The Black Midnight: Excerpt and Giveaway


THE BLACK MIDNIGHT
by
Kathleen Y’Barbo

Genre: Fiction / Historical Mystery / True Crime  
Publisher: Barbour Books 
Publication Date: August 1, 2020 
Number of Pages: 257

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Two killers, two detectives, and a menace called The Black Midnight may be the death of both of them. Three years before Jack the Ripper began his murderous spree on the streets of London, a killer struck fear into the hearts of the citizens of Austin, Texas. Some believe one man is responsible for both, while others lay the blame at the feet of someone close to the queen herself. With suspicion falling on Her Majesty’s family and Scotland Yard at a loss as to who the Ripper might be, Queen Victoria summons her great-granddaughter, Alice Anne von Wettin, a former Pinkerton agent who worked the unsolved Austin murders case, and orders her to discreetly form a team to look into the London matter. One man is essential to her team, and she doesn’t want to consider taking on this challenge without his expertise. Unfortunately, he’s back in Texas, with a bad attitude and a new profession. 
The prospect of a second chance at catching the man who terrorized Austin three years ago just might entice Isaiah Joplin out of his comfortable life as an Austin lawyer, even if it does mean working with the Queen’s great-granddaughter again. If his theories are right, they’ll find the Midnight Assassin and, by default, the Ripper. If they’re wrong, he and Annie are in a bigger mess than the one the lady detective left behind when she departed Austin under cover of darkness three years ago. 
Can the unlikely pair find the truth of who is behind the murders before they are drawn into the killer’s deadly game? From Texas to London, the story navigates the fine line between truth and fiction as Annie and Isaiah ultimately find the hunters have become the hunted.
PRAISE for The Black Midnight: 
“Warning! Don’t read this historical romantic suspense at night!” DiAnn Mills, Expect an Adventure 
“Impeccably researched with sparkling dialogue and riveting history, Kathleen Y’Barbo’s The Black Midnight puts a pair of star-crossed Pinkerton detectives on the trail of a Texas killer who may also be the notorious Jack the Ripper. Very highly recommended and sure to keep you reading well past your bedtime!!” Colleen Thompson, RITA-nominated author of Deadly Texas Summer 
“You’re in for a wild ride as Kathleen Y’Barbo takes you on a story through some of America and Britain’s grisliest murders and somehow manages to weave in a delicious romance. From Texas to London, the ties that bind may be more linked than you previously believed. Settle in for a novel of suspense and romancejust be sure to look over your shoulder every now and then!” Jaime Jo Wright, 2018 Christy Award-winning author of The House on Foster Hill and 2020 Inspy Award-nominated The Curse of Misty Wayfair

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Excerpt from Chapter 22 of The Black Midnight

by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Part 1 

A meeting with Queen Victoria’s advisors

Buckingham Palace, London

April 1889

 

“You may speak freely here,” Annie told him.

“Very well, it concerns your relative, Prince Albert Victor.”

Her attention went to the prime minister who showed no reaction. Then she turned to Kellum.

“I see.” Annie folded her hands in front of her. The man she knew as Uncle Eddy, that the public called Prince Eddy, had a rather interesting reputation, to put it mildly. Still, murder was well beyond anything she would expect of him. “Go on.”

“There have been some rumors…”

He paused, obviously uncomfortable with the topic. Annie wondered if he’d drawn the short straw in the competition to see which of them would be speaking today. Or rather, which would not.

“That is it has been whispered, quietly of course and certainly not intimated in the press or amongst those who might speak publicly…”

Annie shook her head. “If you could just say it, that would be most helpful, sir. I assure you I am not the delicate sort, and I prefer a man who speaks his mind plainly and clearly.”

Kellum gave Simon a helpless look, prompting the police officer to nod. “What Lord Brixton is saying is that there is a theory that the prince could be the killer—this Jack the Ripper–that we are looking for.”

Lord Brixton. Yes, she remembered him now. Papa hadn’t particularly cared for him.

