Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Genre: Clean Contemporary Romance 
Publisher: North Loop Books
Date of Publication: April 25, 2017
Pages: 198
Decoursey dreads the upcoming weekend. A big NASCAR race is taking place at the speedway near her home--and her abusive, murder-threatening ex-husband just so happens to be a member of a NASCAR pit crew. Determined not to let her ex-husband have a decent opportunity to make good on his threat, Decoursey puts an ad online, hoping to find some security in the form of a guy needing a place to crash. 

Enter Kennan, a storm chaser looking to get away for a few days. Fresh off a failed storm chase, Kennan doesn't make the best first impression. But that quickly changes as Decoursey gives Kennan a chance and finds the recently broken heart of a gentleman hidden beneath the surface. As sparks fly, so do hopes that they can dream of romance once again. But when their newfound trust is broken, will Decoursey and Kennan weather the storm to find a love that lasts? 

Racing Storms, the exciting debut in Sara Russell's Chasing Desire trilogy, will get your heart pumping all the way to the finish line.

“In Racing Storms, fresh new voice Sara Russell begins her three-book series with a courageous and adorable hero, a sassy but vulnerable heroine, spicy love scenes and an insider’s view of daredevil storm chasers! What more could you want from a romance?”  ~Vicki Lewis Thompson, New York Times bestselling author 
"Russell’s debut successfully tackles the idea of finding love when you least expect it." ~RT Reviews 
"Austin-area writer Sara Russell’s self-described 'first foray into fiction' is a smoothly written, nicely plotted romance novel that will entertain many readers who like books with contemporary Texas settings." ~Lone Star Literary Life

The music was getting louder as the evening progressed. As she reached him, Kennan bent his head next to her ear, putting his hand on the small of her back. “Do you want something to drink?”

Decoursey grinned. “Trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me?”


“Sure, then. I’ll have a frozen margarita. With salt.” She fanned her face with her hands. “I think I worked up a sweat out there.”

Kennan spoke to the Stetson-hatted woman tending bar as Decoursey hiked herself up onto the bar stool Kennan had saved for her, not an easy task with her short stature and tight skirt. She managed to scootch herself onto the vinyl seat as the hurried bartender set a frosty glass in front of her. Decoursey took a sip through the skinny black straw and licked salt off the edge of the glass. 

She glanced up to find Kennan contemplating her. “What? Is there something stuck in my teeth?” She’d fled the ladies’ room before she had a chance to scrutinize her appearance.

“No,” said Kennan thoughtfully. “I was just noticing how well you clean up.”

“Oh,” said Decoursey. “You know, I think that’s what my dad told me when I came downstairs all dressed up for prom.”

Kennan looked dismayed. “Oh no, I’ve become a geezer.”

“Twenty-nine isn’t exactly old.”

“How do you know my age?”


“Oh, yeah. I keep forgetting.” 

Decoursey poked at the slushy drink with her straw. “I had to make sure you weren’t a nut case like my ex. Lucky for you, you’re a decent guy.” 

“I feel extremely lucky,” said Kennan. “Do you see all these other guys checking you out?”

Decoursey glowed at the compliment, though she couldn’t resist teasing him. “Those guys might be looking at your ass.”

“Oh.” Kennan looked around the dance hall. “I didn’t realize it was that kind of club.”

Decoursey smiled. “Just kidding. Did I get you?” she said, twirling the straw around the circumference of her glass.

Kennan leaned down again to speak into her ear, his voice lowered as much as the blaring sound system allowed. She felt his cheek brush her temple. “Were you looking at my ass?”

Decoursey felt a rush of heat. So this was how he wanted to play. Game on. She set her glass on the bar. Then she aimed a smoldering look deep into his eyes, parted her lips, and placed her hands on his thighs, squeezing lightly with her fingertips. Kennan’s eyes widened as she leaned sinuously toward him.

She closed her eyes as her lips came nearer to his. Then, she opened her eyes and diverted, her cheek softly brushing his as she used a breathy, sexy voice to speak into his ear.

“Kennan, all night long, you’ve either been sitting on your ass eating barbecue, or dancing with me where I can’t see it.” 

Decoursey felt his cheek touch hers as it widened into a grin. Next, he almost toppled her with a warm bear-hug. She hugged him back tightly, partly because it felt so good, and partly because she was about to fall off her precarious perch on the bar stool.

She grabbed the seat with both hands as Kennan let go to grasp her shoulders. “I apologize for depriving you of my ass all night,” he said. “What can I do to make it up to you?” 

