The Caretakers: Review and Giveaway

THE CARETAKERS
by
ELIZA MAXWELL
Genre:  Psychological Thriller / Gothic Fiction / Sisters Fiction  Publisher: Lake Union Press
Date of Publication: April 14, 2020
Number of Pages: 317 Scroll down for the giveaway!
In the isolated estate she’s found the perfect getaway. But there’s no escaping the past in this chilling novel from the bestselling author of The Unremembered Girl.
Filmmaker Tessa Shepherd helped free a man she believed was wrongly imprisoned for murder. When he kills again, Tessa’s life is upended. She’s reeling with guilt, her reputation destroyed. Worse, Tessa’s mother has unexpectedly passed away, and her sister, Margot, turns on her after tensions from their past escalate. Hounded by a bullying press, Tessa needs an escape. That’s when she learns of a strange inheritance bequeathed by her mother: a derelict and isolated estate known as Fallbrook. It seems like the perfect refuge. A crumbling monument to a gruesome history, the mansion has been abandoned by all but two elderly sisters retained as caretakers. They are also guardians of all its mysteries. As the house starts revealing its dark secrets, Tessa must face her fears and right the wrongs of her past to save herself and her relationship with Margot. But nothing and no one at Fallbrook are what they seem.  “Suspense fans will be satisfied.” —Publishers Weekly
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The Caretakers was an intense and gripping read. The suspense/thriller takes you for quite a ride. The story follows two lovely ladies, one named Tessa, a young filmmaker, and Kitty, an elderly woman with bones in her closet (not literally in case you were wondering.) Tessa just helped free a man from jail that she believed was innocent from committing murder.  But then, not long after his release, he begins making videos for those of Bonham. The chilling videos are targeted towards the one that wrongfully put him in jail, indicating that he would soon go after the chief’s daughter. 

As the story unravels, Tessa journeys to a place that was left in her granddad’s will. There she meets Kitty. Tessa is trying to get away from all that is happening in Bonham, never did she realize that by venturing to that house, that Kitty would eventually reveal secrets of her Tessa’s own family. 

It’s a heart wrenching, heart-pumping read. I finished it in a day because I simply couldn’t put it down. And the twist at the end is one I did not see coming. It’s clever. It’s exciting and cunning. And the power behind the broken love of two sisters and their path to mending was beautiful. 

My favorite character in this story besides Kitty and Tessa was Ben. He’s Tessa’s sister’s husband. I love how intricately connected Tessa, Ben, and Margot are. There’s alot of history among the three which is revealed throughout the story, but the three of them sure do make a formidable team. 

I really enjoyed the reveal of what had happened to Kitty and Dee. This was very shocking something I was not expecting which made me love it even more. 

And that ending! It’s definitely one I won’t forget anytime soon. 

This is a must read for any murder mystery and suspense thriller fans. Eliza Maxwell has this amazing way with doing the least expected in her stories. I have loved every book of hers that I have read, and this one was just wonderful! 

Definitely a 5/5!


Eliza Maxwell is the author of The Shadow Writer, The Widow’s Watcher, The Unremembered Girl, The Grave Tender, and The Kinfolk. She writes fiction from her home in Texas, which she shares with her ever-patient husband, two impatient kids, a ridiculous English setter, and a bird named Sarah. An artist and writer, a dedicated introvert, and a British-cop-drama addict, she enjoys nothing more than sitting on the front porch with a good cup of coffee. For more information, visit www.elizamaxwell.net.
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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.

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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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Destiny’s Way: Playlist

DESTINY’S WAY
A Novel of the Big Bend
by
Ben H. English

Historical Fiction / Suspense Publisher: Creative Texts Publishers Date of Publication: January 18, 2020
Number of Pages: 363


Kate Blanchard woke up one morning in a dream home she could no longer afford, with a young son who needed a man’s influence, and not a friend among those who had claimed to be prior to her husband’s mysterious disappearance. About all she had left was a ramshackle ranch along Terlingua Creek, sitting forlornly in the desolate reaches of the lower Big Bend. It was the only place left she could go. There she finds a home and a presence of something strange yet comforting that she can’t put her finger on or fully understand. With that ethereal presence comes Solomon Zacatecas, a loner with his own past and a knowledge of her land near uncanny in nature. He helps her when no one else can and is honest when no one else will be, but she suspicions that he is not always completely so. Yet her quiet, unassuming neighbor proves to be more than capable in whatever situation arises. That includes when standing alone against those who would take everything else that Kate had, including her life as well as her son’s.