“I-I-I am not advancing that theory,” Mr. Kellum stammered. “However sordid or false, which it likely is, what I am saying is that it is something that has been spoken about, though not publicly. At least not in the newspapers. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it.”

He looked around to the other advisors, and they all nodded. Then he returned his attention to Annie. “If we did not mention it,” he amended. “Our hope is that this investigation might prove that the prince is innocent of any atrocities. Were it to be found otherwise, I do not know how we would manage to tell Her Majesty.”

“So she hasn’t heard these rumors?” Annie asked. “Are you certain? I have found that the Queen is quite intelligent and generally well informed, even about rumors. Nothing gets past her, so do not underestimate her knowledge on this subject.”

“We have heard these rumors.” Granny swept into the blue room with a sea of courtiers following in her wake. “And we are much distressed.” She focused on Annie. “Thank you for the compliment, kitten. However, there must be no preferential treatment for Eddy. I want him properly investigated and I will not abide any editing of the facts.”

“Yes ma’am,” Annie said as she bowed to her grandmother.

She turned to inspect the men in the room. “Prime Minister, we did not expect to see you here.”

Lord Salisbury cleared his throat, his hands clasped behind him. “I am here on an unofficial basis, ma’am. What concerns the nation, concerns me.”

She held his gaze then nodded. “Yes, of course.”

Silence fell. After a moment, her steely gaze landed on Isaiah.

(To read part 2 of the excerpt, please visit Story Schmoozing Book Reviews.)




Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and author of more than eighty books, with almost two million in print. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and several Top Picks by Romantic Times magazine. Kathleen celebrated her fifteenth year as a published author by receiving the Romantic Times Inspirational Romance Book of the Year Award for Sadie’s Secret, a Secret Lives of Will Tucker novel. Her novels celebrate life, love, and the Lord—and whenever she can manage it, her home state of Texas. Recent releases include The Pirate Bride, River of Life, and My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas.
  Website Bookbub  Facebook Instagram ║ Amazon  Goodreads 
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8/6/20
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8/6/20
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8/7/20
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8/8/20
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8/9/20
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8/10/20
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Enemies of Doves: Playlist


ENEMIES OF DOVES
by
Shanessa Gluhm
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery Publisher: TouchPoint Press Publication Date: March 20, 2020 Number of Pages: 324 pages Scroll down for the giveaway!


Told in alternating timelines from World War II to 1992, debut author Shanessa Gluhm’s Enemies of Doves is a tale of family secrets, jealousy, and deception perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Katherine Webb. On a summer night in 1932, twelve-year-old Joel Fitchett wanders into an East Texas diner badly beaten and carrying his unconscious brother, Clancy. Though both boys claim they have no memory of what happened, the horrific details are etched into their minds as deep as the scar left across Joel’s face. Thirteen years later, both men still struggle with the aftershocks of that long-ago night and the pact they made to hide the truth. When they find themselves at the center of a murder investigation, they make a decision that will change everything. A second lie, a second pact, and, for a time, a second chance. In 1991 college student Garrison Stark travels to Texas chasing a rumor that Clancy Fitchett is his biological grandfather. Clancy has been missing since 1946, and Garrison hopes to find him and, in doing so, find a family. What he doesn’t expect to discover is a tangle of secrets spanning sixty years involving Clancy, Joel, and the woman they both loved, Lorraine.


PRAISE for Enemies of Doves: Enemies of Doves weaves a timeline of events that makes for compelling reading. It’s an ecological system of interlocking decisions, discoveries, and circumstances that spans some sixty years of love, danger, and revelations.” —D. Donovan, senior reviewer, Midwest Book Review “I’ve read some amazing thriller and suspense stories this year, but Enemies of Doves takes the mid-year prize. I’m not one for dual timelines, but this one was perfection with the fifty-year time-span moving forward in tandem. Garrison’s search will cause time to collide, unlocking a lifetime of secrets, and THE PLOT TWIST OF 2020!” —author Felicia Denise “Shanessa Gluhm is a brilliant writer. I very seldom read a book that I cannot figure out how it will end, but this one literally blew me away!” —Lori Thomas Harrington, author of The Point

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I listened to a lot of songs set in the ’40s and early ’90s as well as a couple of newer ones that I felt really fit the scene I was writing at the time. —Shanessa Gluhm, author of Enemies of Doves

CLICK TO LISTEN HERE FOR FREE ON SPOTIFY!

