Thursday, January 18, 2018

Elephant Dreams by Martha Deeringer


Genre: Young Adult / Historical Fiction / Sweet Romance
Publisher: Melange Books
Date of Publication: September 2, 2017
Pages: 224



Desperate to escape her squalid life on the streets of New York City, sixteen-year-old Fiona Finn seeks help at the magnificent Church of the Ascension where Charles Loring Brace, a social reformer horrified by the plight of New York City’s street children, arranges for her to go west aboard an Orphan Train.

Fiona’s homeless, alcoholic father has other plans, however.  He wants Fiona to “work” the streets to support his drinking and pursues her across the midwest until she is forced to abandon the train in Houston to avoid a sheriff bent on returning her to her father.

Alone in the dark on the Texas prairie, Fiona’s terrifying experience with a circus elephant, Bolivar, sets the stage for a future she could never have imagined.





Elephant Dreams will be featured in the January, 2018 issue of the Historical Novel Society magazine.

“What a story! With scenes to be likened to any Charles Dickens novel, the author, Martha Deeringer, carries the reader on a breathtaking journey through despair and hope that changes as often as the wind changes direction. Great characters, a believable story, an insight into another world, and an empathy for a character that a reader would have to have a heart of stone not to sympathise with. Although billed as a young adult story, this will readily appeal to an adult reader. Very visual writing and the makings of a classic.” ~ Jane Finch for Readers’ Favorite

“I absolutely adored this novel; I couldn't find a single thing to dislike about it, other than of course the characters we are meant to dislike. The secondary characters were just as well rounded as the primary characters, leaving the reader with a feeling of contentment at the end of the novel. Each character brought his or her own three-dimensional personality to the novel, giving me a reason to either love or hate them passionately.” ~ Acwoolet for Online Book Club

“I thoroughly enjoyed Elephant Dreams. It is a captivating story with a spunky heroine who is determined to turn her life around. I loved the unique settings that covered New York City slums, an orphan train and a Texas Circus. I would recommend it for teens through adults.” ~ 5 Stars, Kindle Edition | Verified Purchase



How has Texas influenced your writing?
The inspiration for several of my novels began with an event from Texas history, as was the case with The Mollie Bailey Circus in Elephant Dreams. Even today you can’t walk a block in Texas without running into a fascinating novel-worthy character. They’re everywhere.

Why did you choose to write historical novels? 
I have always loved history and taught the subject to middle schoolers for many years. My goal was always to make historical events come to life for my students with re-enactments like the Medieval Knighting ceremony my classes took part in.

Where did your love of books and writing come from? 
I come from a family of writers. My father and grandfather wrote textbooks and my brother published over thirty historical novels.

How long have you been writing?
I wanted to write for years, but I have only found the time since I retired from teaching about ten years ago. Teachers are VERY busy people.

What kinds of writing do you do? 
I write science and history articles for children and adults and have had over 100 of them published in state and national magazines. I have also published four (young adult) YA novels and a biography.

What cultural value do you see in reading? 
Reading broadens your world far beyond the boundaries of your physical life and allows you to live inside characters from cultures and places limited only by your imagination.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? 
I love historical research and imagining the lives of characters from long ago.

What did you find most useful in learning to write for publication? 
I treasured input from other writers but learned the most from taking an online writing class. Before I was halfway through the class, I had already sold my first piece. And, along the way, it’s important to grow a tough skin. Rejections are part of the deal for ALL writers.

What is your favorite quote? 
“Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself; it’s the occurring that is difficult.”  ~ Stephen Leacock




Martha Deeringer lives with her husband and their large, extended family on a central Texas cattle ranch. She writes magazine articles, often about history, for children and adults and is a frequent contributor to regional and national magazines. 

Martha also writes Young Adult fiction, occasionally inspired by her teaching experiences or the antics of her children and grandchildren. She loves ranch life and sometimes abandons her writing to cope with assorted issues involving kids, dogs, cats, horses, orphan calves, and occasionally armadillos, coyotes and rattlesnakes.



