Monday, November 9, 2020

Interview with Danielle Martin, author of Glimmer As You Can (Alcove Press)

Martin, Danielle. 2020. Glimmer As You Can. New York, NY: Alcove Press, a division of Crooked Lane Books. ISBN: 978-1643855233. $26.99 USD

Book Description and Reviews

Welcome to the Starlite. Let your true self shine.
1962. In the middle of Brooklyn Heights sits the Starlite: boutique dress shop by day, underground women's club by night. Started by the shop's proprietor after her marriage crumbled, Madeline's social club soon becomes a safe haven for women from all walks of life looking for a respite from their troubled relationships and professional frustrations. These after-hour soirées soon bring two very different women into Madeline's life--Elaine, a British ex-pat struggling to save her relationship, and Lisa, a young stewardess whose plans for the future are suddenly upended--irrevocably changing all three women's lives in ways no one could have predicted.

But when Madeline's ne'er-do-well ex-husband shows up again, the luster of Starlite quickly dampens. As the sisterhood rallies around Madeline, tension begins to eat at the club. When an unspeakable tragedy befalls their sorority, one woman must decide whether to hide the truth from the group or jeopardize her own hopes and dreams. Glimmer As You Can captures the heartbeat of an era and the ambitions of a generation of women living in a man's world--a world threatened by a wave of change.
In the glitz and glamour tradition of Beatriz Williams's Tiny Little Thing and Fiona Davis's The Chelsea Girls, Danielle Martin's debut is "a love letter to...women" (Greer Macallister, The Magician's Lie) that illustrates the courage of women and the strength of sisterhood.
"A timely and beautiful story of female friendship and strength." ~ Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Queen's Fortune "Martin deftly and exquisitely captures this historical moment." ~Jillian Cantor, USA Today bestselling author of In Another Time
Author Interview
I'm so pleased to have Danielle Martin, author of Glimmer As You Can on my blog today! Danielle is a debut author whose book is being published on November 10, 2020 by Alcove Press. Let's get started.

Danielle, how did you come up with the idea for your book?
It was a long journey and an indirect path. Around fifteen years ago, a family member told me about his visit to a late-night barbershop in Brooklyn. I don’t think he shared many details from his experience, but this idea of a late-night barbershop seemed delightfully unexpected and ripe with story possibilities. After our conversation, I scrawled down the idea as an entry in my “ideas portfolio” where I warehoused seeds for creative projects.

Flash forward to 2014—I was interested in writing a novel that focused on women’s experiences during the liminal period between the “Leave it to Beaver ‘50’s” and the “Woodstock wild ‘60’s.” But I needed a setting. For inspiration, I flipped through my “ideas portfolio,” pausing on the nugget about the late-night barbershop in Brooklyn. I had this image in mind of a late-night social setting, buzzing with activity in a commercial district that was otherwise stilled for the night. I decided to change the barbershop into a women’s social club, an “underground”
group that would gather during the night in a central character’s dress boutique. 
Are your characters based on people you’ve known or are they entirely new creations?
They’re new creations; I was following my curiosity about women’s experiences in certain roles. I wanted to know more about the lives of flight attendants, especially during the early sixties when that role was glamorized on billboards. 

I was also curious about what it felt like to be a woman with aspirations in the field of journalism during the early sixties. The newsroom of a major New York newspaper seemed like it would be a tough professional environment, and I wanted to write about a woman trying to gain a foothold in that arena.
Where did the title Glimmer As You Can come from?
I didn’t have the title immediately, but I had this imagery in mind of the Starlite (the social club in the book). I created the Starlite as a beacon—a gathering place where women could feel free to enjoy themselves and toss aside their many struggles. The title came to me after I wrote an early scene where Lisa (the flight attendant) was leaving the Starlite for the first time. She was treading with caution down the snowy sidewalk as streetlights glinted off the ice crystals, and I considered her feelings of freedom and fear, all alone in this neighborhood at night—her mixed feelings after such an eye-opening experience at the Starlite. 
What was the most challenging part of writing the book?

Originally, the book was in first person POV. I believe that the book was originally also in present tense. I completed a number of drafts in 1st person present; but eventually, I switched it over to 3rd person past tense, in a painstaking process which entailed picking over thousands of words. That was definitely the most challenging part! Also, working through material in dozens of drafts is an immense challenge; sometimes, my best insights came from working out the material on paper. It’s a slow route that requires patience, but it can be helpful for those crucial scenes. 
Did you always know you wanted to write a book or did it come gradually?