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Songs:

I’ll Be Seeing You, Billie Holiday

In the Mood, The Glenn Miller Orchestra

Fast Movin’ Train, Restless Heart

Maybe it was Memphis, Pam Tillis

What Might Have Been, Little Texas

You and Forever and Me, Little Texas

The Bluest Eyes in Texas, Restless Heart

The Song Remembers When, Trisha Yearwood

Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana

Burning House, Cam

Let It Go, James Bay 



Shanessa Gluhm works as a librarian at an elementary school in New Mexico, where she lives with her husband and children. It was during her own elementary days when a teacher encouraged Shanessa to write and share stories with the class. She hasn’t stopped writing since. Enemies of Doves is her debut novel. 

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All Things Left Wild: Review and Giveaway


ALL THINGS LEFT WILD
by
James Wade

Genre: Adventure / Rural Fiction / Coming of Age Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Publication Date: June 16, 2020 Number of Pages: 304 pages

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After an attempted horse theft goes tragically wrong, sixteen-year-old Caleb Bentley is on the run with his mean-spirited older brother across the American Southwest at the turn of the twentieth century. Caleb’s moral compass and inner courage will be tested as they travel the harsh terrain and encounter those who have carved out a life there, for good or ill.  Wealthy and bookish Randall Dawson, out of place in this rugged and violent country, is begrudgingly chasing after the Bentley brothers. With little sense of how to survive, much less how to take his revenge, Randall meets Charlotte, a woman experienced in the deadly ways of life in the West. Together they navigate the murky values of vigilante justice. Powerful and atmospheric, lyrical and fast-paced, All Things Left Wild is a coming-of-age for one man, a midlife odyssey for the other, and an illustration of the violence and corruption prevalent in our fast-expanding country. It artfully sketches the magnificence of the American West as mirrored in the human soul. PRAISE for All Things Left Wild: “A debut full of atmosphere and awe. Wade gives emotional depth to his dust-covered characters and creates an image of the American West that is harsh and unforgiving, but — like All Things Left Wild — not without hope.” — Texas Literary Hall of Fame member Sarah Bird, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen “James Wade has delivered a McCarthy-esque odyssey with an Elmore Leonard ear for dialogue. All Things Left Wild moves like a coyote across this cracked-earth landscape—relentlessly paced and ambitiously hungry.” — Edgar Award finalist David Joy, When These Mountains Burn

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All Things Left Wild was so beautifully written. The story follows two different POV’s, Caleb and Randall, which leads you on quite a ride! James Wade poetically describes much of Texas that leaves the reader envisioning themselves as they read. Though it’s a true grit Texas read, I really enjoyed James Wade’s writing style and found myself devouring the ink on the pages. 

I really enjoyed reading from Caleb’s POV, here you have this young man who is trying to move on from his former life and to try and find some sort of redemption. There’s alot of growth that takes place with him, both good and bad, and I enjoyed seeing his character change and evolve throughout the story. Randall was a little harder for me to read, perhaps it was the switch from first person (Caleb) to third person (Randall). His character I think was a bit rougher around the edges. He’s a man set on vengeance despite the cost. Both though are on a collision course!  I’m not sure why the author decided to do first-person and third-person, I’ve seen this done with other authors as well. The switch is hard for me, it feels unnatural. But that is my only critique on the novel as everything else about it was wonderfully crafted. 

Overall I enjoyed the characters, I think they all had their flaws, and they all had very interesting character arcs. I loved how everything came to a close at the end and I enjoyed the plot twists and unravels. 

But let’s get to some AMAZING writing here for just a moment.

