Covey and JayJay Get Educated: Review

COVEY AND JAYJAY
GET EDUCATED
Audio Book Tour
By Shelton L. Williams
Narrated by Kathy James
Covey Jencks Mysteries, Book 2
Genre: Murder Mystery / Social Thriller / Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: Audible
Length: 5 hours, 40 minutes
Publication Date: March 18, 2020

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Amateur detectives Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls are drawn into a triple murder on the campus of Baker College in West Waverly in the Texas Hill Country. Both end up taking positions at the college: Covey as an adjunct instructor and JayJay as a visiting actor. 

Initially they believe that money is the motive for the murders, but over time they learn that the college is a cauldron of political and social intrigue. The college’s new president and his beautiful wife, various staff members, a prominent trustee, and parties not associated with the college have the motives, opportunities, and wacky agendas that might implicate them in the murders. It turns out that a white nationalist group may be using a college house for its nefarious activities, but are they more talk than action? 
 
The West Waverly police are little to no help in the investigation, and Covey himself has to depart the college to deal with his father’s death. JayJay takes over and makes a critical breakthrough. Upon Covey’s return, the couple must rely on deception, a bit of luck, and martial arts skills to solve the crimes and to try to prevent a high-profile assassination.

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This sequel, Covey and JayJay Get Educated, picks up with the unfortunate death of Covey’s friend. To pay respects and get a few answers, Covey and JayJay go to West Waverly in Texas. This search for answers, however, seems to draw out even more questions and very questionable characters.

 

I received this book in the form of an audiobook. It’s become a wonderful way to listen and complete tasks in a breeze. In my case, I enjoyed drawing and getting inspiration from these audible pages. For this audiobook, it was narrated by Kathy James. Her style of reading is unique in its clear and well enunciated words. This book does favor having more than one dialogue and at times I had trouble determining which I was hearing. I would have enjoyed some differential accents, tone, or speed to help with these changes. The original speed of this audiobook was a bit fast for me as well. Of course, this was easy enough to slow down in audible and once I was more grounded in the story, I switched it back. James does excel in the side stories and plots that take place as Covey and JayJay investigate. She seemingly draws out these digressions in one fell swoop and quickly moves along to the story. It did help bring back the focus to the main plot.

 

The book is vast in its characters and detailed backstories. While I’m not one to write down characters and who they were, I did at times have to backtrack and pause my recording to remember. Of course, with a variety of characters, comes the subtle clues to help piece together this mystery.

 

Let’s talk about the mystery! There are many. Hidden plots unfold in this story and make it a tangled web of complicated relationships and nefarious people. The characters are what really stood out most for me. From the first encounters with the people in West Waverly, there seems to be much more than meets the eye. Covey and JayJay’s relationship is great as well. They are affectionate, trusting, and independent. While they tease each other, their comfortable way of being together was well written throughout the book. Despite introducing each other as friends, they do seem to have no shame in defending each other and being close at times. This does bring up other subplots of the book. The setting of the book revolves mainly around Baker College, a liberal arts institution with religious ties. West Waverly, I will note is all fictional, also has many people that haven’t seen any need to open their minds to outward thinking. In short; prejudice, racism, and homophobia are present in the town and characters (along with the murders of course). Lovely fictional town to visit right? JayJay is an African American woman who does encounter the odd comment and compliment that seems just as confrontational. It’s here that I’ll say she is a badass. Putting aside her crime fighting skills, is a talented, cool headed, and well rounded character. Her points of view are witty and earnest in helping solve these murders. The interactions with other characters could be quite funny as she would work her way to getting the truth out of them. Covey, at times, seemed to be the sidekick to their duo.

 

Overall, I enjoyed listening to this book. While a fairly short listen, there’s a lot this book has to give. Shelton L. Williams has some truly funny and well-hearted scenes that make this a great read for many out there. Feel free to scroll down and enter the giveaway to win your own copies of the books!

