CHARLESTON CONUNDRUM by Stacy Wilder – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway


CHARLESTON CONUNDRUM

A Liz Adams Mystery
by
STACY WILDER
Cozy Mystery / Female Sleuth / Cozy Animal
Publisher: Wild Hawk Press
Series: A Liz Adams Mystery
Date of Publication: January 15, 2022
Number of Pages: 235 pages 
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A Cozy Mystery with a Twist…
Liz Adams never imagined when she moved to Charleston with her truth sniffing Labrador retriever, Duke, that she would use her skills as a private investigator to avoid winding up on Death Row.

Liz’s life is upended when her best friend, Peg, is murdered and she becomes a suspect. Liz’s gun was the murder weapon. Tensions flare between Liz and the cops as she rises to the top of their suspect list.

At the request of Peg’s father, Liz agrees to take on the investigation. Riding a roller coaster of emotions, Liz uncovers many secrets Peg kept from her despite being best friends. The suspects include a cast of characters: the ex-husband, the boyfriend, a coworker, several neighbors, and family members.

Charleston Conundrum takes the reader from Charleston, South Carolina to Paris and back in the emotional unraveling of Peg’s life and death to a killer ending. It is the first book in the Conundrum series.

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Methodical and surprising, Stacy Wilder’s debut cozy mystery Charleston Conundrum shows enormous potential for a long, successful run.

20220502_030139554_iOSMs. Wilder thoroughly immerses the reader in the detailed process of Liz Adams’s investigation of her best friend’s murder where she is also the prime suspect. Along with the main character, we scrutinize various suspects and get informed of their probable innocence or guilt all the while experiencing daily life in the fascinating city of Charleston, South Carolina. The city totally comes alive through Ms. Wilder’s extensive description of the food, the weather, the fashion, and the establishments. The same marvelous sense of place is showcased in the scenes that take place in Paris. I may have said oh là là a couple of times while reading.

The cast of named characters is numerous but they’re distinct and recognizable. At no time did I get confused about who is who and I admire Ms. Wilder for that. I also admire the author’s skill in keeping the identity of the killer hidden until the end. I had a suspicion about the why but not the who. The double tragedy of the answers to those questions saddened me greatly.

20220501_053906324_iOSOverall, I like the procedural aspect of the storytelling. I also like the diversity of characters and expect the inclusion of more underrepresented groups in future books. It could use a bit more build-up of tension, fewer mentions of brand names, expansion of Liz’s lab Duke’s role in the investigation, and less telling of deep emotions. Finally, I hope to see a progression of the romance introduced in this first book.

It’s a promising start.

Thanks to Lone Star Lit for giving me the opportunity to read and review Charleston Conundrum. I appreciate the gift of a paperback copy for my growing library.

4 out of 5 stars



Stacy writes mysteries, children’s stories, short stories, and poetry. Her debut novel, Charleston Conundrum, is the first in the Conundrum mystery series.

Stacy’s mission is to deliver a delightful story to readers of all ages while benefiting a larger community. She donates a portion of the proceeds from the sales of her books to causes that support wildlife conservation, and the homeless, both people and pets. A portion of the proceeds from Charleston Conundrum is donated to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

As well as writing, Stacy is passionate about her faith, family, Labradors, the causes that she supports, the beach, art, and reading books.

She and her husband live in Houston, Texas, with a totally spoiled Labrador retriever, Eve.
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COMFORT ZONE by Kimberly Fish–Book Blog Tour: Reviewapalooza and Giveaway