One of my favorite ways that Wade describes the landscape is when Caleb is describing it to Sophia: “beyond to the blue water and great hills dotted with green and then finally the horizon as it held up the clouds bleeding into the purple sky.”  That imagery is simply breathtaking and the entire novel is filled with it. And not just with the landscape either, he is illustrative and vivid with his descriptions throughout the entire novel. 

Another description that I just loved was how he described the shooting stars: “and all the while ignoring the shooting stars as they emblazoned their legacy across the sky in an extremity of drama and dying, never to be seen again by this world or another.”

That star just pierced my heart!

Oh and there’s more… there’s so much more! Words are so powerful and James Wade’s is not shy of enchanting his readers with his eloquent narration. 

I’m telling you, I craved these words! James Wade is the Lani Taylor of historical westerns! I’m not saying that all I need is beautiful words to keep me reading a book, I enjoyed so much about this novel, the characters, the plot, the twists, the way the story tugged on my heart at the end. But sometimes I really enjoy reading a book for how it is written, for the words used to describe the story. All Things Left Wild is Texas poetry to be sure. And to be honest, it inspires me to be a better writer. 

This historical western is an adventure you don’t want to miss so open the book and fall right in!  



James Wade lives and writes in Austin, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He has had twenty short stories published in various literary magazines and journals. He is the winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest and a finalist of the Tethered by Letters Short Fiction Contest. All Things Left Wild is his debut novel.
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The Outlaw’s Daughter: Review and Giveaway

THE OUTLAW’S DAUGHTER

HAYWIRE BRIDES, BOOK 3
by
MARGARET BROWNLEY

Western / Historical Fiction / Clean & Wholesome Romance Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca Date of Publication: May 26, 2020 Number of Pages: 384

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He may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter . . .  Texas Ranger Matt Taggert is on the trail of a wanted man. He has good reason to believe that Ellie-May’s late husband was involved in a stagecoach robbery, and he’s here to see justice done. But when he arrives in town, he discovers the thief has become a local hero . . . and his beautiful young widow isn’t too happy to see some lawman out to tarnish her family’s newly spotless reputation. 
Ellie-May’s shaken by her encounter with the ranger. Having grown up an outlaw’s daughter, she’ll do anything to keep her children safe—and if that means hardening her heart against the handsome lawman’s smiles, then so be it. Because she knows Matt isn’t about to give up his search. He’s out to redeem himself and find proof that Ellie-May’s husband wasn’t the saint everyone claims . . . even if it means losing the love neither expected to discover along the way.

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Right from the beginning, The Outlaw’s Daughter had me eager for more. We’re first introduced to Ellie-May when a Texas Ranger comes knocking on her barn door. Ellie-May isn’t afraid to defend her home and family as she points the shotgun at him. Matt Taggert is on the hunt for those responsible for a robbery that had happened a year prior, right around the time that Ellie-May’s husband had died in a fire. He’s determined to uncover the truth no matter the costs and has questions for the husband, not knowing that he had died. But there’s only one problem, Matt hadn’t expected to fall for the confident and sharp Ellie-May. 

To be honest, I hail from Washington State, and never really got into cowboy love stories much (though there is a few I’ve enjoyed over the years). But a TEXAS RANGER? Yes please! This was exactly the kind of love story I needed right now! This story is told from the POV’s of Matt and Ellie-May, and both are surely to grip your heart and send you to the skies. Ellie-May is determined to make sure her children remember all the good their father had done in the world since she had been robbed from it herself when her dad had hung for being an outlaw. And Matt, he isn’t just someone investigating a crime, he’s compassionate and sincere, he not only wants to be good and thorough with his job, he cares and wants to help others. A pure good soul. And though Ellie is rough around the edges due to her past, she too has a heart of gold. 

Another character I simply loved from this book was Anvil. At first I wasn’t sure about him, and to be honest I worried about his role in the story, but as you get to know him more it’s clear that he is an honest man looking out of Ellie-May. 