Connect with Martha: Website | Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads


Three Signed Copies!
January 15-24, 2018
(U.S. Only)
15-Jan Excerpt Tangled in Text
15-Jan Bonus Promo Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
16-Jan Review Books in the Garden
17-Jan Guest Post Texas Book Lover
18-Jan Author Interview A Page Before Bedtime (You are here)
19-Jan Review The Page Unbound 
20-Jan Promo Texan Girl Reads
21-Jan Excerpt Books and Broomsticks
22-Jan Review Hall Ways Blog
23-Jan Scrapbook Page The Clueless Gent
23-Jan Review Syd Savvy

Friday, January 12, 2018

Along Came Jones by Victoria Bernadine

Genre: Chick Lit / Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Love of Words Publishing
Pages: 324



Benjamin Ferrin Macon-Jones has it all: a luxurious lifestyle in Toronto and the love of an intelligent, ambitious woman…until that same woman refuses his marriage proposal, tells him he’s a detriment to her career, and leaves him. Unable to deal with his cantankerous family trying to be supportive, he quietly slips away into the Canadian countryside.

Lou Upjohn has problems of her own. She’s a recluse and agoraphobic, staying safely within the walls of her ancestral home in small town Saskatchewan and depending on Ike, her best and only friend, to deal with the outside world. Only Ike’s just married another woman and now he’s moving to Vancouver. Before he leaves, he hires the new guy in town, Ferrin Jones, to run her errands and do her yard work. Lou isn’t happy, but even she has to admit the stranger looks mildly interesting.

Both their lives could be changed forever if she only has the courage to open the door.



Victoria Bernadine (a pseudonym) is, as the saying goes, a "woman of a certain age". After twenty-something years of writer's block, she began writing again in 2008. Victoria enjoys reading all genres and particularly loves writing romantic comedy and post-apocalyptic science fiction. What those two have in common is anybody's guess.
​ ​
She lives in Edmonton with her two cats (The Grunt and The Runt).  Along Came Jones is the second novel she felt was good enough to be released into the wild.

 
“Marry me.”

Olivia laughs.
“What?” she teases with a fond, slightly mocking smile.  “Are you ‘proposing’ because you think it’s what people are supposed to do on New Year’s Eve?”
Ferrin smirks his lopsided, endearing smirk as he lowers himself to one knee and proffers the small, square velvet box he dug out of the pocket of his tuxedo.
The beautiful brunette laughs again.  “Oh, Ferrin, get up—you’re being ridiculous!  And the joke really isn’t all that funny.” 



Rating: 3 of 5 stars 
Along Came Jones by Victoria Bernadine is a chick lit story about two strangers, Ferrin Jones and Lou Upjohn, who have been heartbroken by the loves in their respective lives. Over the course of two years, they develop a meaningful relationship that helps them figure out who they were and who they want to become. 

I was quite intrigued by the premise of this book, and admittedly so, I enjoy a good chick lit book (as well as chick flick movie). With that being said, it's no surprise that there is an element of romance in the novel. Additionally, the author writes in such a way that evokes humor and emotional affect from the reader. The plot is well developed, and for the most part, moves the story along over a fairly lengthy time period.  

I was a bit disappointed by the unnecessary foul language. It didn't really add anything to the plot, and it seemed to be included more for shock value. Similarly, some of the sexually-descriptive scenes were not needed. I began to think that was all Lou's character thought about for the first third of the book, which made sense because she didn't own a television, computer, or radio to consume media. So, what else did she have to think about? Finally, I reviewed an advance PDF copy that did not denote chapter transitions and included some minor typographical errors. I am hopeful that the final copy will address these issues. 

RecommendationThis book is a fairly quick read that is light-hearted and fun. I think it would be a good read for someone looking for a quick escape from reality. If you enjoy movies on the Lifetime Network and you don't mind a liberal amount of cursing, this might just be the book for you! 