“You can dance with me again,” she said, still reeling from being pressed against him. She felt as though she could never get enough, and since he was leaving tomorrow, she never would. But she could enjoy the moment, live in the present . . . even if it hurt too much when he left. 

Kennan stood up, searching her eyes. “They’re starting a slow song.”

She slid down from the bar stool. “Good. It’ll give my legs a rest from two-stepping.” 

Her legs were shaky, but not from fatigue.

Sara Russell is a near-native Texan who sees nothing wrong with using “y’all” in formal conversation. She maintains that one can do practically anything in a cute dress and flats, including storm chasing, attending motorsports events, and exploring the endless delights of the Austin area, where she’s lived since childhood. When not writing or hunting & gathering at Whole Foods, Sara spends time with friends and family and enjoys live music and dancing.

September 19-28, 2017
(U.S. Only)

Author Interview 1
Notable Quotable
Author Interview 2
Guest Post

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017


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Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a fictional account of a very real scenario that happens in the United States quite frequently. With the current state of police and race relations at the forefront and prolific rapper, the late Tupac Shakur as a backdrop, this creative take on a conflict with which people in the United States struggle was powerful and also refreshing. The author certainly took on a larger-than-life topic for her debut novel, and I certainly see why it's all the buzz for 2017. 

The main character, sixteen-year old Starr, witnesses her unarmed friend since childhood get shot and killed by a police officer after a traffic stop. Starr, who lives in a predominately African-American neighborhood but attends a private school with predominately non-African-American students is torn between two worlds. Her character struggles with two personas, the one she is at home versus assimilating while she's at school. It's a coping mechanism that many African Americans practice everyday. 

After the killing, the literary conflict tool of (wo)man versus self is employed with Starr trying to determine whether she should speak up or remain in the shadows and about who she truly is and what she saw. The storyline is somewhat predictable, but I found the true beauty in the first-person perspective from which it was told. I think the author offers readers, who may not completely understand these relevant issues from the African American perspective, another dimension from which to draw. 

We are all flawed people, so like any other, the book has some weaknesses. I do feel as though Ms. Thomas was speaking her truth, but some depictions seemed to toe the stereotypical line, which causes concern for me. My hope is that people read this book for what it is - one person's perspective of this issue. I don't want people to paint a broad brush and assume that all African Americans think, act, or feel this way. The issue is complex. The people are complex. And there's no "right" way to illustrate it, but this is Ms. Thomas' way, and I think she did a fine job. She is one woman who is using her vehicle to voice her perspective. While she may echo similar sentiments of others, this is her story. I think it's important to keep that in mind with any story, but especially hot topics such as this one. 

My other issue with the book is there were some parts that seemed to celebrate reverse racism under the guise of humor, and I didn't really feel comfortable with that. Just like I don't want people to make assumptions or generalizations about my culture, I don't want others (whether they are the majority or a minority) to experience that same judgement. In the book, Starr experiences some things in the African American community that I, as an African American, never have. So, I didn't think it was fair when some of the African American characters made sweeping statements about Caucasians. In one sense, it enhances the book because it is a reflection of life. But on the other hand, I think it could have been handled in a better way. 

The book is very real. The characters are relatable. I find myself thinking about them since I've finished the book. I do think this was a story that needed to be told in this way. The topic is heavy, and this isn't necessarily a book you will want to read to escape reality, but rather to help develop a more complete picture of your current reality. 

Recommendation: This young adult novel is almost 450 pages, but reads rather quickly. It would make for a good rainy-day weekend read. I definitely think readers should check it out. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Genre: Psychological Fiction / Christian
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: September 5, 2017
Pages: 320

Shawn Smucker will capture readers’ imaginations with this masterfully written debut novel that combines elements of mystery and magical realism.

It was the summer of storms, strays, and strangers. The summer that lightning struck the big oak tree in the front yard. The summer his mother died in a tragic accident.

Twelve-year-old Samuel Chambers would do anything to turn back time. Prompted by three strange carnival fortune-tellers and the surfacing of his mysterious and reclusive neighbor, Samuel begins his search for the Tree of Life—the only thing that could possibly bring his mother back. His quest to defeat death entangles him and his best friend, Abra, in an ancient conflict and forces Samuel to grapple with an unwelcome question: could it be possible that death is a gift?

  Book Trailer:

 My Review:

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Who says don't judge a book by its cover? The cover of Shawn Smucker's debut novel is absolutely stunning with a magnificently-told story to match. I must admit that cover art often entices me to crack open a book, and I was certainly glad I dedicated some time to reading this one. 