PRAISE FOR DESTINY’S WAY: “This is one of those rare books that you simply can’t put down. Ben English ‘s writing style is pure magic. He really brings this historical fiction book to life. Immediately, you are drawn to the main characters Kate and Solomon and feel as though you are right there next to them, experiencing what they are experiencing. Destiny’s Way is one that would do well on the Silver Screen.” Catherine Eaves, published author “Ben does a superb job with this book! Excellent characters, true-to-life environment that is part and parcel of the story, twists and turns enough to make you wonder what is going on, and a slice of life down in Big Bend that rings true. That area has historically been full of ‘characters’ throughout its history, and Ben brings those characters into the book, raising the hair on the back of your neck. Highly recommended!” — J. L. Curtis, author of the Grey Man series “Ben, I love how your words and your memories reach out and connect the past with the present and touch so many people along the way. You are the connector! Bravo Zulu, my friend.” — Matt Walter, Museum of the Big Bend Curator

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Music has much to do with how this book was written, as music has always had much to do with my life. When I am alone, conducting boots-on-the-ground research, certain songs go through my mind, often repeatedly. Many of these have been around for generations, some go back a century or more. Each in turn is enduring, much like the land I have used them to describe.

“La Golindrina”                                                Pedro Infante        (With words)
                                                                                 Raffy Lata               (Instrumental)

If Destiny’s Way has a theme song, it is this one. In fact, the lyrics start the book. I stated how some of these songs go back a century or more, and this sad Mexican ballad has roots that go back even further than that. Several of the songs I have selected come from across the border because things Mexican helped shaped the culture of the Big Bend much like contributing Anglo influences. In truth, they do not clash as much as complement each other.



Faded Love”                                           Bob Wills

You cannot do any song list about any part of the Lone Star State without including a Bob Wills tune. Of the many that he and the Texas Playboys did, this has to be one of the most memorable. Waylon Jennings was right; when you cross that ol’ Red River, Bob Wills is still the king.


 “Annie Laurie/Bad Half Hour”           Don Edwards

Any man who has ever pulled night guard or patrol can understand this song about the lost loves and “could have beens” instinctively. Such sentiments loom large at times when alone and in spots like Fresno Canyon or along Terlingua Creek.


Carabina Treinta-Treinta”                Charro Avitia
                                                                
This tune is my favorite of the Mexican Revolution era. Anyone who has ever felt the balance of a Winchester ʼ94 and jacked the lever on it understands why someone would write a song about this weapon. “La carabina treinta-treinta” is one of the most popular rifles ever produced, and most experienced folks on either side of the river well know why.


La Adelita”                                                          Cuco Sanchez

Another Mexican Revolution song with many versions, but I prefer the Cuco Sanchez recording. In the decade of 1910-1920, the Mexican people not only suffered through the brutalities of an almost genocidal war, but also the trio of pale horsemen representing drought, starvation, and epidemic. No one really knows how many died during those years, and when you hear a song like ‘La Adelita,’ you think of the individual hope, and grief, of those who were caught up from all sides.


“In Color”                                                               Jamey Johnson

It has long been my estimation that if one desires to know where they are going, they first need to know where they came from. This is a mantra repeated throughout Destiny’s Way for more than one character in the book, as well as a philosophy for the story as a whole. This song, speaking so eloquently of the past of one man, illustrates why this is so.


Theme song to the movie El Dorado       George Alexander

An adaptation of the poem of the same name, this song, along with some spectacular accompanying paintings, serves as one of the finest intros to any Western movie ever. Listen to the words carefully and picture yourself moving along the Dodson Trail below the highest points of the Chisos. I’ve been there, with that same song running through my head.


“Alla En El Rancho Grande”                        Tito Guízar

A favorite of my grandfather’s, they just about wore out the record in the old jukebox at the Lajitas Trading Post. Most of the selections contained therein were Mexican in nature, played far more frequently than any of the Anglo songs. I suppose that was why I was teased for speaking English with a Mexican accent, after my family left the lower Big Bend.