Until next time ... Read on!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

MISSING ISAAC BY VALERIE FRASER LUESSE

Genre: Southern Fiction / Christian / Coming of Age
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: January 2, 2018
Pages: 352


Synopsis: 
Isaac believed in luck. But from Pete’s point of view, Isaac’s luck had all run out.

When Pete McLean loses his father in the summer of 1962, his friend Isaac is one of the few people he can lean on. Though their worlds are as different as black and white, friendship knows no color. So when Isaac suddenly goes missing, Pete is determined to find out what happened—no matter what it costs him. His quest will lead him into parts of town that he knows only through rumors and introduce him to a girl who will change his life. What they discover together will change the small Southern town of Glory, Alabama—forever.

With vivid descriptions, palpable atmosphere, and unforgettable characters, debut novelist Valerie Fraser Luesse breathes life into the rural South of the 1960s—a place where ordinary people struggle to find their footing in a social landscape that is shifting beneath their feet.

Praise: 
“Valerie Fraser Luesse’s beautiful story reveals the human heart that always beats beneath the headlines. In the process, she movingly illuminates not only the spirit of a special region but the soul of every human being who ever dared to care. Missing Isaac will break—and then heal—your heart.”  ~ J. I. Baker, journalist and author of The Empty Glass 

“Welcome debut novelist Valerie Fraser Luesse to the legions of gifted Southern writers before her. Missing Isaac is the first of what we hope will be many more tales from this talented writer.” ~Nancy Dorman-Hickson, coauthor of Diplomacy and Diamonds and a former editor for Progressive Farmer and Southern Living magazines

“Valerie Luesse has an ear for dialogue, an eye for detail, and a profound gift for storytelling. She breathes life into these colorful Southern characters and this quirky Alabama town from the first page.” ~ Sid Evans, editor-in-chief of Southern Living magazine

My Review: 

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Set in the 1960s in rural Alabama, Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse is a quick-read that's rich in content, imagery, and emotionally-filled southern dialect. The book opens as young Pete's father, Jack, dies in a tragic farming accident, and as a result, Pete develops a stronger friendship with Jack's farmhand, Isaac. In a cruel twist of fate and soon after his father's death, Isaac goes missing thus doubling Pete's sorrow. Throughout the story, we learn more about Pete, his family, and a young girl, Dovey, who befriends Pete during his time of grief. As Peter matures, so does his relationship with Dovey; however, there's tension due to the difference in their respective families' socioeconomic status. All the while, Pete (and his grandfather) are working to find Isaac. The idyllic scenery serves as a contrasting backdrop for the dark mystery surrounding Isaac, race and social relations, and challenges of the farming community. However, these combined elements help push the wonderfully-written story forward for the reader. 

I wouldn't change much, but I do wish that the author would have lent some more time to Jack, Peter's father, and how Pete managed his grief. It seemed that Pete's grief for his father got lost because he was so preoccupied with locating Isaac. Additionally, there are some parts of the book where the author is focused on how all the events are affecting Pete, and there could have been more plot development regarding what actually happened to Isaac. No spoilers, but it is pretty easy to sort out what happens to the titular character. The author does a great job of foreshadowing. 

Luesse paints a beautiful picture with words. While reading, I felt like I was transported to the deep South during that tumultuous time. As a consumer of media, I have enjoyed many books that have been transformed into movies. These movies often provide more vivid visuals to the novels. In her debut novel, Luesse has crafted a story that reads smoothly and creates realistic imagery that you might enjoy on screen, making this story a reader's delight!

Recommendation: Readers of this book will enjoy a mystery (What happened to Isaac?), romance (Will Pete and Dovey's families allow them to be together?), and drama (Ugh, the Highlands, those entitled socialites!) All of this rolled into a coming-of-age novel makes for a easily digestible book. (I finished in just under a week.) Because of its diversity, there's something in it that just about anyone can relate to. If you're looking for a beautifully-written book that will evoke emotion and touch your soul, pick up a copy of Missing Isaac today. Or enter the giveaway to win a free copy below. 

Until next time ... Read on! 

