Tag Archives: Houston

Review & Giveaway: Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt

ANGEL THIEVES
by
KATHI APPELT
Young Adult / Magical Realism / Historical / Contemporary
Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Date of Publication: March 12, 2019

Number of Pages: 336

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An ocelot. A slave. An angel thief.

Multiple perspectives spanning across time are united through themes of freedom, hope, and faith in a most unusual and epic novel from Newbery Honor–winning author and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt.

Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis is an angel thief. After his mother’s family rejected him for being born out of wedlock, he and his dad moved to the apartment above a local antique shop. The only payment the owner Mrs. Walker requests: marble angels, stolen from graveyards, for her to sell for thousands of dollars to collectors. But there’s one angel that would be the last they’d ever need to steal; an angel, carved by a slave, with one hand open and one hand closed. If only Cade could find it…

Zorra, a young ocelot, watches the bayou rush past her yearningly. The poacher who captured and caged her has long since lost her, and Zorra is getting hungrier and thirstier by the day. Trapped, she only has the sounds of the bayou for comfort—but it tells her help will come soon.

Before Zorra, Achsah, a slave, watched the very same bayou with her two young daughters. After the death of her master, Achsah is free, but she’ll be damned if her daughters aren’t freed with her. All they need to do is find the church with an angel with one hand open and one hand closed…

In a masterful feat, National Book Award Honoree Kathi Appelt weaves together stories across time, connected by the bayou, an angel, and the universal desire to be free.

 
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PRAISE FOR ANGEL THIEVES:

Spiritual, succinct, and emotionally gripping. 

— School Library JournalA heartfelt love letter to Houston that acknowledges the bad parts of its history while uplifting the good. — BCBB

Shows the best and worst sides of humanity and underscores the powerful force of the bayou, which both holds and erases secrets.

— Publishers WeeklyNarrative strands are like tributaries that begin as separate entities but eventually merge into a single thematic connection: that love, whether lost or found, is always powerful. — Horn Book

Richly drawn and important. — Booklist, starred review

 

review

It was a little eerie reading Angel Thieves amid all the rain and flooding here in Houston. While I normally think of my city’s flooding as a byproduct of excessive precipitation mixed with overdevelopment and trash, Appelt’s novel clued me in to the fact that this area has a history of floods and how the path of the Buffalo Bayou has relocated many times because of them.

But more on that in a bit; let’s talk art for second. The book jacket has that distinct YA look and is very appealing with its shiny, black background and light blue mixed with white in the text and imagery. The angel statue has line drawings within it of a manacled wrist, an ocelot, and a slave woman with a headwrap. I really dig the font used, graffiti-like with black paint splattered on it. When you take the jacket off, there’s a beautiful surprise of a bright white background with a blue ocelot filling most of the front cover and spine. Within its image, you see the same line drawings from the jacket – it looks like an expansion because now we can see both manacled wrists, the full image of the ocelot and slave woman, in addition to a treble clef staff, a chapel, a slave girl picking cotton, and the words “Reward” and “Wanted” – all important parts of this story.

Appelt’s writing style can be compared to flood water – it flows quickly and sucks you in before you realize just how strong and deep it is. The chapter lengths vary depending on whose perspective we are reading from. Thankfully there are cues to location and time period at the top of each chapter. Ever wondered what it was like to be an ocelot or a body of water? After reading this book, I sort of feel like I kind of do. I must confess, it took me a little while to get my bearings because each new chapter was a revolution of the revolving door that brought out a different character. I really liked the distinction between each character and their unique names.

I am always amazed when I read books that weave so many different stories together into one beautiful literary tapestry. Appelt accomplishes this effortlessly and I was truly invested in each story line. I am impressed with the amount of research that went into writing this book, and how she took random ideas and turned them into a captivating story. As seamlessly as the author tied up the loose ends, I still wished to know more about the details of Achsah’s journey and whether Cade ultimately found what he was looking for. Ok, maybe I don’t want to read more from the perspective of the bayou, but I could read more about the ocelot.

I really don’t have many notes on this book because I thought everything was executed so well. I did have one question though: twice in the book, “I’m here for you” is crossed out and “There’s love enough” is written in its place. Will this be done in every printed copy of this book or did I just get an early version that didn’t have the correction in it? I ask because, while I like the line better, its first use in the book doesn’t set up the following chapter the same way that “I’m here for you” does. The revision disrupts the flow of the story a bit in my opinion.

This book is joining the modest sized YA section of my bookshelf. I plan to reread it on rainy days and can’t wait for my son to grow up and read it as well.

