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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Bilxoi by Mary Miller


Biloxi: A Novel by [Miller, Mary]
Miller, Mary. Biloxi. 2019. New York, NY: Liveright Publishing, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN  978-1631492167 $24.95 USD

A book about a curmudgeonly gentleman and a quirky dog? How could I NOT want to read this one? And I'm thankful to the library marketing department at W.W. Norton for sending me a print galley, which I devoured.

When a divorced sexagenarian turns his car in a different direction to avoid seeing his ex-wife one day and finds himself deciding to adopt an overweight female dog with soulful eyes and a gagging problem, his life will never be the same. We join Louis as he begins to look at himself and his world in new ways, with his rescue dog Layla along for the ride (and the bologna).

I found myself pausing many times over passages in this book, even highlighting quite a few, as they offered wisdom and insight I wasn't expecting from a tale such as this. I will look forward to recommending this one, as it deals with issues of aging, loss, family conflict, and, of course, what animals can add to our lives.

Below is a Tweet I posted as I was reading Biloxi, along with a video of my well-read and well-loved galley.


Happy Reading!


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Night Before ~ Wendy Walker


The Night Before: A Novel by [Walker, Wendy]

Walker, Wendy. 2019. The Night Before. St. Martin's Press, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-1250198679 $26.99 USD

As someone who enjoyed author Wendy Walker's prior two novels, All Is Not Forgotten and Emma in the Night, I was grateful to have an opportunity to read an e-galley of her new book The Night Before well in advance of publication. I had to check this author's bio to see if she was a psychologist in another life (not!), because her handling of the psychological aspects of her novels is done so well.

The Night Before starts out with brief notes from a therapy session, so we know right away that there are "issues" being dealt with by at least one of the characters. Laura Heart has returned to her hometown to live with her sister while recovering from a bad breakup. She wants to get her life back together and find love like her sister has found. But something happened in that town many years ago when Laura was in high school, and as we continue to read we start to wonder what kind of person Laura really is....

Non-linear timelines and dual narratives (by Laura and her sister, Rosie) are used to tell this story - with brief snippets from therapy sessions that heighten the already palpable tension. It takes quite a bit of talent, in my opinion, for an author to craft a complex plot like the one in The Night Before in such a way that the reader feels so rewarded at the end.

This is a true tale of psychological suspense. Readers won't be disappointed.

Monday, May 13, 2019

THE LITTLE TEASHOP ON MAIN by Jodi Thomas ~ Author Interview ~ Lone Star Literary Book Blog Tour

THE LITTLE TEASHOP
ON MAIN
by
Jodi Thomas
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction / Coming of Age
Publisher: HQN
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Number of Pages: 336 pages
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A rainy-day ritual—a tea party between three little girls—becomes the framework of not only their friendship, but their lives. Blonde, curly-haired Zoe is openhearted, kind and free-spirited, and dreams of becoming a famous actor in New York City. Shy Emily struggles with mental health but has the heart and soul of a writer. And Shannon—tall, athletic, strong—has a deep sense of loyalty that will serve her well when she heads off to military college. As Zoe, Emily, and Shannon grow into women—forging careers, following dreams, and finding love—they’ll learn that life doesn’t always unfold the way they want it to, but through it all, the one constant is each other and their regular tea parties. And when the unthinkable happens, the girls must come together to face the greatest test of all.  A deeply moving novel about the family that raises us, the hearts that nurture us, and the great friendships that define our lives. 

PRAISE FOR THE LITTLE TEASHOP ON MAIN: "Heart-wrenching as well as heartwarming, the book reflects the experiences of these seven multifaceted and compelling characters as they journey through challenging years together." -- NY Journal of Books “A comforting treasure for regular Thomas readers who enjoy the easy flow of her writing, a little steamy romance to spice things up, and the development of vulnerable, realistic characters.” -- Booklist


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Jodi Thomas
Interview and Comments
on The Little Teashop on Main

What was the inspiration for The Little Teashop on Main?

When I first began to write The Little Teashop on Main, I knew I wanted to tell the story of a man who loved three women. There are many kinds of love in this world and all can be true.

Jack grew up in the small town of Laurel Springs. As a six-year-old, he watched as three little girls had a princess tea party before they started kindergarten. Little does Jack know that these women will mold his life in the years to come.

Can you provide some insight into The Little Teashop on Main and the writing process?

I often say that, as a writer, I don’t spend time trying to piece a plot together.  It’s more like I sit down in my study and wait for the people in my stories to come to me.  In my mind they walk in, take a seat and tell me their story.  With Tea, it seemed a crowd walked in and they all wanted to tell me their story: a story of friendship so deep it lasts a lifetime, a man strong enough to care profoundly about three women… loving one, befriending one, and protecting one. I piece together lives and show how important the people we get to know and love influence our actions.With many of my stories, the secondary characters tend to stand up and yell their stories.  That happened in Tea.  Alex and Mack were the single parents of two of the girls and they had a story to tell. I loved Mack because he was one on those dear people that others count on.  A quiet hero.

What drew you to write about the friendship between Emily, Zoe, and Shannon?

As I wrote The Little Teashop on Main, I realized how lucky a few of us are if we have one or two friends we keep for a lifetime. My three little girls form a bond at five that shelters and grounds them in good times and bad.