I loved the dialogue in this book. The interactions between the main characters are wonderfully crafted. I also enjoyed the way the love story evolves, it isn’t your average dramatic love story, it’s a love about respect and earning trust, a love story built on a foundation. It’s realistic and memorable. Add a dash of mystery suspense, and cunning, strong characters, and it’s the perfect summer read.  

This is a make you feel good, swoon-worthy read you won’t want to miss!

Rating: 5/5
  

New York Times bestselling author Margaret Brownley has penned more than forty-six novels and novellas. 
A two-time Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist, Margaret has also written for a TV soap and is a recipient of the Romantic Times Pioneer Award. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth-grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.
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  May 26-June 5, 2020
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The First Emma Promo and Giveaway

THE FIRST EMMA
by
Camille Di Maio Historical Fiction / Historical Romance / Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing Date of Publication: May 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 315

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The First Emma is the true story of Emma Koehler. Whose tycoon husband Otto was killed in a crime-of-the-century murder by one of his two mistresses – both also named Emma – and her unlikely rise as CEO of a brewing empire during Prohibition. When a chance to tell her story to a young teetotaler arises, a tale unfolds of love, war, beer, and the power of women.
PRAISE for The First Emma
“Di Maio’s take on a shocking American drama pleasantly blends romantic and historical fiction . . . a sweet memorialization of a real-life female business pioneer in San Antonio.” —Kirkus “A beautifully crafted portrait of an intriguing woman. Mystery and romance are set against the backdrop of fascinating pieces of twentieth-century history, and a richly drawn setting leaves the reader feeling wholly immersed. Historical fiction fans will love this one!” —Chanel Cleeton, NYT bestselling author of Next Year in Havana
“Di Maio does a brilliant job of weaving together all the threads—from past to present—while unearthing a tale of blossoming love, the power of our chosen family, and the losses that make us whole again.” —Rochelle B. Weinstein, USA Today bestselling author of This Is Not How It Ends
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THE FIRST EMMA

PROLOGUE, PART THREE

(To read Part One of the Prologue, visit All the Ups and Downs; to read Part Two of the Prologue, visit Story Schmoozing Book Reviews)
San Antonio, Texas
November 12, 1914
Emma had told him no. She would not consent to him divorcing his wife on her account. She would not marry him.
But he continued to beg.
Emma grabbed his wrist and threw it from her, satisfied with the slight thud as it fell against the corner of the nightstand.
“Darling,” he whispered as he hovered over her ear. “Please reconsider. Marry me and you’ll make me the happiest man alive.” “No,” she insisted. The third such rejection in as many weeks. She propped herself up on her elbows.
“Emma,” he pled. He put his knee on the mattress and spoke in a low, heavy moan that indicated how eager he was to return to her bed.
“No,” she said again with all the force she could muster. “Otto, I’m not going to marry you. It’s over. All of this is over.”
She clutched his shirt in her hands and shoved him off the bed. He fell against the nightstand with all his weight this time, sending her silver hand mirror across its marble surface. It stopped just short of crashing to the ground. A precious memento of the life she’d once had on the other side of the world.
A reminder that she wished she had never left.
It was difficult to see his reaction in the dim room where he was nearly a silhouette. But he righted himself and moved forward again. A shot of fear rushed through Emma’s body. Otto had never had so much taken away from him in so short a time: his wife’s health, his first lover’s marriage, his second lover’s refusal. A desperate man might do anything.
As he drew nearer with wide steps, Emma slipped her finger under the pillow and felt around for the .32 revolver he’d bought for her to protect against coyotes. Its cool metal frame gave her some reassurance.
Just in case.
She felt his body fall upon the mattress, his hot breath landing on her neck in frenzied kisses. His hands trying all the things in all the places that had once excited her.
“Get off of me!”
“Don’t leave. Don’t leave me,” he begged. His tone had turned to one of despair and each sob was more wretched than the last.
So much could be hers if she acquiesced. Wealth. Comfort. Affection. It was all very tempting.
But some things were worth more than that.
Emma threw the blankets toward the foot of the bed. “It’s over!” she insisted.
She listened for sounds from the kitchen but couldn’t hear the other Emma in the house anymore. Had she gone outside when Otto arrived? That had always been their arrangement before she left to marry Mr. Daschiel. Only one woman in the house when Otto came around to visit.
She slid her hand under the pillow again, this time clutching the revolver. The sweat on her hand fell on its leather grip. She pulled it out in a quick motion and placed the barrel against Otto’s chest, pushing him away as she sat up.
He jumped back, sweat rippling down the wrinkles on his forehead. “You’re crazy.”
Otto waved a finger at her and turned toward the living room.
Emma lifted herself out of bed, arms weakened after convalescing. She walked across the wood floor in bare feet, avoiding the board that had worn and would splinter her skin. The light from the next room sent more pain to her head and her eyes winced as they took it in.  But she could see Otto standing in front of her, just beyond the sofa, a case knife drawn from his pocket.
His hand shook, but his eyes fixed a hard gaze on her.
Her heart beat quickly and a sense of terror seized her.
He’d called her crazy? She’d only meant to frighten him away. But there was a look about him that that held more than a threat.
He stepped toward her and the knife slashed her arm.
She fired the trigger in response. Three times.
Neck.
Face.
Heart.
Otto crumpled to the floor, clutching his chest. Heat raced to her cheeks and she dropped the revolver on the ground next to her. She collapsed next to his body and pulled away his vest, ripping the buttons from their threads.
What had she done?
Only then did she hear the other Emma, who ran in from the porch. A look of horror passed between the women.
Otto’s thin-framed body writhed on the wool rug, a thick red pool forming on his white shirt. His blood mixing with hers. His eyes fluttered, looking between them.
“Emma,” he whispered as he took his last breath.
But they didn’t know which woman he called out for.
Emma, his first mistress.
Emma, his second mistress.
Or Emma, his wife.