“The Place Where I Worship”                Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and the Sons of                                                                           the Pioneers

This was written by Dale Evans and performed many times by hers, her husband Roy Rogers, and the Sons of the Pioneers. Picture yourself standing in front of the opening for the Window in the national park on a clear day, seeing God’s great creation stretch out for miles upon miles as far as your eyes can take you. The sun and sky above form the roof of this church, the near vertical high ground on either side serve as the walls, and the rocks lying about your choice of pews. Yes, it is the place where I worship.


“Cool Water”                                               Marty Robbins

If you have gone without water for a length of time in a hot, dry desert, then this song hits as close to home as any other you could ever think of. I’ve been there before but never so much as putting one foot in front of the other on a hundred-plus-degree day south of Glenn Spring. I was carrying a fifty-pound pack and hadn’t had a drop of moisture in sixteen hours. And you have to keep moving, or you will surely die.


“This Ain’t Nothin’”                                     Craig Morton

Everyone has a breaking point and often enough it starts sooner than later, until we realize that so many others had so much more to bear than we ever will. Think of the endless darkness of a mine tunnel at the foot of California Hill, the Mariscal, the Shafter, the Study Butte, or the Chisos Mining Company. Think about what it took to produce candelilla wax, which has to be one of the toughest jobs anyone could ever imagine. Think about what your own ancestors went through when called upon. That’s when your own problems start to diminish, and you begin to realize that what you are facing now “ain’t nothin”.


Semper Fi                                                        Trace Adkins

With the recurring theme of the Marine Corps so prevalent in Destiny’s Way, I thought it only right to include a tribute to my old alma mater. After all, they say time and again to write what you know. Every time I put on my boots, shoulder my pack, and head out, I realize what an integral part the Corps has played in my life. Mother Green gave me so much but saw to it that I earned every last bit. Semper Fi ʼtil the day I die.


Charlie Siringo                                                      Red Steagall

This rousing ballad encapsulates the life story of Texan Charlie Siringo, one of those larger-than-life characters of the Old West whom you usually don’t hear much about. Sung with understanding and insight by fellow Texan Red Steagall, it tells of Siringo’s life as a cowboy, a storekeeper, a Pinkerton man, and ultimately a successful writer. Some have questioned if all those events actually happened. Well if they didn’t, they should have. 


Song For Jake                                                     Dave Stamey

Dave Stamey’s arrangements and singing are simple in nature: the sound of a six-string guitar and the voice of a man who has actually been there, done that. This ballad is a near-perfect mixture of that simplicity, concerning another man who went his own way and carried through faithfully in his personal philosophy of worth. They say the simple things in life are the most important, as well as the hardest to accomplish. “Song For Jake” is a reminder of this delicate balance for us all.


Riding Fences                                             Chris LeDoux

A real cowboy who sang about that sort of life with a special authenticity, Chris LeDoux left this mortal life way too soon. But in the meantime, he shared so much of worth with the rest of us, including this song. It was as if he was writing his own epitaph, as well as so many others made from the same clay. My youngest brother was one of those; we lost him only this last year. Sometimes, when the shadows are just right, I think I catch him out of the corner of my eye, still riding fences.


“The Time To Decide”                                  poem recital by Ben H. English

This poem was written nigh a hundred years ago by the greatest cowboy poet of all Bruce Kiskaddon. It comes to mind while prowling the lower Big Bend, most of all at such majestic spots as the South Rim of the Chisos.





Ben H. English is an eighth-generation Texan who grew up in the Big Bend. At seventeen he joined the Marines, ultimately becoming a chief scout-sniper as well as a platoon sergeant. Later he worked counterintelligence and traveled to over thirty countries. 
At Angelo State University he graduated Magna Cum Laude along with other honors. Afterwards Ben had a career in the Texas Highway Patrol, holding several instructor billets involving firearms, driving, and defensive tactics.
His intimate knowledge of what he writes about lends credence and authenticity to his work. Ben knows how it feels to get hit and hit back, or being thirsty, cold, wet, hungry, alone, or exhausted beyond imagination. Finally, he knows of not only being the hunter but also the hunted.
Ben and his wife have two sons who both graduated from Annapolis. He still likes nothing better than grabbing a pack and some canteens and heading out to where few others venture.