I always wanted to write a book—I can remember sitting on the floor behind the coffee table in my living room at age 8 or 9, writing a long story with chapters. 
What was the first book or story you read that had an impact on you?

Maybe it was the Phantom Tollbooth. I loved the premise of escaping “the doldrums” through challenges of the imagination and intellect. 
What’s the strangest thing you had to research for your book?
There’s a scene where Elaine is making scalloped potatoes, and I was determined that this would be the recipe she would want to make for her fiancĂ©. I tried to find a magazine from that time period, so I could say that “Elaine made a new scalloped potatoes recipe from ____ magazine,” but after spending hours trying to find this specific recipe in a magazine from early 1962, I decided to omit any references to a magazine title.
What are you working on now?
I’m developing an idea that takes place in the early 1920’s. For the foreseeable future, I want to continue writing books about women’s experiences in the twentieth century. It was a century of such rapid change—I feel the need to keep exploring these underpinnings to our current century.
I love that you are focusing on this era, and will look forward to reading your next book. Thanks for being on my blog today, Danielle, and good luck with Glimmer As You Can!

Find Danielle's debut at your favorite local book seller, or the links at the below online retailers.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Book Review: Morrigan's Blood, Book One in the Crow's Curse Series by Laura Bickle


Bickle, Laura. 2020. Morrigan's Blood. Syrenka Publishing, LLC. (eBook only) ASIN: B08B9TJ4V9. 

I've been a fan of the books written by YA and Adult fantasy author Laura Bickle since reading her Wildlands series, starting with Dark Alchemy, a few years ago (see my review here). It's a very unique contemporary dark fantasy world, so I had high hopes when I found this new series mentioned last week on the author's Twitter account (@Laura_Bickle). The three books in the series are scheduled to be released once a month, in September, October, and November, and after reading the first one, I've pre-ordered Book Two. Morrigan's Blood opens the series, which is an interesting take on the the Irish Morrigan mythology, set alternately in ancient and contemporary times. 

The Morrigan is mainly associated with war and fate, especially with foretelling doom, death, or victory in battle, and in this role often appears as a crow (Wikipedia). The author seems to have done an excellent job of mining the mythology in writing the series. At the beginning of the story, set in ancient times, we meet The Morrigan and witness her power in battle. She has granted her favors to various kings over the centuries in return for blood. In this re-telling, the original Morrigan is also a vampire, known as Queen of the Night, and she relishes in blood (a quick caveat: there is a lot of blood in this book, so if that isn't your thing, just a content warning, though I think it worked well with the story line). 

In contemporary times, we meet Garnet Conners, an assertive and talented trauma surgeon who has a birthmark that looks like a crow on her shoulder. We find out that crows have been leaving her little gifts since she was a child, though she never knew why. When the severely injured patient Garnet is operating on launches off the operating table and disappears into the night, Dr. Conners finds herself caught in a war between the vampires and witches in her city that she knew nothing about.

The book has a dual timeline, with scenes from The Morrigan's life centuries ago appearing as dreams to present-day Garnet, though she doesn't understand them at first. But she meets a man from the dreams one evening, and her whole life is upended: for she possesses the blood of The Morrigan, and both the witches and vampires want her on their side. 

The characters are fully fleshed out, the dialogue is seamless, and the pace is unrelenting once the story takes off. I really loved the addition of the crows and the impact of their appearance in both timelines, and appreciated that echo back to the Wildlands series. The book ends with a satisfying climax for the original story, but also somewhat of a cliffhanger, leaving the reader wanting to know what happens next in this exciting and fresh dark fantasy take on Irish mythology.  4.5 Stars ⭐

I recommend Morrigan's Blood for those who enjoy urban and dark fantasy novels with strong female main characters, such as those by Faith Hunter, Ilona Andrews, Patrica Briggs and Seanan McGuire.

The next two eBooks in the series are Morrigan's Bite, coming October 23, 2020 and Morrigan's Bond, available November 19, 2020, which I have not read - but am looking forward to. 

(click on images for more info)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Book Review: A Delightful Little Book on Aging by Stephanie Raffelock ~ Lone Star Literary Book Blog Tour

Stephanie Raffelock
Genre: Inspirational / Spiritual / Essays / Self-Help 
  Publisher: She Writes Press 
  Publication Date: April 28, 2020 
  Number of Pages: 119 pages 
  Scroll down for the giveaway!