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he taught for nearly forty years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on four occasions, and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now the Covey Jencks series. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.
 Amazon Author Page  

 

Kathy James. My first part time job while I was in high school was announcing at the local radio station, and I had fun being “on the air” and using my sarcastic sense of humor.  I worked in the radio business for more than twenty years. My favorite pastimes are teaching figure skating, getting lost in a great book, and watching movies.  I narrate and produce audio books in my home studio, and I truly enjoy bringing an author’s characters to life with an audio book. I currently reside in Minnesota with my slightly overweight cat and two childlike golden retrievers.  




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First Herd to Abilene: Excerpt

FIRST HERD TO ABILENE

An H. H. Lomax Western, #5
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Historical Fiction / Western / Humor
Publisher: Wolfpack Publishing
Date of Publication: February 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 449

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HISTORICALLY SOUND AND HILARIOUSLY FUNNY! H.H. Lomax meets Wild Bill Hickok in Springfield, Missouri, and is responsible for Hickok’s legendary gunfight with Davis Tutt. Fearing Hickok will hold a grudge, Lomax escapes Springfield and agrees to promote Joseph G. McCoy’s dream of building Abilene, Kansas, into a cattle town, ultimately leading the first herd to Abilene from Texas.

Along the way, he encounters Indians, rabid skunks, flash floods, a stampede, and the animosities of some fellow cowboys trying to steal profits from the drive. Lomax is saved by the timely arrival of now U.S. Marshal Hickok, but Lomax uses counterfeit wanted posters to convince Hickok his assailants are wanted felons with rewards on their heads.

Lomax and Wild Bill go their separate ways until they run into each other a decade later in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, where Hickok vows to kill Lomax for getting him fired.

First Herd to Abilene is an entertaining mix of historical and hysterical fiction.

EXCERPT FROM FIRST HERD TO ABILENE

BY PRESON LEWIS

Over the years on the frontier, I came to loathe Texans more than any creature on two legs or four. Fact is, by charting the first major cattle trail to the railheads in Kansas, I made many Texans rich, but I never got so much as a thank you from a single one of those Texas cattle kings. Even worse, I received nary a cent for all the hard work I put in and all the risks I took to chart the route to Kansas. If I’d built a toll gate along the Lomax Trail and charged a nickel a head for every steer that tromped my path to the railroads, I’d’ve lived out my life in luxury. That, however, was not to be.

Not only did wealth bypass me but also the credit for my accomplishment as the trail came to be named after Jesse Chisholm, an old coot who never traversed the route from Kansas to South Texas and back. Even Joseph G. McCoy denied me proper recognition when he wrote of the early years of the trail-driving era in his book Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, never once mentioning me. If I hadn’t spread word to the Lone Star State about his plans for Abilene, McCoy would’ve never seen a Texas longhorn, much less profited from one.

Besides making the acquaintance of Chisholm and McCoy, I also made an enemy of Wild Bill Hickok, who threatened to kill me over a misunderstanding after he rescued me from an impromptu lynching in Kansas. It didn’t matter that I had likely saved him from shooting himself when we first met and that I had even combed nits out of his lousy hair at one point. When I finally faced Hickok after years of running from both his threats and the despicable rumors he had started about me, the reprobate might have survived if he had been paying less attention to me and more to the unsavory characters around his Deadwood poker table. Some folks claim Calamity Jane saved me from Wild Bill, though I disagree, as she was little more than a distraction to us both. Calamity Jane did take a fancy to me, most likely to make Wild Bill jealous, but I never cared for her as I considered Calamity the homeliest woman I’d ever laid eyes on. If you could assay ugly, she’d work out to a hundred dollars per ounce in her early days and five times that in her later years. On top of that, her mouth was no prayer book because it was usually filled with whiskey or profanities so rank she could make Satan blush.

Much as I disliked those folks, it was the Texans that angered me most. They were brash and arrogant, proud that they could call theirs the biggest state in the Union. Nobody, though, called Texas the smartest of the states. If Texans’d been bright, they’d’ve found Abilene, Kansas, without me having to do it for them. All they had to do was ride north until they encountered two parallel lines of iron rails over a bed of crossties. That, however, was beyond their limited mental capacity.