COMFORT ZONE
A Comfort Stories Book
by
KIMBERLY FISH
Genre: Contemporary / Second Chance Romance / Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Fish Tales Publishing
Date of Publication: November 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 289 pages 
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The award-winning author of Comfort Songs, Comfort Plans, and Comfort Foods digs into the life of single-mom Anna Weber, an appraiser who gives value to other people’s found treasures. On assignment to research a handwritten sheet of music, Anna helps a stranded motorist, only to discover she’s rescued retired NFL quarterback Jack Moses. His confidence and fascination for solving problems makes him impossible for Anna to ignore even as they both dart along separate deadlines to save the finances at an inner-city school. Little does Anna know that as she wrestles with secrets from her past and a suspicious approach to people, Jack is running too—dodging women, pro athletes, and a future with no definable end zone.
As a nemesis threatens Anna’s young daughters, these two unlikely partners discover that it’s in stepping back from years of self-sufficiency that Anna and Jack can find the best treasure of all: a series of sweet, second chances.
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PRAISE & AWARDS
“Kimberly Fish’s Comfort books are wonderful, charming stories set in the Texas Hill Country. Fans of small towns family relationships will enjoy these feel-good books. Two thumbs up!” – Jan Moran, USA Today bestselling author of Seabreeze Inn.
Comfort Zone is a Literary Titan Gold Award winner and a Reader Views Bronze Award winner in romance. It was also a runner-up in the regional fiction category of the New England Book Festival awards.
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Perfectly titled, Comfort Zone left me feeling a warm glow inside after reading it. With her latest book, Kimberly Fish welcomes her eager readers back to Comfort, Texas– a place of solace and support, a place where you’ll feel safe and at ease. For those reasons, Anna Weber calls it her forever home.

Not at first, though. Not until her past caught up with her and brought danger to herself and her twin daughters. What was a place to hide became special because of friends gathering around to get her back on her feet and a new man proving his worth to her with his actions, making her consider opening her heart once again.

We’re living in days not promised … We can’t treat these gifts lightly.”

While in pursuit of information to turn a handwritten sheet of music into a funding vehicle for a charter school, Anna and former NFL Quarterback Jack Moses get thrown together by chance and by well-intentioned manipulation care of Jack’s best friends Jo Jo and LaDonna. From San Antonio to Dallas to Tyler and to Comfort, the scenes showing the burgeoning attraction between Anna and Jack elicited some of the widest smiles and the most satisfied sighs from me. I loved the romance in this story. It developed naturally and was paced properly.

… you need to spend time in the workshop of your soul. It’s in getting out and doing things, serving others, that you get your real livelihood.”

One of the things I appreciate about Ms. Fish’s writing is her ability to manage a multitude of secondary characters. She gives them distinct personalities without having them overshadow the leads. Jo Jo and LaDonna are notables. As are Lacy, AJ, and Kali. For future books, I’d like to see the author explore beyond the binary. She has done so well in seamlessly incorporating a multicultural cast, I’m sure she’ll excel in further inclusion.

Live in the present because it is …”

Outstanding sense of place, compelling storyline, impeccable characterization, a wonderful balance of humor and angst. I’m grateful to Kimberly Fish and Lone Star Lit for the opportunity to review this delightful story.

4 Four-half-stars


Kimberly Fish has been a professional writer in marketing and media for over thirty years, with regular contributions to area newspapers and magazines. As an accidental historian, she wrote two novels, The Big Inch and Harmon General, both based on factual events in Longview, Texas that changed world history. Kimberly also offers a set of contemporary women’s fiction, based in the Texas Hill Country, that reveal her fascination with characters discovering their grit and sweet, second chances; all four of these novels have won distinguished awards.
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THE BABY WITH THREE FAMILIES, TWO COUNTRIES, AND ONE PROMISE–Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

  The Baby with Three Families

THE BABY WITH THREE FAMILIES,
TWO COUNTRIES, AND ONE PROMISE
An International Adoption Story
by
JULIE GIANELLONI CONNOR
Illustrated by Saman Chinthaka Weersinghe
 