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Breakfast at the Honey Creek Care Pre-Order Blitz!

BREAKFAST AT THE HONEY CREEK CAFÉ
A Honey Creek Novel
by
Jodi Thomas

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Number of Pages: 336 pages

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From Jodi Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of Mornings on Main and Indigo Lake, comes this heartwarming new novel set in Honey Creek, Texas—a small town where family bonds and legends run deep, and friendship and love are always close at hand . . .

Piper Jane Mackenzie, mayor of Honey Creek, won’t let a major scandal rip her quirky hometown apart or jeopardize her dream of one day running for higher office. So she’s willing to welcome undercover detective Colby McBride, hired to help solve the mystery behind her wannabe fiancé’s disappearance. Colby’s cover? That he is an old boyfriend now begging Piper for a second chance—always when there are plenty of townsfolk around to witness his shenanigans.
Piper hardly knows whether to laugh or cry, especially when she finds herself drawn to the handsome rascal. He’s not the only newcomer she has to deal with. There’s a new interim preacher in town, Sam Cassidy. Drifting from one assignment to another since his one love died, Sam isn’t sure he’s the right fit for Honey Creek. But as Piper knows, this is a place chock-full of surprises. And if she can keep her town—and her heart—from going completely off the rails, there may be a sweet, unexpected future in store . . .

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With millions of books in print, Jodi Thomas is both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty novels and countless short story collections. Her stories travel through the past and present days of Texas and draw readers from around the world.
In July 2006, Jodi was the eleventh writer to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. With five RITAs to her credit, along with National Readers’ Choice Awards and Booksellers’ Best Awards, Thomas has proven her skill as a master storyteller.
 
Thomas was honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas and served sixteen years as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.
 
When not working on a novel, or inspiring students to pursue writing careers, Thomas enjoys traveling with her family, renovating an historic home, and “checking up” on two grown sons and four grandchildren.

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Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze: Excerpt

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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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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

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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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Bayou City Burning

BAYOU CITY BURNING
Harry & Dizzy Lark, Book 1
by
D.B. BORTON
Mystery / Detective / Humor / Historical Publisher: Boomerang Books
Date of Publication: May 30, 2019
Number of Pages: 390
Houston, 1961: comedy meets mystery and history. It’s hard to be hard-boiled when your biggest fan and worst critic is your twelve-year-old daughter, especially when she’s cracking your case for you and defending you from the bad guys, along with sidekicks human and feline. Houston is still a cowboy backwater, but Texas politicians dream big. P.I. Harry Lark is out to save the city for President Kennedy’s moon mission. Dizzy Lark is out to save Harry. Jani Brooks of Romance Reviews Today calls Bayou City Burning “a terrific mystery loaded with humor, lots of excitement, and fascinating, well written characters” and rates it “a Perfect 10 book.”
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Visit D.B. Borton’s website to read the Prologue, Chapter One, and Chapter Two of Bayou City Burning! 
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D. B. Borton is the author of two mystery series—the Cat Caliban series (Berkley, Hilliard and Harris) and the Gilda Liberty series (Fawcett)—as well as the recent novels Second Coming, Smoke, and Bayou City Burning (all from Boomerang Books). She is Professor Emeritus of English at Ohio Wesleyan University. A native Texan, Borton became an ardent admirer of Nancy Drew at a young age. At the age of fourteen, she acquired her own blue roadster, trained on the freeways of Houston and the broad stretches of oil-endowed Texas highway, and began her travels. She also began a lifetime of political activism, working only for political candidates who lost. She left Texas at about the time everyone else arrived. In graduate school, Borton converted a lifetime of passionate reading and late-night movie-watching into a doctorate in English. She discovered that people would pay her to discuss literature and writing, although not much. But because she found young people interesting and entertaining and challenging, she became a college teacher, and survived many generations of college students. Later, during a career crisis, she discovered that people would pay her to tell stories, although even less than they would pay her to discuss stories written by someone else. Borton has lived in the Southwest and Midwest, and on the West Coast, where she has planted roses and collected three degrees in English without relinquishing her affection for the ways in which actual speakers constantly reinvent the language to meet their needs. In her spare time, she gardens, practices aikido, studies languages other than English, and, of course, watches movies and reads.
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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.

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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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