A note about Laurel Springs: 

The Little Teashop on Main is the second book I’ve set in Laurel Springs. Mornings on Main was my first and has been very successful.  With the first, I stepped into the quilting world to do my research and am having a grand time meeting quilters across the country.  Though I have many quilters in my family, I don’t quilt. My mother loved the art. She lived long enough to read my first novel and she once said, “Jodi, you quilt with words.”

Tell us about the release of The Little Teashop on Main:

I’ll be touring with Tea this spring, and I’m looking forward to stepping into the world of tea parties.  People often ask me how I pick where I travel. I’m sure some writers map it out by region, but for me it’s more like where interest takes me. I once did a tour in Oregon because a bookstore owner wrote me a letter saying her mother would “have a cat” if I came to their store. I figured I’d check it out. Didn’t see the cat birth but did meet some delightful people.

So, walk with me though Laurel Springs.  Get to know my people. Stay a while.  I promise, when you close the book and leave my little town in Texas, you’ll smile.

Final Note:

One cold day in March, I walked through the sunroom where my granddaughters often play.  I stopped as the real world touched my writing world. There the girls were, wearing their hand-me-down ladies’ hats and gloves, having tea and cookies. The tea cups might have been full of juice, and the cookies were raided from my stash of Girl Scout cookies, but the ritual was there. 

For a moment I didn’t see two little girls; I saw them in college having tea and talking about their lives. I saw them as mothers relaxing on the patio as their kids play.  At that moment I realized that the simple rituals we share bind us together.

Their tea set was an old one I found at a garage sale, but my little Harper pointed at the fine English tea set on the top shelf. “When I’m thirteen, I’m getting that one down, Gram.”
And she will, I have no doubt.




With millions of books in print, Jodi Thomas is both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 45 novels and 14 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 11th writer to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. With five RITA’s to her credit, along with National Readers’ Choice Awards and Booksellers’ Best Awards, Thomas has proven her skill as a master storyteller.
Honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, Thomas enjoys interacting with students at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, where she currently serves as Writer in Residence.
When not working on a novel, or inspiring students to pursue writing careers, Thomas enjoys traveling with her husband, renovating an historic home, and “checking up” on their grown sons and four grandchildren.


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Sunday, May 5, 2019

Book Review: The Shadow Writer by Eliza Maxwell ~ Lone Star Literary Book Blog Tour

THE SHADOW WRITER
by
ELIZA MAXWELL

Genre:  Psychological Suspense / Domestic Thriller
Publisher: Lake Union Press
Date of Publication: May 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 348
Scroll down for the giveaway!



Every writer has a story. Some are deadlier than others. 
Aspiring author Graye Templeton will do anything to escape the horrific childhood crime that haunts her. After a life lived in shadows, she’s accepted a new job as protégé to Laura West, influential book blogger and wife of an acclaimed novelist. Laura’s connections could make Graye’s publishing dreams a reality. But there’s more to Laura than meets the eye. 
Behind the veneer of a charmed life, Laura’s marriage is collapsing. Her once-lauded husband is descending into alcoholism and ruin and bringing Laura nearer to the edge. 
As the two women form a bond that seems meant to be, long-buried secrets claw their way into the present, and the line between friendship and obsession begins to blur, forcing each to decide where her loyalties lie. Running from the past is a dangerous game, and the loser could end up dead.

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As a life-long reader and now librarian, I have read quite a few thrillers over the years. As a result, it’s not often that I’m taken by complete surprise with the plot twists in a psychological suspense novel. However, there were so many unexpected turns in The Shadow Writer by Eliza Maxwell that I felt I needed a neck brace for the whiplash when I turned the last page! This is the first that book I have read by the author, and though it's a bit of a cliche, it won't be the last. I already have The Grave Tender and The Widow's Watcher queued up on my eReader.

Narrated by multiple characters, not always named, The Shadow Writer is a little confusing at first. But I was engaged enough in the story that I just decided to go with the flow and put myself in the hands of the author to do with me what she would. Eventually the cords of the narrative, so twisted throughout the book, came unraveled and I was able to see the story clearly. The Shadow Writer is a somewhat dark story, and I know just the kinds of readers to whom I will recommend it. Fans of psychological suspense novels won’t be disappointed, so long as they know going in that they are being taken for a clever ride and are comfortable not always seeing the end of the road they are on while reading.

I didn’t notice any discernible editing issues that caused me to pause, other than that the novel is written in the present tense, which can be a bit harder to read. The author manages it fairly well, with changes in tense taking place as the narrators occasionally look into their pasts. There are some chapters in italics that work to make you question who is speaking and create tension and pace to engage the reader to continue turning the pages. The story is compelling in that the reader knows certain things about the past of the main character, Graye Templeton, but the author doesn’t tip her hand too soon in revealing everything. 

A courtroom trial is only given two lines late in the book, which was a little surprising. However, for the book length and the ultimate surprises to come, I do understand why it was necessary to write the story that way. Some chapters written as a dark fairy tale are intermixed in the narrative, and I will admit that this left me scratching my head at times; but I was having such a great time with the book that I happily just kept reading until all the threads came together in the end. 

This is a complex tale, and in the hands of a lesser writer, it might have gone off the rails. But Eliza Maxwell manages to hold the story together in such a way that the ultimate surprises, though shocking, make sense. If you like your reads dark and twisty, this one is definitely for you. I recommend.



Eliza Maxwell lives in Texas with her ever-patient husband and two kids. She's an artist and writer, an introvert, and a British cop drama addict. She loves nothing more than to hear from readers.
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