Genre: Children’s Fiction / Picture Book / Adoption 
Publisher: Bayou City Press
Date of Publication: December 9, 2020
Number of Pages: 40 pages 
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The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise is a children’s book designed to be read by parents to a child adopted from a foreign country. The story is first recounted from the perspective of the parents in the USA, who are very sad not to be able to have a child. The perspective then switches to that of the biological mother, who realizes that she does not have the wherewithal to raise a child. She makes the difficult decision to give up her baby. Next readers learn about a foreign adoption agency, to which the biological mother surrenders her child. The adoption agency identifies foster parents to take care of the baby temporarily. The foster parents give the baby a temporary name. 
The parents in the USA begin researching international adoption possibilities and connect with the foreign adoption agency. The parents begin the adoption process and have to go to a school to learn how to be adoptive parents. When the foreign adoption agency matches the USA parents with the baby, the USA parents fly to the foreign country, where they meet the baby and the foster parents at the adoption agency. They find out that the temporary name given to the baby by his foster parents is one of the names they have selected for the baby. Their last requirement in the foreign country is to secure a visa for the baby from the U.S. Embassy.
With the baby’s visa in hand, the parents and baby return to the United States, where they are joyously greeted by their dog, their friends, and the baby’s new grandparents. When the parents tuck their baby in at night, they tell him his story—that he has three families, two countries, and a promise for the future to visit the country of his birth when he is older.
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PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
Children’s Picture Book First Place Winner, 2021 North Texas Book Festival Awards
“Clearly laying out some of the key reasons, factors, and steps in the emotionally complex process of overseas adoption, this book delicately explores the subject, making it a great launching point for conversations between parents and children.” Self-Publishing Review
“International adoption is a complex topic, but under the dual, in-depth focus of author Julie Gianelloni Connor and illustrator Saman Chinthaka Weerasinghe, the story comes to life to teach all ages about the emotional and organizational process involved in joining a child to new parents.” Donovan’s Literary Services
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Julie Gianelloni Connor is an award-winning author and retired senior Foreign Service Officer. Her first book, Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, not the Hike, garnered no. 1 status on Amazon in both the category for new books on hiking and walking and the category for Spain and Portugal. It subsequently went on to win a silver medal in the eLit national competition as well as being selected as a finalist by Self-Publishing Review (SPR). She released her second title, a children’s book, in 2021. It has just won first place in the children’s book category at the North Texas Book Festival. The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise tells an international adoption story. Her short stories have appeared in four anthologies. 
Julie is the owner and publisher of Bayou City Press (BCP) in Houston, Texas, which focuses on travel writing, Houston, history, and international affairs. Julie writes a weekly newsletter for BCP updating subscribers about activities. She founded BCP after spending 33 years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, first with the U.S. Information Agency and later with the U.S. Department of State. She had nine overseas assignments in seven different countries: Israel (twice), Paraguay, Guatemala, Indonesia, Colombia (twice), Malaysia, and Chile. In Washington, DC, Julie worked on a variety of matters, ranging from nuclear non-proliferation to narcotics control to women’s issues. She has one son and two cats, Halloween and Charles Augustus V. 
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With only a handful of pages, The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise tugged at my emotions and never let go until the happy end. Written in simple terms that a school-age kid can understand, this book is a perfect medium for adoptive parents to share their history to their child should they decide to do it early.
Julie Gianelloni Connor’s concise words and Saman Chinthaka Weerasinghe’s beautiful illustration combined seamlessly to tell the touching story of several people thousands of miles apart whose lives fatefully intersect because of a common goal–to give a special child a bright future.
The hardships that Jeff and Jeanette and Luz went through were conveyed gently, in a manner befitting the book’s audience and genre. The intricacies of intercountry adoption process were appropriately hinted at. All the relevant information–research, contact with agency, embassy involvement, expenses–was given as integral part of the story, evidence of the author’s expertise on the subject.
Having undergone initial steps into an international adoption process myself, I have a personal connection with this story. I’m sure numerous people could also relate and be encouraged to look into this choice of childrearing that’s why I strongly recommend this book to libraries and schools nationwide.
Huge thanks to Bayou City Press and Lone Star Lit for providing me with a copy of this special book to review.
4 Four-half-stars