Camille Di Maio always dreamed of being a writer, though she took a winding path of waitressing, temping, politicking, and real estate to get there. It all came to fruition with the publication of her bestselling debut, The Memory of Us, followed by Before the Rain Falls, The Way of Beauty, and The Beautiful Strangers. In addition to writing, she loves farmers’ markets, unashamedly belts out Broadway tunes when the mood strikes, and regularly faces her fear of flying to indulge her passion for travel. Married for twenty-three years, she home-schools their four children. (Though the first two are off at college now!) She is happy to live in Virginia near a beach. 
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Storms of Malhado: Notable Quote and Giveaway

STORMS OF MALHADO by
MARIA ELENA SANDOVICI

Genre: Historical Fiction / Ghosts Publisher: Independently Published Date of Publication: March 26, 2020
Number of Pages: 252


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Galveston Island, Texas, September 2008 Katie doesn’t believe in ghosts. And she certainly doesn’t believe the rumors that her family’s home is haunted, despite its tragic history: two young women who lived there in different eras died in hurricanesone during Hurricane Carla in 1961, one during the Great Storm of 1900, the greatest natural disaster to befall the United States. But that was the past, a fact Katie reminds herself of when she returns to Galveston to await Hurricane Ike with her parents and boyfriend in her family’s Broadway mansion, hoping to rekindle her flailing relationship. While Katie is not afraid of the ghost stories she’s heard, she is afraid of the monster storm approaching. As even die-hard Islanders evacuate, her fears grow—fear of the looming hurricane, fear that she’s talentless as a painter, fear that her relationship with her boyfriend is already over. As Katie struggles against her fears, the past whispers to her of the women who died there and the haunting similarities they share with Katie’s own life. 
Through three different timelines, Storms of Malhado weaves a story of Galveston’s past, underscoring its danger and isolation, as well as its remarkable resilience, and its capacity for both nostalgia and reinvention. Full of contradictions, at once insular and open to the world, Galveston Island is as much a character of the novel as Katie, Suzanne, Betty, their lovers, and their confidantes.