All around us, older women flourish in industry, entertainment, and politics. Do they know something that we don’t, or are we all just trying to figure it out? For so many of us, our hearts and minds still feel that we are twenty-something young women who can take on the world. But in our bodies, the flexibility and strength that were once taken for granted are far from how we remember them. Every day we have to rise above the creaky joints and achy knees to earn the opportunity of moving through the world with a modicum of grace.  Yet we do rise, because it’s a privilege to grow old, and every single day is a gift. Peter Pan’s mantra was, “Never grow up”; our collective mantra should be, “Never stop growing.” This collection of user-friendly stories, essays, and philosophies invites readers to celebrate whatever age they are with a sense of joy and purpose and with a spirit of gratitude.

PRAISE for A Delightful Little Book on Aging:
“Where are the elders? The wise women, the crones, the guardians of truth here to gently, lovingly, and playfully guide us towards the fulfillment of our collective destiny? It turns out that they are right here, in our midst, and Stephanie Raffelock is showcasing the reclamation of aging as a moment of becoming, no longer a dreaded withering into insignificance. A Delightful Little Book on Aging lays down new and beautiful tracks for the journey into our richest, deepest, and wildest years.” – Kelly Brogan, MD, author of the New York Times bestseller A Mind of Your Own
“A helpful, uplifting work for readers handling the challenges of growing older.” – Kirkus Reviews

CLICK TO PURCHASE:   Amazon ┃ IndieBound  

I am the right demographic for this slim, "delightful" book, so I was pleased to have an opportunity to read and review it for a book blog tour. At 56, I am headed downhill rather than uphill in life, but it doesn't mean that my life is any less significant or that I have less to offer the world. As a matter of fact, the wisdom that comes with aging is a positive in my life; as Stephanie Raffelock writes, "you gain things even as you lose youth."

Filled with pithy sayings, thought-provoking prose, and short autobiographical essays, A Delightful Little Book on Aging is quintessentially quotable and contains numerous ideas about "peering over the precipice of older age" and deciding to live life as fully engaged as one can.

The author contemplates aging through the lens of 4 areas: Grief, Reclamation, Vision, and Laughter, and the structure of the book follows these four sections in examining the aging process. It's hard not to quote the whole book, but here are a few thoughts that really resonated with me.

Grief: "...the threshold of loss is only the beginning of a remarkable journey. It is a journey that must be claimed for oneself, lest we get stuck in mourning what once was."

Reclamation: "Saying no doesn't mean I don't care about others; it means I'm a human being with limitations, and I'm willing to take care of myself in order to live a life of balance."

Vision: "The vision of the older years belongs to a wiser, deepened soul, steeped in wonder and delight for life."

Laughter: "Aging is a strange new journey, a time of humbling and a time to laugh, a time to be wise and a time to remember childlike wonder."

Reading this book caused me to frequently pause and ponder, relating the words to my own life of love and loss and longing. I'm left with a feeling of encouragement, and even anticipation, for what the future holds. I want to view the next part of my life the way the author does. She says, "I hold this season of life as a time when I am becoming everything that I was ever intended to be - more loving, lovable, creative, engaged, and joyful" and wanting to "live it to the very end, with feeling and gusto."

This book will be on a gift list for some of my friends and family. It will be a blessing to them.

Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Stephanie Raffelock is the author of A Delightful Little Book on Aging  (She Writes Press, April 2020). A graduate of Naropa University’s program in Writing and Poetics, she has penned articles for numerous publications, including the Aspen Times, the Rogue Valley Messenger, Nexus Magazine, Omaha Lifestyles,, and Stephanie is part of the positive-aging movement, which encourages viewing age as a beautiful and noble passage, the fruition of years that birth wisdom and deep gratitude for all of life.  She’s a recent transplant to Austin, Texas, where she enjoys life with her husband, Dean, and their Labrador retriever, Jeter (yes, named after the great Yankee shortstop). 
  Website ║ Facebook Instagram ║ Amazon ---------------------------------
TWO WINNERS: Signed hardcover copy of A Delightful Little Book on Aging + a set of 50 pocket inspirations ONE WINNER: A set of 50 pocket inspirations JULY 7-19, 2020
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Friday, July 3, 2020

TV Show Suggestions

What's Worth Watching?

Last week on Twitter I asked for some suggestions for older TV shows I may have missed. I tend to enjoy British and Australian shows, American crime, comedy, mystery, etc.  I received some great responses, so I decided to put them in a blog post. Maybe you will find a new show, too! There are certainly a lot of good ones to choose from, based on titles others suggested. I tried to categorize them by the streaming service which offers them, but I may not have gotten it all correct! So, here goes.