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THE SPARK OF LOVE by Amanda Cabot–Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

THE SPARK OF LOVE
by
AMANDA CABOT
Categories: Fiction / Christian / Historical Romance
Series: Mesquite Springs Series, Book 3
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: March 1, 2022
Number of Pages: 352 pages 
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She’s determined to start a new life in the West . . . if only the old one would leave her alone
When a spurned suitor threatens her, heiress Alexandra Tarkington flees New York for Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country, where her father is building a hotel. But the happy reunion she envisions is not to be, as her father insists she return to New York. Instead, Alexandra carves out a niche for herself in town, teaching schoolchildren to paint and enjoying the company of Gabe Seymour, a delightful man she met on the stagecoach.
But all is not as it seems. Two men, each with his own agenda, have followed her to Mesquite Springs. And Gabe, an investigator, is searching for proof that her father is a swindler.
With so much to lose–and hide from one another–Alexandra and Gabe will have to come together if they are ever to discover whether the sparks they’ve felt from the beginning can kindle the fire of true love.
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I’ve been looking forward to The Spark of Love ever since I read the wildly intriguing teaser for it in the previous book Dreams Rekindled. I’m happy to say the entirety of it lived up to my high expectations for the third installment of this brilliant series by Amanda Cabot.

Alexandra Tarkington is the quintessential Cabot heroine–possessing of beauty, brains, and backbone. Her boldness in journeying by herself from New York to Texas, her empathy towards the motherless twins, her generosity in giving of her time and talent, and her persistence in proving her worth to her father despite his antiquated beliefs gave me reasons to admire her.

Similarly, Gabe Seymour fits the mold of a Cabot hero–capable, protective, and supportive of the heroine in whatever she wanted to achieve. I was initially worried about his deception but was reassured by his honorable actions to make it right and his instant belief in Alexandra’s integrity. I really liked that he didn’t have all the answers and he sought assistance in his search of them.

The slow build of their romance made sense in light of Gabe’s hidden purpose for being in Mesquite Springs. I really liked the wholesomeness and sweetness of their courtship, especially the double dates with Sam and Laura. The friendship that developed among these characters was another highlight of the book for me. The support system, the warmth of community, the solace of church–they’re essential to the Mesquite Springs series and they’re in full display in this book.

My only cavil about this story is the presence of too many unsympathetic characters without much dimension to them. Two villains to provide intrigue and suspense would have been plenty. Four was excessive.

I truly enjoyed this series and I’m thankful to Revell and Lone Star Lit for giving me the opportunity to review these books. As always, I’m looking forward to Ms. Cabot’s future works.

4 out of 5 stars


Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of Out of the Embers and Dreams Rekindled, as well as the Cimarron Creek Trilogy and the Texas Crossroads, Texas Dreams, and Westward Winds series. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming.

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THE YES DARE by Kathleen Y’Barbo – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

THE YES DARE

A Pies, Books
& Jesus Club Novel
by
KATHLEEN Y’BARBO
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: July 15, 2021
Number of Pages: 246 pages 
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Have you ever wished for a second chance to fix something you’ve messed up or for the courage to say yes to something that just may change your life? Sometimes saying yes to the last thing you want can mean saying yes to exactly what you need.

Ryan “The Rocket” Sutton’s winning streak is legendary makes him the undisputed best quarterback in the NFL. However, thanks to one dumb mistake, he’s a failure as a husband to Coco, the only woman he’s ever loved. When a judge’s mistake in divorce paperwork means Coco is still his wife, Ryan makes up his mind to fix what he ruined. Ryan’s game plan doesn’t count on an internationally famous movie director’s camera crew following him as he competes for Coco’s love.