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award–winning, 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 Max … Attacks

 
She has two grown children and lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and their six cats. She serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.
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Review & Giveaway: Searching for Pilar by Patricia Hunt Holmes

 

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

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

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

PRAISE FOR SEARCHING FOR PILAR:

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

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

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

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

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

Website  ║  Facebook ║ Twitter Goodreads ║ LinkedIn 

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Guest Post #1: Hurt by Catherine Musemeche

HURT
The Inspiring, Untold Story of Trauma Care
by
Catherine Musemeche, M.D.
Genre: Medicine / Medical History
Date of Publication: September 6, 2016
Publisher: ForeEdge
# of pages: 268

The heroic story of the invention of trauma care, from
battlefield triage to level 1 trauma centers
Trauma is a disease of epidemic proportions that preys on the young, killing more Americans up to age thirty-seven than all other afflictions combined. Every year an estimated 2.8 million people are hospitalized for injuries and more than 180,000 people die.
We take for granted that no matter how or where we are injured, someone will call 911 and trained first responders will show up to insert IVs, stop the bleeding, and swiftly deliver us to a hospital staffed by doctors and nurses with the expertise necessary to save our lives. None of this happened on its own.
Told through the eyes of a surgeon who has flown on rescue helicopters, resuscitated patients in trauma centers in Houston and Chicago, and operated on hundreds of trauma victims of all ages, Hurt takes us on a tour of the advancements in injury treatment from the battlefields of the Civil War to the state-of-the-art trauma centers of today.

 

PRAISE FOR HURT: THE INSPIRING, UNTOLD STORY OF TRAUMA CARE
 

“Musemeche’s fast-paced medical history mixes the gritty reality of treating life-threatening injuries—including her own heart-pounding experiences as surgeon—with an unfettered optimism about what trauma care can now promise: an assurance that most people will survive even a devastating injury.”

 

—Publishers Weekly

 

 

“Hurt is a fascinating journey through the history of trauma care in this country. Musemeche’s unique ability to weave moving, personal stories with intriguing facts takes this book well beyond a great read. It is an education in the human spirit.” —Paul Ruggieri, MD, author of Confessions of a Surgeon and The Cost of Cutting

 

 
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GuestPost 

Spinal Cord Injury: The Unplugged Power Main

Guest Post

By Catherine Musemeche, M.D.

 

About a month ago we got an early morning call that our friend Tim had broken his neck in a bike accident in LA. He was on a bike path, wearing a helmet and following all the rules when another bike came at him head on going the wrong direction. Tim was forced to veer off the path and into a fence. And that’s when it happened. His third cervical vertebrae, the shock absorber of the neck, couldn’t take the impact and snapped. Tim fell off his bike still clipped into his pedals and knew instantly that something was wrong because he couldn’t feel his hands or feet. Passerby came to his aid immediately but Tim was alert enough to tell them, “Don’t move me. I might have a neck injury.”

 

And that’s the way injury happens. It comes out of nowhere when we’re minding our own business on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and totally disrupts our life. Injuries are a part of daily life that we will never escape. There is no vaccine we can take to prevent them. There is no medicine that will magically make them go away. Once we get hurt we’re going to have to find a way to heal, just like the rest of the 2.8 million people in this country who are hospitalized every year for traumatic injury.

 

The spinal cord is the power main of our bodies. When it gets bruised, broken or severed it’s like the cord’s been unplugged. Almost always we will suffer some degree of paralysis temporary or permanent. And it’s a long slow process to get the power up and running again. If we damage just a single nerve in our bodies it can takes weeks to months to regenerate. Think of the spinal cord as a bundle of hundreds of nerves. There’s a lot golng on in even a tiny sliver of it, hundreds of complicated nerve impulses crisscrossing in a tight space signaling when to move, to feel, to breathe.

 

Tim was in the ICU for a week and then started inpatient rehab where he’s been for three weeks. He was finally able to type his first email night before last. Yesterday he walked thirty steps with assistance. He still has a long way to go but the way things stand right now, Tim’s one of the lucky ones and he knows it.

 

More on spinal cord injury in HURT, Chapter 13 “The Road Back.”

 

            Dr. Catherine Musemeche is a pediatric surgeon, attorney and author who lives in Austin, Texas. She was born and raised in Orange, Texas and attended Lutcher Stark High School. She is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, The University of Texas McGovern Medical School in Houston, The Anderson School of Management in Albuquerque, New Mexico and The University of Texas School of Law in Austin, Texas. Dr. Musemeche is a former surgery professor at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, the MD Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute and the University of New Mexico where she was the Chief of Pediatric Surgery and Pediatric Trauma. She currently works in the field of regulatory medicine.
             In addition to publishing extensively in the medical literature, Dr. Musemeche has been a guest contributor to the New York Times. Her writing has also been published on NPR.org, KevinMD.com, in the anthology At the End of Life: True Stories About How We Die and in the Journal of Creative Nonfiction.  Her first book, Small: Life and Death on the Front Lines of Pediatric Surgery was nominated for the Pen American/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Award and was awarded the Writer’s League of Texas Discovery Prize for nonfiction. Her second book, Hurt: The Inspiring, Untold Story of Trauma Care will be published in September of this year.

