns I’ve ever read.”
                             Glenn Dromgoole, Texas Reads
“If you’re looking for a delightful tale, check out The Fleecing of Fort Griffin.” 
                             Bryan Eagle

As a fan of Bluster’s Last Stand, I can’t tell you just how much I looked forward to reading this book. Lewis has the rare talent of being able to write about some of the most gruesome times in our country’s history and make us laugh until we’re out of breath. His characters, partially or completely fictionalized, are colorful and so completely drawn in that you can practically see them.
The Fleecing of Fort Griffin introduces a British character who seems to even influence the narrative voice in the beginning of the novel. Something about Lewis’s turn of phrase in the opening chapter read like a classic British novel. It was almost too descriptive and the stage was set at sort of a languid pace. But then again, maybe the Texas heat was to blame for the sluggish descriptions.
It’s the description of the characters that I savor and would like to sop up every little detail. Count on Lewis to present every sort of person you would expect in a Western, and then some. With the exception of young Sammy, I had a feeling that everybody in that town, locals and visitors alike, were full of bullshit.
The title hits you over the head with a key bit of information from the start: Fort Griffin is about to be had. But you’re constantly guessing at how the chips will fall, what kind of hand the baron is going to be dealt… you get the idea. And while you worry about the British guy’s well-being, you have to wonder if a red herring will make an appearance. At times, the set up feels like the great-grandaddy of Ocean’s 11, at other times it reminded me of a rugby match. How there’s a dog pile of people jostling for position, constantly in motion (no down, set, hike like American football), and the progress can be so minute that you didn’t realize they’ve moved down the field a bit.
“The baron attracted business like dung drew flies,” (p. 68) was a particularly apt description of the man who reeled in all sorts of people who were just after his money. It was entertaining to watch seasoned scam artists leave whatever town they last duped to follow the money, and even law enforcement and military officers plotting to win some money off of him via gambling.
My only issue with the book is the cover. At first glance, the cover is among the best I have seen in a while. But upon closer inspection and after having finished reading the book, I’m pretty sure the baron’s hat is incorrect. He is said to wear a bowler, which, according to Google is accurate in the West, but it appears he’s wearing a top hat. Also, the money overflowing from his satchel are American greenbacks. I’m pretty sure the satchel only contained British pounds. Any American money he picked up along the way was usually stashed on his person. And lastly, the baron is missing his beard. Nitpicks aside, the art looks fantastic.

            Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of 30 western, juvenile and historical novels, including The Fleecing of Fort Griffin, a western caper published by Wild Horse Press.  Fleecing won the 2017 Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association (WTHA) for best creative work on West Texas. 
     Lewis is best known for his comic novels in The Memoirs of H.H. Lomax series. 
Bluster’s Last Stand, a novel about Custer and the Battle of Little Bighorn, is the latest volume in the well-received series that began with The Demise of Billy the Kid.  Subsequent books in the series—The Redemption of Jesse James and Mix-Up at the O.K. Corral—were both Spur Finalists from Western Writers of America (WWA). 
           Blood of Texas, Lewis’s historical novel on the Texas Revolution, received WWA’s Spur Award for Best Western Novel.  His True West article on the Battle of Yellowhouse Canyon won a Spur Award for Best Nonfiction Article.  In addition to his two Spurs from WWA, Lewis has earned three Elmer Kelton Awards from WTHA.
       Lewis’s novels have appeared under the imprint of national publishing houses such as Bantam, Zebra and HarperCollins and of regional publishing companies like Eakin Press and Wild Horse Press.  His short works have appeared in publications as varied as Louis L’Amour Western Magazine, Persimmon Hill, Dallas Morning News, True West, The Roundup, Journal of the Wild West History Association and San Angelo Standard-Times
       A native West Texan and current San Angelo resident, Lewis holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Baylor and Ohio State universities.  He earned a second master’s degree in history from Angelo State University.  He is a past president of WWA and WTHA.  Lewis is a longstanding member of the Authors Guild and an associate member of the Dramatists Guild of America.  

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MARCH 20-29, 2018

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Review: The Memory of Us by Camille DiMaio

THE MEMORY OF US
by 
Camille DiMaio

Genre: Historical Romantic Literary Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Press
Date of Publication: May 31, 2016
Number of Pages: 400
Scroll down for Giveaway!
Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.
While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.
But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?

ADVANCED REVIEWER PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:
“Powerful, emotional, and amazing read.”
“A smashing debut!”
“Brilliantly told and executed.”

“Will make you cry in the best way possible.”
“This is a beautiful story of redemption, love, and honor.”
“I fell in love with the characters.”
“I’m not sure if I have ever had such a range of emotions with a book.”

“This is one of the best books that I have read!”
“Touching and funny and tragic and beautiful.”
“Packs a powerful, emotional punch.”

PURCHASE FROM
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Review
With a title like “The Memory of Us,” you brace yourself for the most tragic love story ever. The bleak opening which features a scarred woman attempting suicide by pills lets you know that your hunch is probably right. But before she gives too much away, DiMaio cuts to the past where we meet the woman, still vibrant and young, with her whole life in front of her.
Julianne is the beautiful daughter of rich socialites. And before you get a chance to assume she’s a snob and start to hate her, you realize that she is working toward making her own way in the world. Instead of accepting the reins to the family’s lucrative business, she is set to attend nursing school in London. And with a world on the verge of war, nursing is not a romantic or pretty business to get into.
Just when you think you can’t like Julianne even more, you find out that she steals away to visit the twin brother she shouldn’t even know exists. It is there at the lush institution that Charles is hidden, that she encounters the love of her life. As if his Irish and lowly upbringing weren’t an obstacle enough, Kyle is a seminary student on his way to becoming a priest.
Trying their best to just be friends, Julianne and Kyle experience a whirlwind romance befitting a Nicholas Sparks novel. But DiMaio’s romance is not cheap and certainly not as predictable as Sparks. I went to bed around 4:30 a.m. one night because I could not put this book down. I planned to read until I found a good place to stop, but DiMaio kept urging me forward with chapters ending on the cusp of a new secret or development. I laid in bed for a long time trying to get the wonderful story out of my head so that I could sleep.
I think I should end my review here lest I should spoil anything. Be prepared for your heart to break. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway! And comment below once you’ve read it. I would love to talk about this one!
Camille is an award-winning real estate agent in San Antonio who, along with her husband of 18 years, home schools their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college, but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes, and forever stays up late reading “just one more chapter”. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it doesn’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. “The Memory of Us” is Camille’s debut novel. Her second, “Before the Rain Falls” will be released in the spring of 2017.
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  June 21 – July 5, 2016
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