After spending most of her adult life as a football wife and mother to twin sons, fashionista Coco Sutton is learning how to be single and fabulous. Emphasis on Fabulous. The sports trophies, memorabilia, and heavy masculine wood furniture in the home she used to share with Ryan have been banished to the attic, and her home is now a cozy haven of plush candle-scented comfort. She’s got big plans that include owning a boutique or maybe an art gallery, but she never planned to take on the biggest challenge of her life: staying single. Then her best friend gives her a copy of a book called The Yes Dare, and all her plans are turned upside down.

From a Hollywood movie to the local spring event formerly known as the Cow Chip Toss Festival and a country crooner with a crush on Coco, will Ryan dodge the obstacles to win back the only woman he ever loved?
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Stories like The Yes Dare are why I love to read Romance. Normally, I’d never touch a book if there’s even a slight hint of the kind of betrayal that broke up the main characters’ marriage in this story. Knowing the guarantee of a happy-ever-after ending in my favorite genre is what had me taking a chance on reviewing Ms. Y’Barbo’s latest title despite not having read any of her work before. I’m glad that trust was justified and the author delivered spectacularly on the resolution of the conflict that’s keeping Coco and Ryan apart.
You have no idea how many opportunities you’ve got to change your life until you start watching for them.”
Lighthearted and well-paced, The Yes Dare tells the entertaining story of Ryan’s campaign to win back Coco’s heart after finding out the invalidity of their divorce a year later. With the help of their sons, their friends, the people of their small town of Sugar Pine, Texas, the governor himself, and a book from which the story’s title came from, Rocket succeeds in getting Coco to say Yes to him once more.
I liked many things about this book. Now in my late-40’s, I prefer stories with protagonists close to my age so the fact that Coco and Ryan are almost forty made them more relatable to me. Ryan’s putting words into action and Coco’s competence in managing a large-scale event demonstrated their maturity in a way that’s very appealing. Also noteworthy is the subtle integration of faith in their words and deeds.
The sheer Texas-ness of Sugar Pine and its residents is really delightful. The members of Coco and Ryan’s community not only meddle, express their opinions loudly, but they also give their support wholeheartedly.
The low level of angst is something I highly appreciate. It’s obvious from the start that the estranged couple still loved each other and excessive push and pull would not have suited the story. I respect Ms. Y’Barbo for setting the right tone and flow that made this book an easy and enjoyable read.
Having said that, I’d have liked more setup for the climactic scene and perhaps an epilogue instead of the abrupt ending. I also would have appreciated more inclusiveness and wider representation to reflect the society we live in today.
Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit and the author for giving me the opportunity to review the book. I’ll be visiting Sugar Pine again in the future to get to know more about their residents, especially Sessa and Trey.
4 out of 5 stars

Publishers Weekly bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and bestselling author of more than one hundred books with over two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she is a member of the Texas Bar Association Paralegal Division, Texas A&M Association of Former Students, Texas A&M Women Former Students (Aggie Women), Texas Historical Society, Sisters in Crime, Faith Hope and Love Christian Writers, and American Christian Fiction Writers. She would also be a member of the Daughters of the American Republic, Daughters of the Republic of Texas and a few others if she would just remember to fill out the paperwork that Great Aunt Mary Beth has sent her more than once.
Kathleen and her hero in combat boots husband have their own surprise love story that unfolded on social media a few years back. They make their home just north of Houston, Texas, and are the parents, grandparents, and in-laws of a blended family of Texans, Okies, and a trio of adorable Londoners.

CREATRIX RISING by Stephanie Raffelock – Book Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway

CREATRIX RISING: UNLOCKING THE POWER
OF MIDLIFE WOMEN
By Stephanie Raffelock
Categories: Nonfiction / Self Help Memoir
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub Date: August 24, 2021
Pages:176 Pages
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From the author of the award-winning book A Delightful Little Book on Aging comes a new self-help memoir Creatrix Rising: Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women. In her new book, Stephanie Raffelock liberates mold-defying midlife women, tired of the oft-inaccurate characterization of the “old crone,” to amplify the resounding strength within.