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series, The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

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The Crystal War: Excerpt

The Crystal War
Tracy Auerbach
(Fragments #2)
Published by: Parliament House
Publication date: April 14th 2020
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

The line between human and monster is not as clear cut as they once thought.

In the weeks since her escape from the hell of the Eastern Fortress, things have grown more complicated for Kai. She cast her lot with her brother’s self-absorbed boyfriend, who controls the Western Army, but she’s been separated from Finn, the soldier who found a place in her heart.

Finn has defaulted to his signature move: he’s run away; afraid of himself, his new feelings for Kai, and all the terrible truths he’s learned.

Tessa is free in the world for the first time, a force to be reckoned with. She’s gone to the far west and the Dome of Artifacts to seek revenge on the system that ruined her life.

The type ‘A’ soldier who was once a friendly boy named Charlie has been restored to factory settings, a weapon for Aric to use.

The Science Council has unleashed new crystal compounds, more toxic and destructive than anything the world has seen. As Kai and her friends struggle with everything that’s been done to them, they will have to find a way to unite and prepare for the fight of their lives.

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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Bill’s boots gouged through the sand as he was dragged from the vehicle that had stolen him from the safety of his camp; the hands gripping his biceps were huge and rough. A black scarf had been wrapped over his head, covering his eyes, and a gag stuffed in his mouth.

The toes of his leather boots bumped up then down as the sand’s softness was replaced by cement underfoot. The footsteps of those who dragged him echoed and it registered; he’d been taken indoors.

Hands repositioned themselves on his arms as he was slammed backward onto a cold metal table. Struggling, he tried to yell, but no sound got past the gag. Restraints, large and cold, closed over his wrists and ankles. He bucked and kicked before feather-gentle fingers touched his temples, a sensation vastly different from the rough grip that had previously held him.

The scarf over his eyes was lifted away to reveal slender fingers. He blinked in the harsh light, waiting for his blurry vision to focus. When it did, his heart sunk, and he froze. Struggling had been futile. The woman above him was the rumored head of the New Resistance.

Bill stared into the strange, amber eyes of the woman he had heard about. Over the past few months, whispers had traveled throughout the west; rumors of her beauty and cruelty, and above all, her power: his small army of Resistance fighters had been preparing for her imminent attack.

Everything he had heard about her magnificence was true; golden eyes that sat in a perfectly structured face; tan and well-defined, but not too sharp to be feminine. White-blonde hair stood in spikes over her arched brows. Gunmetal-gray hoops in her ears reflected the light of a small crystal fragment set into a dome lamp over the table. She was dressed head to toe in utilitarian black tactical clothing, but he could still tell that her body was a work of art. He couldn’t guess her height; she seemed tall, with beautifully defined curves and a tiny waist.

“Stop staring, prisoner,” she whispered in a melodic voice. “Looking upon me can’t save you.”

Bill was in a lab, but he couldn’t see much. The halo of light from the single crystal above was dim and focused, but beyond the table he where he lay, details quickly melted into shadows. He could barely make out the hulking shapes of the men who had dragged him from his guard post; only the beautiful, terrible woman was clear. He tried to speak, but his lips fought uselessly against the fabric still in his mouth.

“Do you wish to say something?” asked the woman.

He nodded, and she removed the binding from between his dry lips—he licked them before speaking. “I’ve heard of you,” said Bill, awed. “These past couple of months, everything’s changed.”

“It has. I am changing things. And this is just the beginning.”

“Are you going to make me into one of your slaves?”

“I must have your absolute loyalty. I’ll accept nothing less.”

Bill swallowed, feeling ill with the certainty that he wasn’t going to get out of this, and he saw her smile, as if she knew exactly what he was thinking.

“Why me?”