Buy Now: 



About the Author: 
Valerie Fraser Luesse is an award-winning writer and a senior travel editor for Southern Living. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She lives in Alabama.

Connect with Valerie: Website | Facebook 




Giveaway:
Grand Prize: Print Copy of Missing Isaac, Print Copy of Southern Living Annual Recipes 2017, Handmade Leather Journal (9"x5")
2nd Prize: Copy of Missing Isaac + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
3rd Prize: Copy of Missing Isaac + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
January 2-11, 2018
(U.S. Only)
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More Blogs on this Tour:

03-Jan Review Storeybook Reviews
04-Jan Top 15 List Tangled in Text
05-Jan Excerpt Texan Girl Reads
06-Jan Review A Page Before Bedtime (You are here.)
07-Jan Guest Post Books and Broomsticks
08-Jan Review Reading by Moonlight
09-Jan Scrapbook Page The Page Unbound   
10-Jan Playlist Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
11-Jan Review The Clueless Gent

Saturday, December 23, 2017

LITTLE BROKEN THINGS BY NICOLE BAART

Image credit: goodreads.com

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart was my first book in my Page Habit box subscription, and it did not disappoint. This work of fiction is about two sisters, a little girl, and a whole bunch of unspoken secrets.

The book opens with younger sister, Quinn receiving a cryptic text message from her sister, Nora. Quinn meets Nora late one night, and Nora leaves a young girl named Lucy in Quinn's care without any additional information or resources. Each chapter of the book is written from the perspective of a different character (mainly the sisters and their mother, Liz). As a reader, I found myself devouring each chapter so I could solve the mystery of where the little girl came from and why Nora was trying to hide her. I am quite proud to report about a third into the book I had it all figured out (the book; not anything big like life, world hunger, or peace. Still working on those).

Baart has written a fast-paced thriller that I was able to read in just shy of a week. Her characters are fairly developed, and I found myself thinking of them after I'd finished the book. There were some structural errors and plot holes in the book. (I did reach out to the author regarding a specific issue, but she has not responded as of this writing*.) I think if this was a first book, this would be acceptable; however, this is her eighth novel, making it a little disappointing.

My favorite part of of the book has to do with it being part of the Page Habit box. With this box, you receive bookish goodies, a portion of your fee goes to providing books to countries who don't have access to literary resources, and the book has notations from the author tabbed throughout. These notations give you further insight into why the author wrote certain passages the way she did or why she chose locations or character names. This was my first time ever reading a book with the author's insight available as I turned the pages, and it made for a more in-depth reading.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book for someone who is a mother or who wishes to be one. The author was able to vividly illustrate the love that binds us as families quite beautifully. And as she said in her introductory letter to Page Habit members - "Broken things are loveliest ..." (Sara Teasdale).

Until next time ... Read on!



My box of goodies from #PageHabit

*Update: The author has responded and confirmed the error. She intends to have corrections made in the ebook version. The areas I identified do not affect the outcome of the story. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

ABUSE OF DISCRETION BY PAMELA SAMUELS YOUNG

Dre Thomas Series: Book 3
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Goldman House Publishing
Pages: 352


Synopsis: 
A Kid’s Curiosity … A Parent’s Nightmare

The award-winning author of "Anybody’s Daughter" is back with an addictive courtroom drama that gives readers a shocking look inside the juvenile criminal justice system.

Graylin Alexander is a model fourteen-year-old. When his adolescent curiosity gets the best of him, Graylin finds himself embroiled in a sexting scandal that threatens to ruin his life. Jenny Ungerman, the attorney hired to defend Graylin, is smart, confident and committed. She isn’t thrilled, however, when ex-prosecutor Angela Evans joins Graylin’s defense team. The two women instantly butt heads. Can they put aside their differences long enough to ensure Graylin gets justice?

Unbeknownst to Angela, her boyfriend Dre is wrestling with his own drama. Someone from his past wants him dead. For Dre, his response is simple—kill or be killed.

Excerpt: 
Graylin

“What’s the matter, Mrs. Singletary? Why do I have to go to the principal’s office?”