Ever since Eve was banned from the garden, women have endured the oftentimes painful and inaccurate definitions foisted upon them by the patriarchy. Maiden, mother, and crone, representing the three stages assigned to a woman’s life cycle, have been the limiting categories of both ancient and modern (neo-pagan) mythology. And one label in particular rankles: crone. The word conjures a wizened hag—useless for the most part, marginalized by appearance and ability.

None of us has ever truly fit the old-crone image, and for today’s midlife women, a new archetype is being birthed: the Creatrix.

In Creatrix Rising, Raffelock lays out—through personal stories and essays—the highlights of the past fifty years, in which women have gone from a quiet strength to a resounding voice. She invites us along on her own transformational journey by providing probing questions for reflection so that we can flesh out and bring to life this new archetype within ourselves. If what the Dalai Lama has predicted—that women will save the world—proves true, then the Creatrix will for certain be out front, leading the pack.

PRAISE FOR CREATRIX RISING:

“The perfect topic at the perfect time, Stephanie Raffelock’s self-help memoir, Creatrix Rising, identifies a new archetype, the Creatrix, that transcends the old archetype of Crone. Her stories and insights about how far women have come is nothing short of inspirational. A must-read for any woman who wants to embrace the strength and creativity of midlife.” -Marci Shimoff, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Happy for No Reason and Chicken Soup for the Women’s Soul

“Poetic and philosophical, Creatrix Rising will inspire readers to claim the courage and confidence that already lives inside of them. An intimate story of transformation, of journeying through life on your own terms without apology.”
Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet and author of How to Love a Country

“The new archetype Stephanie Raffelock assigns to midlife women underscores the assets and wisdom older women bring to our culture and to the greater good. Creatrix Rising is an affirmation and celebration of the feminine story taking place in leadership and creativity throughout our country.”
Gabby Reese, volleyball legend, Nike’s first female spokeswoman, and New York Times best-selling author
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When you feel that a book is about you and written specially for you, it is impossible not to rave about it. Stephanie Raffelock’s beautifully-written, mindset-shifting Creatrix Rising is one such book and this is a glowing review of it. This early, I’m declaring it one of my Top 21 Reads of 2021.
I wholeheartedly embrace the move to redefine the archetype of midlife women from the dismal, joyless, and manmade Crone to the powerful, aspirational, and woman-made Creatrix. That’s not only my vanity talking but also my common sense. It’s obvious by their definitions which personification is preferable. At 49 with a pre-teen son, I still identify with the Mother archetype. It won’t be long though until middle age sets in and when that time comes, I’ll be ready to claim my title of Creatrix with the help of this book.
In laying out her own transformation, Ms. Raffelock shared deeply personal stories and meaningful relationships throughout her life. I found many of them incredibly affecting and inspiring, especially the ones about her grandmother Julia and her mother Cleo. She hinted at past pains but never delved too much in the mistakes and regrets. Rather, she celebrated the learnings she gleaned from them. While fiercely feminist and giving much of the spotlight on the incredible women who helped shape her, Stephanie was fair in acknowledging several men who have contributed in her journey of growth and self-awareness. I liked that. I also really liked the tone of positivity, of optimism in the book. Even when touching on divisive political topics, Ms. Raffelock kept her focus on opportunities and triumphs instead of dwelling on injustices and casting blames.
The sections on reflection, activity, and journaling are some of my favorite parts of the book. They’re interactive. They’re where the reader is invited to relate what they’d read to their own life, to think of people who made an impact, to remember experiences and interactions, and to tell their stories.
Creatrix Rising is easy to read. The language is profound but understandable, not clinical or highfalutin. Some parts are highly evocative, some are factual. Definitions are repeated for emphasis. The organization flows with purpose and intent. The book is immensely quotable. I am glad I have two copies because one (the eBook) is covered in highlighted passages. Some of my favorites are:
The way we envision older women needs to be altered to reflect the evolution of our continuing liberation and growing self-awareness, equality, and confidence.”
When I’m trying to uplevel my game, it helps to name what I hope to achieve and then claim that achievement. Name it and claim it.”
Women find a way. We all have a heroine who lives inside of us. We all have a story to tell. Telling our stories liberates us to love ourselves and command respect in the world.”
Embrace the beauty and grace of age and its gifts of wisdom. Make life on your own terms. You are never too old to dream, to participate, to engage. Uplift other women. Tell your story. You are at the front of the line now. Hold your light high, and be proud of who you are and who you are still becoming. Accept the mantle of Creatrix, and celebrate the goodness and grace that it holds.”
Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit, She Writes Press, and Stephanie Raffelock for including me in the blog tour and providing me with a copy to review.
5 stars