“Why not?” She blinked momentarily releasing him from the power behind her eyes. “You’re a good soldier; I’ve done my research. You’re exactly what I’m looking for right now. You will come and work for me, just as they have.” She made a sweeping gesture toward the men around them.

“Forgive me, Miss…”

“Raven.”

“Forgive me, Miss Raven, but what makes you think you can you ensure my loyalty?”

“It’s just Raven,” she corrected, her expression unchanging. “And the answer is simple. It’s all about consumption.”

“Consumption?”

“Yes. Everyone is a consumer. Press the right button, and anyone’s loyalty can be controlled. Even yours, soldier.”

“My name is…”

“Not important,” she cut him off.

Bill sighed. He’d had more than enough of being controlled; given over from his foster home to the Eastern Forces, trained to mine for crystals, months of being a type ‘B’ soldier on blue compound, only to be stolen in a raid by the Resistance, and retrained as a guard, led to believe that he was at last working for a higher cause. And now this.

Raven gestured to the soldiers standing in shadow, and Bill craned his neck to try and see what was happening, only to close his eyes, feeling his stomach drop when one of the men approached, holding up a faintly glowing blue syringe.

So, more of the same, then.

“What’s his poison?” asked the man with the syringe.

“Primarily stimulants,” instructed Raven. “Food as a secondary, pre-established reinforcer.”

The man leaned closer, and Bill saw by the light of the glowing crystal fragment that he was young, with a healing but grisly-looking scab that ran the length of his left cheek, ending near his eye.

Bill jerked in his restraints, even though he knew it was futile, and gritted his teeth as the needle pierced the skin of his upper arm. The fire of the compound made its way through his blood, causing him to sigh in relief. It still felt good, every time, even after being off it for months now. It had only taken him a few weeks back at the Eastern Fortress to become addicted to the compound itself, and months for the Resistance to detox him.

Heart racing, his stimulant craving spiked. He refused to beg until the Raven girl held a small vial of pungent-smelling coffee under his nose—then he screamed with want. The compound created an itch that the right thing could scratch, and it felt so good.

“Would you like this?” she asked in a silky, taunting voice.

“Yes,” he whimpered.

“Open up, then.”

Bill opened his mouth, sick with anticipation of the bitter cordial that would bring relief to his burning blood. Every pump of his heart demanded it. He greedily swallowed the wetness on his tongue, but it didn’t taste like coffee.

He opened his eyes and saw that the Raven girl held a vial that was empty but for a glowing residue.

She’s given me Shine. 

Bill stared at his tormentor. It was too late to spit out the horribly addictive drug. Gulping with a heedless greed he usually reserved for coffee, he’d swallowed a good mouthful of it.

Too much. She had him.

Knowing that Shine would quickly supersede his moral compass, he tried to hold onto his terror, his ideals; he tried to retain any part of himself. But as he looked into her expressionless eyes, he began to feel the drug taking hold. Soon, the fear faded, along with all thoughts of fleeing. The world shrunk, leaving room for her alone in his mind. His senses sharpened, overwhelmed by the power of her presence and the Shine’s euphoria.

The rest of the world faded away, and nothing else mattered but his new queen.

I will serve this woman forever.

Author Bio

Tracy Auerbach is an author of science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. As an avid reader with a vivid imagination, she chose to study film, English, and education, and went on to teach and write STEM curriculum for the New York Department of Education. This helped to polish her writing skills and ignite her passion for science fiction and fantasy.

Her first scholarly article, published in Language Magazine, was about the value of active, creative learning in science.
On the fiction side, Tracy’s work has been featured in the online literary journal Micro-horror, The Writing Disorder fiction anthology, and the “(Dis)ability” short story anthology, in addition to her novels.

When she is not teaching or writing, Tracy is usually reading or spending time with her family. She lives in New York with her husband and sons.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

 

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Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze: Excerpt

Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze banner
This is my stop during the book blitz for Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze by Veronica Elle Butler. This book blitz is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 25 till 31 March. See the tour schedule here.

Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze
By Veronica Elle Butler
Genre: Fantasy
Age category: Middle Grade
Release Date: 25 March, 2019

Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze

Book Synopsis

Twelve-year-old Chloe Rose lives a quiet, happy life in her hometown Wilmoton, but she’s haunted by the same nightmare night after night—one with guns and swords and lost fathers. When another brewing battle has her town preparing for war, Chloe’s fears are made into a reality. Promises are left unfulfilled, her family is torn apart, and she must leave her comfy life in Wilmoton behind when she and her mother move into the King’s palace. Living in a castle seems like a dream come true, like the new beginning they need, but Chloe’s not convinced. After a series of altercations, Chloe Rose is kicked out, more desperate for hope than ever. To restore what she’s lost, Chloe travels to an enchanted maze where wishes come true and fairies rule. But with evil forces working against her and her new friends, can Chloe complete the trials of the maze or will her heart’s desires be left unfulfilled?

Chloe Rose and The Enchanted Maze is a powerful story of bravery, friendship, grief, and love.

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You can buy Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze here:
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Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze is a perfect story for children in military families, mixed race families, or for readers looking for more #ownvoices stories. Discussion questions and teaching materials are available.

Excerpt

The wind sang through the meadow under the open bright skies of Wilmoton, the land advanced confidently with warmth. Each new day, the promise of spring drew near as wildflowers rose from the earth. The Langerfield battle had ended two years ago, and peace had once again returned to Wilmoton. So, Chloe Rose spent some time alone in her special place.

This was where she felt lighter and happier; its warmth spread to her heart. Here, Chloe’s favorite spot was on a little hill in the middle of a meadow that overlooked Wilmoton. It was one of the most beautiful views that her hometown had to offer.

Surrounded by gentle whispers of nature, it was also Chloe’s special place to draw flowers and pick them for her mother. The sun glared down at her from the sky, and the breeze brushed her sun-kissed skin while she let her curly brown locks down. She smiled with every twirl on her dress on the soft-bedded grass. For a moment, everything was peaceful and her heart had a steady, calm beat. Here, she was not afraid of what haunted her thoughts, that which caused her to squeeze her eyes shut to make go away. Nor did she worry about the nightmares that came every night after those thoughts. Everything is brighter and calm here, Chloe thought now.

As time crept up on her, Chloe finished her drawing and brushed the pencil shavings and eraser crumbs from her dress. She walked down the slope of the Meadow and back home to her mother, Catherine. She picked some rosebuds for her mother—Mom likes to watch the petals expand slowly as they bloom. She also grabbed the sketch of her view of the meadow, which she made for her father, Michael.

Chloe’s affection and admiration for her parents were unfathomable. She liked to believe her father had superpowers. Her father was the captain of the Wilmoton’s army. The ongoing dispute between Wilmoton and Cottondale was as old as time. A dispute over land and who owns what and who was the first one on the more fertile land.

Cottondale’s features ranged from cracked sidewalks and deteriorated houses that either had weathered paints along their walls or were in ruins from previous conflicts. Remnants of broken swords and shields littered its fields. The people of Cottondale showed no inclination to repair these damages. Instead, they carried on with their lives in the only way they could, with the hope of reusing the broken swords and broken shields, whenever the situation would inevitably call for it again.

Wilmoton was a quaint town with unsurpassed colorful cottages and a huge bell tower named “Armstrong” at the heart of its harmonious infrastructure. The women learned to sew and weave every day in workshops. The people of Wilmoton were hardworking, and it showed. It was the type of place where almost everyone knew each other and people greeted each other with a smile. Wilmoton was ruled by King Francis II, a kind king who protected his people.

Apart from the never-ceasing war between Wilmoton and Cottondale, Chloe loved living in her hometown. As she skipped along the sidewalk, her pink gown flared up and down in the wind with every bounce. She soon spotted Mr. Andrews with the evening newspaper— a worried look on his face. 