The Listener
New Amsterdam
Carnival Row
Mad Men
Upload (TV-MA)
Doc Martin
Scott & Bailey
Loch Ness
The Durells in Corfu
The Capture
The Tunnel
The Missing
Silent Witness
The Marvels Miss Maisel
The Man in the High Castle
Lie to Me
The Americans
Modern Love
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Good Omens
Our Girl
Sneaky Pete
Spirited (Australian)
Love My Way (Australian)
The Secret Life of Us (Australian)
The Expanse
Jack Ryan


The Tudors (TV-MA)
Hollywood (TV-MA)
Dead to Me (lots of votes for this one)
The Woods
Mr. Selfridge (movie)
Self-Made (based on the life of C.J. Walker)
The English Game
Last Tango in Halifax
Offspring (Australian)
The Five, Safe, The Stranger (based on books by Harlen Coben)
Kim's Convenience
Loch Ness
Call the Midwife
Designated Survivor
Anne with and E
Never Have I Ever
Virgin River (based on the book series by Robyn Carr)
American Horror Story
Schitt$ Creek
Black Spot
Sweet Magnolias
Space Force
Madame Secretary
Shtisel (Israeli)
When Heroes Fly (Israeli) 
Fauda (Israeli)
Heart of Dixie
Manhunt: Unabomber
Grand Designs
The World's Most Extraordinary Homes

11.22.63 (Stephen King)
His Dark Materials
Taboo (TV-MA - naked Tom Hardy, so I'm told lol)!
The Great (TV-MA)


Rake (legal drama)
Brokenwood Mysteries
Slings and Arrows 
Murdock Mysteries




Rosemary & Thyme

NBC (Free to Stream with commercials)

Baptiste (7 day trial on Amazon)
World On Fire


Paramount Network 
68 Whiskey

Sue Jackson included a couple blog posts with more shows she has reviewed here: as well as a Summer 2020 Preview here:

Hope you can find something new to watch, when you aren't reading a good book.

Happy Viewing!

Book Review: August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones

Jones, Stephen Mack. 2017. August Snow. New York, NY: Soho Press.
 ISBN 9781616958688. $15.95 U.S.D.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 stars*

I have a new book boyfriend: his name is August Snow. I met him in June, 2020, when he charmed me with his witty dialogue, snarky attitude, strong moral centeredness, and empathetic actions on behalf of underdogs, or anyone, really, he felt strongly needed help. Luckily he appears in two more books, Lives Laid Away, available now, and Dead of Winter, coming in May, 2021.

August Octavio Snow, half Black, half Mexican, grew up in the Mexicantown area of Detroit. He is a retired veteran and a former police officer with the Detroit Police Department. When he exposes high level corruption within the department and city council, he is fired from his job. A wrongful dissmissal settlement nets him $12 million dollars, and after spending some time traveling, drinking, and escaping his troubles, he settles back into his childhood home, working on updating not only his house, but the neighborhood itself.

When he is asked by a blue-blooded society woman to investigate some shennanigans at the bank she owns, he declines since he is no longer an officer of the law. But when the woman is killed the next day, August's moral center won't allow him to let it go. And as he investigates the killing we are introduced to a wide variety of unique characters and conversations that just make this book sing. In addition, the descriptions and history of Detroit make the setting a character itself in the novel.

Not often do I read a crime novel that surprises me so much with unique characters, captivating prose, and an unexpected resolution to the story.  The last time was probably Matthew Goldman's debut, Gone to Dust. I am also a fan of an Indie author, Jesse Miles, who created a wonderful main character in his Jack Salvo series, which begins with Dead Drop.  Because I am always all about the characters in books I read (along with excellent writing), I tend to appreciate those like August Snow and others who are street-smart, quick-thinking, resolute, and feel morally obligated to do the right thing, even though it's often challenging to do so.

You don't have to accept my opinion and review of the book; August Snow also has the honors listed below:

Starred reviews from Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus and others
Winner of the Hammett Prize for Crime Fiction
Winner of the 2018 Nero Award
Nominated for the 2018 Shamus Award for Best First Private Eye Novel
Strand Magazine Critics Award Best First Novel Nominee
A 2018 Michigan Notable Book.

* This is a 5 star read for me, but one-half star is removed for excessive profanity, which not everyone enjoys. I give 5 stars to books I can recommend without any reservaton whatsover, but do know that some people prefer not to read so much cussin' in their books!