 

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10/2
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Author Interview: Deadly Encounter by DiAnn Mills

DEADLY ENCOUNTER
(FBI: Task Force)
by
DiAnn Mills
Genre: Romance / Suspense / Christian
Publisher: Tyndale House
Date of Publication: August 1, 2016
Number of Pages: 376
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Airport Ranger volunteer Stacy Broussard expected a peaceful Saturday morning ride around the perimeter of Houston’s airport. What she encounters instead is a brutal homicide and a baffling mystery. Next to the body is an injured dog, the dead man’s motorcycle, and a drone armed with a laser capable of taking down a 747.

Though FBI Special Agent Alex LeBlanc sees a clear-cut case of terrorism, his past has taught him to be suspicious of everyone, even witnesses. Even bleeding-heart veterinarians like Stacy. But when her gruesome discovery is only the first in a string of incidences that throw her life into a tailspin, Alex begins to wonder if Stacy was targeted. As a health emergency endangers Stacy’s community, and the task force pulls in leads from all directions, Alex and Stacy must work together to prevent another deadly encounter.

Praise for the FBI: Houston novels

Deadlock: “This is a fast moving crime story with several interesting twists and turns. [Deadlock] is a page turner.” — Online Reviewer

 
Double-Cross:  
“Mills does a superb job of character and plot development in this faith-filled series.”Christian Library Journal
 
“Mills’ writing is transparently crisp, backed up with solid research, filled with believable characters and sparks of romantic chemistry.” Novel Crossing
 
Firewall:  
“Christy Award–winning Mills skillfully builds a menacing overall tone, and the tension level rises as layers of lies are peeled away in multiple plot twists. This novel, which takes off at a breakneck pace with a narrative arc that could have been ripped from today’s headlines, will greatly appeal to fans of James Patterson’s “Alex Cross” series and readers who enjoy psychological thrillers.” — Library Journal starred review
 
“Mills takes readers on an explosive ride. The terror is all the more chilling because it
could easily be a headline story on the nightly news, and Mills’ characters spring to life
through their fears, strengths, and quirks. A story as romantic as it is exciting, Fi
rewall
will appeal to fans of Dee Henderson’s romantic suspense stories.” —
Booklist 

AuthorInterview

Author Interview #4

DiAnn Mills 

Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend? I choose names according to their meaning. This helps me begin the process of physically and psychologically understanding who they are and what motivates them into action. I’ve used Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon for years. I often google a name meanings and origin too.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it? Definitely rape and sex trafficking. The subjects are overdone and can be graphic.

Deadly Encounter is one more book that features a dog. Why is that? I’m always searching for a way to get over my fear of dogs, especially big ones. Having my heroine treasure a relationship with her dog helps me.

What book do you wish you could have written? The book is yet unwritten. I’m waiting for the right time. It’s a psychological romantic suspense.

What literary character is most like you? Skeeter Phelan from The Help or Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

What do your plans for future projects include? I’m putting together a proposal about the Texas Rangers. The idea has intrigued me for a long time.

What is something you want to accomplish before you die? I want to see one of my books made into a movie. And . . . I want to zip line.

What’s something fun or funny that most people don’t know about you?

Fun – I write fantasy with my nine-year-old granddaughter.

Funny – I’m a Texan who doesn’t eat barbecue.

What do you want your tombstone to say? A Daughter of the King

 


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational ReadersChoice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.
DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at http://www.diannmills.com.
 
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Deadlock by DiAnn Mills

DEADLOCK
by
DiAnn Mills
 
Two murders have rocked the city of Houston. Are they the work of a serial killer, or is a copycat trying to get away with murder?
That is the question facing Special Agent Bethany Sanchez, who is eager for her new assignment in violent crimes but anxious about meeting her new partner. Special Agent Thatcher Graves once arrested her brother, and he has a reputation for being a maverick. Plus, their investigative styles couldn’t be more opposite: he operates on instinct, while she goes by the book.
When hot leads soon fizzle out, their differences threaten to leave them deadlocked. But an attempt on their lives turns up the heat and brings them closer together, and a third victim might yield the clue that will help them zero in on a killer. This could be the case of their careers . . . if they can survive long enough to solve it.
Praise for the FBI: Houston series
“[A] fast-moving, intricately plotted thriller.” Publishers Weekly
“As romantic as it is exciting, Firewall will appeal to fans of Dee Henderson’s romantic suspense stories.” Booklist
“The tension level rises as layers of lies are peeled away in multiple plot twists.” Library Journal, starred review
 
Read Chapter 1 of DEADLOCK HERE
 
Review
While I can hardly call myself an expert on what makes a great suspense novel, I think that Mills’ third book of the series is a great specimen since it makes me wish that I read the other two books. But don’t worry. You’re not reading blind since the book stands on itself very well. From the first page, I was gripped by the tension of Bethany’s apprehension towards her new partner. And as you take in the surroundings with her, the quick pace of the writing pushes you forward to solving the crime while interspersing events from the past seamlessly. Mills is a master of dialogue, which makes the characters all the more believable and interesting. I have to say that I won’t be driving around Houston the same way ever again after seeing this version of the city in my mind with such detail.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.



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