 The Andrews family lived a couple of cottages away from the Roses, and their two daughters Chloe Rose and Thyra Andrews were best friends. Like Chloe’s father, Albert Andrews was in the army, too.

During one of the many conflicts between the two towns, someone abandoned a baby in a wicker basket on the boundaries of Wilmoton. Disturbed by this little bundle of joy’s being abandoned, Mr. Andrews hurried back to his home with the baby, showing her to his wife, Ava, who had no child of her own. Ava Andrews was overjoyed, so they adopted the baby and named her Thyra.

Upon seeing his worry, Chloe waved her hand to say, “Hello, Mr. Andrews!” Her broad smile revealed her glittering brown eyes, which could cheer up any sad face on a normal day. This time, it did not.

“Hello, Chloe,” Mr. Andrews replied in haste, his whole face lit up with worry and confusion. Chloe did not know how to interpret the look on his face, so she continued home.

About the Author

Veronica Elle ButlerVeronica Elle Butler is a Middle-Grade Author. Growing up, her childhood dream job is to become a doctor like most children but her life path leads her to a different role; wife, mom, twin daughters in a nutshell . She conceives the idea of an Enchanted Maze one night after reading bedtime stories to her twin daughters. She wants to create a world she could share with her daughters and other children as well, so, she begins to map out her story on a notebook every night when it’s quiet without distractions. Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze pulls the reader into a world of mystery that overlaps our mortal world all consisting of grief, pains of rejection, a curious twist of fate, heart of courage, and forming lasting friendships, she delivers an unforgettable adventure to her readers. She’s an avid scrabble player, enjoys documentaries and, learns along side of her husband the roles of a Military Man when she’s not writing. She enjoys spending time with her daughters and being a Mom. Her twins absolutely love Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze and she hopes every child would fall in love with it as much as they have. To find out more you can follow her on Twitter @MazeEnchanted. Her debut novel Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze will be available in Spring 2020.

You can find and contact Veronica Elle Butler here
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Blue Skies Review

BLUE SKIES
by
Anne Bustard
Middle Grade / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Date of Publication: March 17, 2020
Number of Pages: 224

Scroll down for the giveaway!
 

Ten-year-old Glory Bea Bennett believes in miracles. After all, her grandmother—the best matchmaker in the whole county—is responsible for thirty-nine of them so far.

Now, Glory Bea wants a miracle of her own—her daddy’s return.

The war ended three years ago, but Glory Bea’s father never returned from the front in France. She believes Daddy is still out there.

When reports that the Texas boxcar from the Merci Train—a train filled with gifts of gratitude from the people of France—will be stopping in Gladiola, Glory Bea just knows Daddy will be its surprise cargo.

But miracles, like people, are always changing, until at last they find their way home.

PRAISE FOR BLUE SKIES:

“I loved Blue Skies so much I couldn’t bear for it to end.” –Patricia Reilly Giff, Newbery Honor author of Lily’s Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods

“A heart-warming (and occasionally heart-wrenching) delight of a book . . .” –Joy Preble, Brazos Bookstore

“A tender story of grief and the gentle comfort of loved ones.” Kirkus Reviews

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I really commend Bustard’s writing here, Not only are her characters completely charming but her style of writing is too. As someone that completely embraces my inner head voice when reading, a Texan accent is a must for this. I hope everyone that reads this agrees. *Audiobook hint?

 

Bustard also uses an epistolary style (something I just learned) with local news updates and French definitions. I truly truly loved this. It was a fun addition that moved the pace of the story and involved the reader into learning as well.

 

Let’s talk story now. Glory Bea is a great character. She is spirited, creative, mischievous, and stubborn. I could keep naming a bunch of other adjectives but I’ll go deeper. Blue Skies, while middle grade reading, is not afraid to dive into deep emotions and dealing with loss. Glory Bea firmly believes her father is coming back and I was so into her character, that I believe it with her. Because miracles can happen right? However, it’s more than that. While she prepares for his homecoming, keeping it all a secret, she’s dealing with changes in her life that are out of her control. She has not had her father for fours years and the family along with her have kept his belongings where they are, never giving up. I was just so moved and heartbroken in the glimpses of the past for them. However, it’s all done so gently in the story. It’s an underlining truth to their life but so much more happens. The pace of the book is relatively quick and with a goal in mind, the Merci Train arriving, life continues to move on.