I’m walking side-by-side down the hallway with my second-period teacher. Students are huddled together staring and pointing at us like we’re zoo animals. When a teacher at Marcus Preparatory Academy escorts you to the principal’s office, it’s a big deal. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I’m a good student. I never get in trouble.

Mrs. Singletary won’t answer my questions or even look at me. I hope she knows she’s only making me more nervous.

“Mrs. Singletary, please tell me what’s wrong?”

“Just follow me. You’ll find out in a minute.”

I’m about to ask her another question when it hits me. Something happened to my mama!

My mama has been on and off drugs for as long as I can remember. I haven’t seen her in months and I don’t even know where she lives. No one does. I act like it doesn’t bother me, but it does. I’ve prayed to God a million times to get her off drugs. Even though my granny says God answers prayers, He hasn’t answered mine, so I stopped asking.

I jump in front of my teacher, forcing her to stop. “Was there a death in my family, Mrs. Singletary? Did something happen to my mama?”

“No, there wasn’t a death.”

She swerves around me and keeps going. I have to take giant steps to keep up with her.

Once we’re inside the main office, Mrs. Singletary points at a wooden chair outside Principal Keller’s office. “Have a seat and don’t move.”

She goes into the principal’s office and closes the door. My head begins to throb like somebody’s banging on it from the inside. I close my eyes and try to calm down. I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s probably just—Oh snap! The picture!

I slide down in the chair and pull my iPhone from my right pocket. My hands are trembling so bad I have to concentrate to keep from dropping it. I open the photos app and delete the last picture on my camera roll. If anyone saw that picture, I’d be screwed.

Loud voices seep through the closed door. I lean forward, straining to hear. It almost sounds like Mrs. Singletary and Principal Keller are arguing.

“It’s only an allegation. We don’t even know if it’s true.”

“I don’t care. We have to follow protocol.”

“Can’t you at least check his phone first?”

“I’m not putting myself in the middle of this mess. I've already made the call.” 

The call? I can’t believe Principal Keller called my dad without even giving me a chance to defend myself. How’d she even find out about the picture?  

The door swings open and I almost jump out of my skin. The principal crooks her finger at me. “Come in here, son.”

Trudging into her office, I sit down on a red cloth chair that’s way more comfortable than the hard one outside. My heart is beating so fast it feels like it might jump out of my chest.

The only time I’ve ever been in Principal Keller’s office was the day my dad enrolled me in school. Mrs. Singletary is standing in front of the principal’s desk with her arms folded. I hope she’s going to stay here with me, but a second later, she walks out and closes the door.

Principal Keller sits on the edge of her desk, looking down at me. “Graylin, do you have any inappropriate pictures on your cell phone?”

“Huh?” I try to keep a straight face. “No, ma’am.”

“It’s been brought to my attention that you have an inappropriate picture—a naked picture—of Kennedy Carlyle on your phone. Is that true?”

“No…uh…No, ma’am.” Thank God I deleted it!

“This is a very serious matter, young man. So, I need you to tell me the truth.”

“No, ma’am.” I shake my head so hard my cheeks vibrate. “I don’t have anything like that on my phone.”

“I pray to God you’re telling me the truth.”

I don’t want to ask this next question, but I have to know. “Um, so you called my dad?”

“Yes, I did. He’s on his way down here now.”

I hug myself and start rocking back and forth. Even though I deleted the picture, my dad is still going to kill me for having to leave work in the middle of the day.

“I also made another call.”

At first I’m confused. Then I realize Mrs. Keller must’ve called my granny too. At least she’ll keep my dad from going ballistic.

“So you called my granny?”

“No.” The principal’s cheeks puff up like she’s about to blow something away. “I called the police.”

Buy Now: 

Interview: 
1. How long have you been writing? 

My first legal thriller, Every Reasonable Doubt, was published in 2006, eleven years ago. Boy does time fly.

2. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? 