PRAISE FOR STORMS OF MALHADO:

“Taking place entirely on a beautifully moody Galveston Island, Ms. Sandovici weaves three simultaneous stories with ease. With a timeless tale, ethereal language, and complicated characters, readers will be entranced by this modern ghost story. How many times can the past repeat itself? How do we recognize people through generations? The author tackles this topic amid a backdrop of violent nature and intangible dreamscapes.”  —Courtney Brandt, author of The Queen of England: Coronation, Grand Tour, Ascension ”Three women, three great storms, and one house, haunted by forbidden love and frustrated ambition. Get ready to be swept away by Sandovici’s foray into Galveston Island’s tempestuous history in this tale of lives intertwined across time.” —Donna Dechen Birdwell, author of Not Knowing

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Maria Elena Sandovici is a full-time writer, artist, and gallery owner living in Houston, Texas. After obtaining a Ph.D. in political science from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 2005, her curiosity led her to Texas, where she taught at Lamar University for fourteen years. She felt attracted to Galveston Island from her first visit and lived there part-time for three years before her artistic career took her to Houston. 
Sandovici is a 2008 graduate of John Ross Palmer’s Escapist Mentorship Program, a program that teaches artists business skills. She resigned from her tenured academic position in December 2018 and opened her own private gallery space. Her previous works of fiction are Dogs with Bagels, Stray Dogs and Lonely Beaches, Lost Path to Solitude, The Adventures of Miss Vulpe, and Lone Wolf. She is also the author of Stop and Smell the Garbage, a volume of poetry in the voice of her dog, Holly Golightly. You can follow her daily adventures on her blog HaveWatercolorsWillTravel.blog.
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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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A Firm Place to Stand: Review and Giveaway


A FIRM PLACE TO STAND
by
LORI ALTEBAUMER

Genre: Christian / Romantic Suspense Independently published Date of Publication: January 25, 2020
Number of Pages: 321

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She’s either being stalked or losing her mind. A job at a camp in the rustic and often rugged landscape of West Texas offers Maribel Montgomery a chance to escape both, especially if she makes sure no one knows she’s there. But when the body of a woman washes up in the river on her first morning, her hopes of a safe place to start over are swept away. The suspicion that she’s being watched follows her to her new home, and Maribel is forced to take a stand or keep running. Does she have the courage to face the danger stirring at the Pool of Siloam Camp? If she doesn’t, another girl might die. If she tries and fails, it could be her. Circumstances force her into the acquaintance of Conner Pierce—a man with secrets of his own. Can Maribel risk working with him in order to save the next victim and find a missing girl? Or is he the killer?

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What a suspense! This story follows Maribel, a journalist that just received a job at Sumer Camp. Right from the beginning, Maribel struggles with some bad luck. On her way to her new job, her car catches fire just outside of town, burning it to a crisp. Then the following day she’s instantly thrown into the middle of a crime investigation when she stumbles upon a dead body. What a rough twenty-four hours for Maribel! But I have to admit, it was dark and instantly had me hooked, I simply had to read more!

The author does a great job of telling the story from different POV’s. I love when authors do this, it’s so much fun reading from alternate perspectives, and I especially love this in a thriller. Maribel is one of my favorite characters. There’s secrets about her from her past that unravel as time goes on. She’s a true journalist that works hard to get at the root of everything, even if that means digging through the dirt herself. Then there’s Conner Pierce! I simply loved the interactions between Maribel and Conner. I have to admit, some were quite humorous and I found myself chuckling at times. 

The relationships in this book are really what fuel the story. How the different POV’s interact with each other, what drives them on each of their journey’s, the town and all its gossip and secrets. I think the relationships are the true beauty here in the story, and they are why I kept coming back to each chapter. 

The author also places high importance on different themes such as loss and forgiveness. And the ending is sure to melt your heart. 

The author does a fabulous job of reeling the reader in, then floods the text with just enough suspense to throw us into the next page. The town is filled with secrets. Maribel is running from her past. There are people missing. Each POV is intricately woven together, and the masterpiece it created is filled with shadows and mystery. 