 

The character relationships are great. I enjoyed the interactions between Glory Bea and Ben, especially the silly pranks they play on each other. Glory Bea’s relationship with her mother really stands out as well. The mother’s reactions, for instance, took me by surprise. I did feel frustration sometimes with her grandparents and mother’s non-action to talking things out with Glory Bea. She is struggling at times and even acting out but they would leave her to calming down or dealing with it herself, besides a short talk. The longest discussion she does have about her feelings ends up being with someone unexpected. It was definitely an interesting approach but perhaps not fully described since we don’t know everything that happened after the War ended.

 

Things I loved about Blue Skies:
The artistic and musical vibrancy of the town.
Her Grandpa taking out his pocket watch to ensure they’re on time.
Dr. Pepper floats. (Now I want one!)
The be-a-utiful cover.
A ten-year old trying to be a matchmaker.
This historical fiction still being so relevant today.
Glory Bea giving her friend a perm without reading the instructions. (Something I would definitely do.)
The use of the song Blue Skies, which has also been a favorite of mine and holds great memories.
Again, I must mention the amazing writing of this story. The tone is somewhat nostalgic but lighthearted. There are bits of comedy that shine and keep you grinning. I couldn’t put the book down…except for one moment to grab a tissue. A fantastic read that will leave you feeling lighter in spirit than before.
Anne Bustard is the former co-owner of Toad Hall Children’s Bookstore in Austin, Texas, and an MFA graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the middle grade novel, Anywhere But Paradise, as well as two picture books, RAD! and Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly, which was an IRA Children’s Book Award Notable and a Bank Street Book of the Year. Hawaii-born, she divides her time between Texas and Canada.

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March 17-March 27, 2020

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3/19/20
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The Seventh Blessing: Promo

The Seventh Blessing

By Ricky Baxter

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release date: June 2019


Summary


Within the world of Popla, the gods rule over mankind. Thanks to their order, mankind lives safe from the dangers of the world’s monsters and demon beasts. However, even with their protection, there are some who have chosen to rebel against their benevolent masters.

Having lost his sister to a mysterious sickness called the Seventh Blessing, rumoured to have been created by the gods themselves, A young man named Luna will attempt to rescue her soul from death. Armed with a living blade, he will oppose the order of the gods – going as far as to request the aid of a legendary demon named Ten.

Within this epic fantasy adventure, the trio will explore a world together, where divinity and mortality are intertwined. However, at the end of their journey, will the true secret of the Seventh Blessing tear them apart?

Excerpt

As the dark cloud disappears, the waning sunset shows itself once more – allowing for us to take a clear look at the dark and mysterious girl. Her hair is short and black, making her look almost boyish. Upon her forehead, a third closed eye can be seen. Behind her, a long scaly tail shows itself, extending down to her feet. On close inspection of her so-called cloak, they look to be wings, folded to resemble that of a cloak. More importantly, what should I do right now? If she comes at me, I won’t have the energy to fend her off. My only choice is to perhaps persuade her not to fight me.

Slowly standing to my feet, I hide my nerves and state “My name is Luna and I have come here, requesting your help. I seek the Land of the Gods and I believe you know where it is.”

Eyes perked with interest, she responds “The Land of the Gods? Hmph, if you knew anything about that land, you’d know that its whereabouts cannot be spoken” confirming the words of the defeated god moments earlier. Shifting her gaze to Adamas, her smile drops and she utters “Furthermore – what are you doing with Adamas? It doesn’t belong to you!”

“Huh? How does she know my name?” Asks the surprised sword – looking to me for answers.