After finishing law school, I became an avid reader of legal thrillers—especially books by John Grisham. But I was increasingly disappointed by the lack of diversity in the genre. I never saw any lawyers who were women or African-American in the legal thrillers I read. That void was what prompted me to take a stab at writing a legal thriller myself. In the process, I discovered my passion.

3. What was the hardest part about writing Abuse of Discretion?

Making sure I got the law write. I practiced criminal law and knew nothing about the juvenile justice system. It was eye opening to find out how different it was.

4. What are some day jobs that you have held? Have any of them impacted your writing?

My work as a television news writer and later a lawyer turned out to be the perfect combination for writing legal thrillers. As a result of years of writing under the gun in a TV newsroom, I’m a pretty fast writer. After practicing law for twenty-six years, I have a zillion great story lines.

5. Who would you cast to play your characters in a movie version of Abuse of Discretion?

I’d love for Taraji P. Henson to play Angela and Jennifer Lawrence to play Julie. LL Cool J would make a great Dre.

6. What is something you'd like your readers to know about you? 

I just learned to crochet and I love it! So far, the only thing I can make is a neck scarf.

About the Author: 
Pamela Samuels Young has always abided by the philosophy that you create the change you want to see. She set giant-sized goals and used her talent, tenacity and positive outlook to accomplish them. Pamela consequently achieved success in both the corporate arena and literary world simultaneously.

An author, attorney and motivational speaker, Pamela spent fifteen years as Managing Counsel for Toyota, specializing in labor and employment law. While still practicing law, Pamela began moonlighting as a mystery writer because of the absence of women and people of color depicted in the legal thrillers she read. She is now an award-winning author of multiple legal thrillers, including Anybody’s Daughter, which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction, and her new release, Abuse of Discretion, a shocking look at the juvenile justice system in the context of a troubling teen sexting case.

Prior to her legal career, spent several years as a television news writer and associate producer. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from USC and earned a master’s degree in broadcasting from Northwestern University and a law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of teen sexting, child sex trafficking, self-empowerment and fiction writing.

Connect with Pamela: Website | Twitter | Facebook


Thursday, December 14, 2017

BAUGH TO BRADY BY LEW FREEDMAN

Baugh to Brady: The Evolution of the Forward Pass
Genre: Sports History / Football
on Twitter | on Facebook
Date of Publication: December 15, 2017
Pages: 296


Synopsis: 

There are three things that can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad. ~Woody Hayes

The quarterback pass is one of the leading offensive components of today's National Football League and college football's top level of play. This was not always the case. In early American football, the strategy focused entirely on advancing the ball one running play at a time, with the player tucking the then-roundish ball on his hip and sprinting ahead until tackled by a swarm of defenders. The revolution that transformed the sport began in 1906, when passing was first legalized. The passing weapon made the game safer, altered strategy, turned the quarterback into a key offensive player, and made possible the high-scoring games of today.

Lew Freedman traces football's passing game from its inception to the present, telling the tale through the stories of the quarterbacks whose arms carried (and threw) the changes forward. Freedman relies especially on the biography of "Slingin' Sammy" Baugh--who hailed from Sweetwater, Texas--as a framework. Baugh, perhaps the greatest all-around football player in history, came along at just the right time to elevate the passing game to unprecedented importance in the eyes of the sports world.

Buy Now: 


About the Author:
Lew Freedman is a veteran newspaper sportswriter and experienced author of more than seventy-five books about sports as well as about Alaska. He spent seventeen years at the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska and has also worked for the Chicago Tribune and Philadelphia Inquirer. Freedman is recipient of more than 250 journalism awards.

More Blogs on this Tour: 

11-Dec Promo Forgotten Winds
12-Dec Author Interview The Page Unbound  
13-Dec Review Margie's Must Reads 
15-Dec Review Texan Girl Reads
16-Dec Excerpt Books in the Garden  
17-Dec Promo A Novel in Reality
18-Dec Review Reading by Moonlight
19-Dec Author Interview Chapter Break Book Blog 
20-Dec Review Syd Savvy