I don’t always read Christan Romance, but every now and then I find one that I really enjoy, and this definitely is one to keep on the bookshelf. It surprised me how much I enjoyed it and I look forward to reading more from Lori Altebaumer in the future. 

Be sure to check this book out! Great for anyone that loves Christian thrillers!

Rating: 5/5


A life-long Texan, Lori lives in a small community not far from the rugged West Texas landscape she loves to write about. The mother of now-grown twins, she has learned that the secret to survival is a well-developed sense of humor and an active prayer life. After years spent working in the insurance business, Lori now uses her time to educate, inspire, encourage, and entertain through the written word.

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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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Edison Jones and the Anti-Grav Elevator: Review and Giveaway


EDISON JONES AND THE ANTI-GRAV ELEVATOR
by
MICHAEL SCOTT CLIFTON

Genre: MG-YA / Action & Adventure / Men’s & Boys’ Publisher: Book Liftoff Publication Date: February 11, 2020

Number of Pages: 282 pages SCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 


Twelve-year-old Edison Jones is a prodigy with a passion for technology and inventions. Paralyzed from the waist down since the age of five, he hasn’t let his disability slow him down. Then his world changes overnight when his grandfather, a billionaire tech company owner, decides to enroll him in a public school. Algorithms, quantum physics, and digital engineering are easy. Finding his way in the bewildering world of boys and girls his own age is quite another thing . . . the biggest challenge of his life.
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Edison Jones and the Anti-Grav Elevator was a very enjoyable middle grade read. It follows the story of a disabled, very gifted boy that is too afraid to leave his house, and content to remain there after the tragedy that had transpired with his parents (and almost him too). His grandfather though convinces him to go to school, and though Edison Jones is in a wheel chair, and deals with bullies and other challenges while attending school, he makes friendships that could last a life time. 

What I loved about this book: I am a special education teacher, so reading a book about a boy that is paralyzed and how he overcomes that challenge was very inspiring. I think often times there is not enough of this in middle grade or YA literature. To see Edison grapple with his disability, to have those at school make fun of him for it, to see him try to give them an eye for an eye and realize that’s not the way to handle it, was really a humbling and inspiring message for everyone. 

Another thing I loved about this book was how Edison handle his relationships with others. The accident that left him paralyzed and his parents dead happened at age seven. He didn’t leave his home until he was twelve. For any child in this situation, I could see them wanting to do whatever they could to appease others in order to have those relationships with others. But Edison is an encouraging friend, and I love his principles on what a good friend is. One of his friends is struggling and needs help with math, he wants to take the easy way out and have Edison help him cheat. But Edison tells him that if he did that, he wouldn’t be a good friend. 

This book was very surprising for me. I don’t often read middle grade books, but when I saw the cover of this one I knew I had to read it. I love all the scientific tech and gadgets. I love how Edison finds a way to show off all his knowledge, but in a way that’s teaching and encouraging his friends. And I also loved the little tid bit of mystery surrounding the parents’ death. 

And there’s a bit of a cliff hanger.

So I kind of need book 2, you know? 🙂

I highly recommend this read for anyone that is looking for a bit of personal growth, some awesome science tech, and a fun enjoyable journey with great friends along the way. 

Rating: 5/5




Multi award-winning author Michael Scott Clifton, a public educator for over 38 years as a teacher, coach, and administrator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas, with his wife, Melanie, and family cat. An avid gardener, reader, and movie junkie, he enjoys all kinds of book and movie genres. His books contain aspects of all the genres he enjoys: action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance. His fantasy novels, The Janus Witch and The Open Portal, received 5-Star reviews from the prestigious Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews, and he has been a finalist in a number of short story contests, with Edges of Gray winning First Place in the Texas Authors Contest. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine. Clifton’s latest book, The Open Portal, won a Feathered Quill Book Finalist Award, and launched the fantasy book series, Conquest of the Veil. 

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