Reading much more than A Page Before Bedtime, I was immediately drawn in to this engaging book. In it, Smucker introduces the fictional story in present time where a much older protagonist, Sam, is remembering the fateful summer when, as a young boy, his mother died in a freak accident. Riddled with grief and guilt as well as a longing to bring her back, the author takes the reader on a psychological roller coaster that involves part reality and part fantasy. The story vacillates between the past and present times.  
In this novel, Smucker tackles some hefty questions surrounding the theme of death. When someone dies, are they truly gone forever? Is death a destination or part of a journey? And most thought provoking for me, is death necessarily a bad thing? I also liked the secondary theme of happenstance and how one small event can trigger a domino effect of many more seemingly unpleasant happenings. 

Sam, as a young boy, along with his best friend (Abra), come of age in a relatively short period of time due to a very tragic event. There's a battle of good versus evil with Christian and religious overtones. As a reader, you will find yourself anticipating the end to find out if good will indeed conquer all. 

With Smucker's beautifully-written prose and well-developed characters, this novel takes the reader on an emotional journey that evokes excitement and introspection. You'll be thinking about this read long after you close the book. The author certainly has the talent for pulling his audience in and painting vivid pictures that make the fictional story seem all too real.  

Recommendation: This fast-paced book can easily be devoured in a day or two. While there are some violent scenes that can be interpreted as scary, there is also a moral dilemma presented that make this story suitable and educational for young adults to seniors. Pick up your copy today, or better yet enter (below) for a chance to win a free copy!  

Until next time ... Read on!
Please note: This review is based on a nearly-final electronic edition.

 Praise for The Day the Angels Fell
“Neil Gaiman meets Madeleine L’Engle. I read it in two days!” ~~Anne Bogel, Modern Mrs. Darcy
“Shawn Smucker enchants with a deftly woven tale of mystery and magic that will leave you not only spellbound but wanting more.” ~~Billy Coffey, author of There Will Be Stars
  Buy Now:

  About the Author:

Shawn Smucker lives with his wife and six children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Day the Angels Fell is his first novel. 


Copy of The Day the Angels Fell Ancient Tree Journal + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card

2nd PRIZE: Copy of the book + leather bracelet charms
3rd PRIZE: Copy of the book + $10 Starbucks Gift cCard

September 17-26, 2017
(U.S. Only)

  More Blogs on this Tour:

Character Interview
Excerpt 1
Author Interview
Excerpt 2
Texan Girl Reads
Author Interview

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Friday, September 15, 2017


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Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is a historical fiction gem. Kelly takes the reader on an emotional ride of three women's intersecting lives and their respective roles during the Holocaust and World War II. I know what you're thinking, do we really need another book about the Holocaust?

At nearly 500 pages on such a dark topic, you would think the book would be hard to comb through. However, the author did a fabulous job with moving the story by alternating perspectives between the three main characters, often leaving a cliffhanger in one chapter forcing the reader to race through the next two to find out what happens.

The three main women in the story are Kasia, a young Polish teenager who participates in the Resistance and ends up in a concentration camp; Herta, a German doctor at the same concentration camp; and Caroline whose philanthropic efforts to the result of the war are executed from the United States. Adding the U.S. perspective helped give a break from the horrible tortures that were described in the concentration camp. (It almost made this reader forget the injustices that were occurring daily to African Americans during the same time. Almost.) The beautiful ache in this book is that, although these women come from different places and backgrounds, they all experienced loss to a degree - some more than others. I think the message here is we really are more similar than we think, and if we seek the humanity in others, we can avoid deplorable tragedies like this in the future.

The most sobering part of the book is that, in many ways, we are still struggling with some of the same societal challenges in 2017 as we did nearly 80 years ago. We know the difference between right and wrong, but we don't always speak up. We are still turning refugees away, often to their deaths, because we are afraid there isn't enough pie for everyone. We are still failing children. Not only did I enjoy the creativity that Kelly invested in this novel, but I appreciated the moments of introspection and reflection the story offered.

Even though we continue to learn about the past, we also continue to repeat it contributing different variations of the same, sad song. So, I would say, yes, we need another book about the Holocaust, and another one, and another, until we get it.

Recommendation: I really enjoyed this book. It is one of the few World War II-set novels I've read that gave attention to post-war effects. I'm looking forward to Kelly's prequel to this book.

Until next time ... Read on!