“How the hell should I know?” I reply to it – equally surprised by her knowledge of my companion sword. None of this makes sense. If she knows of Adamas, then does that mean it too was alive over five thousand years ago and played a part in the so-called calamity? If that’s true, why doesn’t it know of her?

Suddenly, the demon girl unfolds her dark wings – revealing a tight vest and short skirt. Shouting forth she says “I asked you a question, worm! What are you doing with Adamas? Everybody knows that it belongs to only one other person!”

Within the palm of her hand, a great ball of fire appears and grows larger by the second. “Shit… could this day get any worse?” I whisper, watching as the fireball grows to be the size of a house. Holding it above her head, she screams to me.

“You’re dead meat, mister!”

About the Author
Ricky Baxter is the author of Gideon and the Crimson Samurai, a fantasy novel newly released for Amazon Kindle. He is an avid blogger, giving advice and thoughts to fellow creators from all walks of life. His other works include Colours of Destiny, a Youtube visual novel. Currently he lives in London England where he writes and blogs.

Starting out as a composer since graduating with a Ba(Hons) in music and multimedia, Ricky worked for many independent short film directors – for over six years, gaining notable IMDB credits . Since then, he has embraced his earlier passion of writing fictional stories.

Website – Goodreads – Twitter – Facebook 

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Coded For Murder Review

CODED FOR MURDER

by
DIANNE SMITHWICK-BRADEN
Genre: Murder Mystery / Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: DSB Mysteries
Publication Date: September 26, 2019
Number of Pages: 358 pages

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Jade O’Neal is a senior at West Texas A & M University in Canyon, Texas. She’s on track to graduate with highest honors and a degree in history until she is accused of murder. She juggles her busy school and work schedule around taking care of an overgrown Rottweiler and being questioned by police until she finds a series of clues hidden in puzzle form.
Time is against her as she follows the clues to find the true identity of the murderer while avoiding arrest and her own murder.

 


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I can honestly say that the summary of this book in no way prepared me for everything that unfolded in Coded For Mystery. Greater in size and world building, this book can have you immersed in its characters lives and the shadow of mystery that hangs over them. For one, we have Jade’s uncle Erik, who is a significant throughout so much of this book. Along with him are a slew of characters and a rowdy giant dog that will show the great talent of character development. The instant dislike for some and hopeful protective nature to others. It is easy to see that Smithwick-Braden has a knack for creating tones to her characters.

 

This book excels in bringing detail and thoroughness to the story. While a scene can walk you through the main parts, Smithwick-Braden gives a slower tempo to the characters. This was excellent not only to draw out the tension in scenes but share the character’s uneasiness. On the opposite end, the shift in perspectives and frequencies of other characters being introduced can throw you for a loop sometimes. A few times I did need to go back to remember certain characters, though I didn’t mind at all. Oftentimes, you get the sense of reading a case file written like a diary. With dates and even times to keep the book moving forward, it was easy to track the span of time and follow along when the story’s pace changes.

 

It was easy to connect with Jade’s character. Especially since I have also been dragged across the ground by a rambunctious dog chasing their dream of catching defenseless prey. It’s not pretty. Especially when someone is watching. Pretty much from that scene in the beginning, Jade was a likable character and I rooted for her. With Jade’s hope of having a career like her Uncle one day, she is blindsided by all the events that take place. At times, I was so frustrated with how things went. Especially Uncle Erik keeping his investigations a secret. Overall, this is a great murder mystery story that had me guessing!

 

Dianne Smithwick-Braden is a native Texan raised on the family farm near Vernon, Texas. She seasons her mysteries with a little romance, a dash of adventure, and a touch of humor. She currently resides in Amarillo, Texas with her husband, Richard. 

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Signed copy of Coded for Murder, hot chocolate mix, mug, crossword puzzle book, mini-notepads, M&Ms, clip-on book light
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Signed copies of Coded for Murder
February 25-March 5, 2020
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2/28/20
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