Hope you find something good to read, and if this debut sounds like something you'd enjoy, I hope you will check it out.

Happy Reading and wear a mask!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Book Review and Giveaway: Full Circle, a Memoir by Pamela Lombana ~ Lone Star Literary Book Blog Tour

Genre:  Memoir / Domestic Abuse / Forgiveness 
  Publisher: Wordfall Publishing
Date of Publication: December 5, 2019
Number of Pages: 217
   Scroll down for the giveaway!

Alcoholism and domestic abuse creep silently into people’s lives, shattering dreams. For Pamela Lombana, the excitement of marriage turned into paralyzing fear as alcohol became her husband’s best friend. Surviving the daily physical and emotional abuse was the norm for her and their children. Full Circle tells the story of how love and God’s abiding grace helped Pamela find the strength to leave her husband, Fernando. During this journey, healing and forgiveness allowed her and the children to be there for him when he needed them the most.

Although I mainly read only fiction these days, when I saw the description of this memoir by Pamela Lombana I knew I wanted the opportunity to learn more about it. I have known a number of people who have lived through similar experiences, but were never able to talk about them in such a way. When I read the introduction, written by the author's adult daughter, Christina, it reminded me of something that I've come to believe myself: our experiences, both good and bad, can define who we become, but they can also help us make decisions about who we want to be.

In the introduction, Christina writes: "Life is not just black and white; humans are not simply good or evil. In every person, there is the capacity for good and the capacity for evil. Our lives are defined by the choices we make [emphasis mine]. Some decisions are more harmless...but other choices can start you down the path toward self destruction."

Pamela Lombana's husband, Fernando, had many demons chasing him, resulting from an abusive childhood and later, alcohol addiction. The way that the author writes her story, with tenderness and grace, swept me into the lives of her family and the joys and struggles they experienced. For there were good times in her early marriage and she experienced many delights as a mother to her children.

For someone who is not an addict herself, the author has so much wisdom about the disease of alcoholism, and gives it a stunning anthropomorphic description in the chapter called Alcohol: "Alcohol comes into your life slowly. When you are young, he knocks at the door politely. Once you let him in and he feels comfortable, he wants to stay. He brings laughter and tears, you think he brings courage, but in reality, he brings chaos, unless you can stop him. He can become the unwanted guest in your house."

Fernando was also verbally and emotionally abusive, the seeds of this behavior beginning in his own childhood. At times, some of the descriptions were hard for me to read. Full Circle is an incredible story of the way generational abuse is passed down, and how important it is to break that cycle. Pamela writes poignantly, "Slowly, my marriage had become a quartet: Alcohol, Fear, Fernando, and me. While Alcohol was Fernando's companion, Fear had become mine." My heart breaks for the children who live in such homes, and the scars they carry forever because of it.

Ultimately, Pamela finds the emotional resources to leave her husband, taking her children with her, and starting over. The struggles she endured as a single mother are not unique - this happens so many times to so many women. But the way the author continued to encourage her children, to have hope, to bring wisdom to their lives, is one of the best parts of her story. This memoir came about from journal entries the author made over the course of her marriage, and one that resonated with me was this: "In life, everyone has their own struggles to fight and their own battles to win. I hope I can give my children the tools to do this." I also remember having these same thoughts as I was raising my own two sons, realizing I needed different tools to be a better mom.

Most surprising to me, and so powerfully written, are the parts of the story where the author helps her ex-husband as he nears the end of his life, dying from chronic alcoholism. She works hard at forgiveness, both for herself and her children, and they each manage to find peace with Fernando, who finally, at the end, realizes the damage he has done to his family. It moved me to tears.

Reading about one woman's journey through such difficulties, who came out stronger, wiser, and more empathetic as a result, was an encouraging and powerful experience. I'll never regret having read it. 

Pamela Lombana grew up in Colombia, South America, and emigrated to the United States to attend university. In 1999, Pamela became a pediatric nurse practitioner and went on to run a pediatric clinic in Spring Branch, Texas. Pamela loves working with families and children and focuses on educating her patients and their families. Pamela values strong family ties and friendships. She has three children and four stepchildren. Writing is a passion that started in Pamela's teenage years. She enjoys being amongst nature and loves to go hiking with her husband, Mark. Pamela is passionate about empowering women and providing them with tools to navigate life through her book, Full Circle: A Memoir, her blog, and Wordfall Publishing. Pamela wrote her memoir to offer hope and courage to women experiencing alcoholic and abusive situations.
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