Stephanie Raffelock is the author of Creatrix Rising, Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women, (She Writes Press – August, 2021). She also penned the award winning book, A Delightful Little Book on Aging.

A graduate of Naropa University’s program in Writing and Poetics, Stephanie was a contributor to The Rogue Valley Messenger in Oregon. She has blogged for Nexus Magazine, Omaha Lifestyles, Care2.com, as well as SixtyandMe.com.

A former i-Heart Radio host, she is now a popular guest on podcasts, where she inspires women to embrace the strength and passion of their personal story. Stephanie continues to build her speaker’s resume by giving presentations for groups like The Ashland Literary Arts Festival, Breaking the Glass, WINS at Charles Schwab and Southern Oregon University, Friends of the Hannon Library. Her commitment to uplift women extends to teaching personal development classes for incarcerated women and non-profits, including Dress for Success, Austin.

A recent transplant to Austin, Texas Stephanie enjoys an active life with her husband, Dean, and their Labrador retriever, Mickey Mantel Raffelock.

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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY.
Or, visit the blogs directly:

9/1/21

Excerpt

Hall Ways Blog

9/1/21

Review

Missus Gonzo

9/2/21

Review

All the Ups and Downs

9/2/21

BONUS Promo

LSBBT Blog

9/3/21

Review

The Plain-Spoken Pen

9/3/21

Review

Momma on the Rocks

9/4/21

Author Interview

The Clueless Gent

9/5/21

Author Interview

Book Bustle

9/6/21

Review

Reading by Moonlight

9/6/21

Video Guest Post

The Adventures of a Travelers Wife

9/7/21

Review

Chapter Break Book Blog

9/8/21

Review

StoreyBook Reviews

9/8/21

Guest Post

The Page Unbound

9/9/21

Review

Jennie Reads

9/10/21

Review

Forgotten Winds

9/10/21

Review

Carpe Diem Chronicles

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TRACE OF DOUBT by DiAnn Mills – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

TRACE OF DOUBT

BY DIANN MILLS

Categories: Romantic Suspense / Christian Fiction / FBI Crime Solving Novel / Clean Romance
Publisher: Tyndale House
Pub Date: September 7, 2021
Pages: 432 pages

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Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.
 
FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.
 
But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.

PRAISE FOR TRACE OF DOUBT :

“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – LYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREAT and ONE FINAL BREATH

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart. . . Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Well-researched . . . with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN

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Link to the Book Trailer on YouTube


 
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.
 
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
 
 

GINGERBREAD KISSES by Minette Lauren – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

GINGERBREAD KISSES
Hot in Magnolia Book 4
By Minette Lauren


Publication Date: April 30th, 2021
Pages: 275
Categories: Sexy Romance

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Hollywood actress Ginger Lynn Harding is broke, unemployed, and stuck in the glaring spotlight of a sex-tape scandal thanks to her lousy ex-boyfriend. Changing her coveted ginger-colored hair to brown, Ginger heads to small-town Magnolia, Texas, where she plans to hide out and wait tables at the Cupcake Diner and Dive.

As a Magnolia constable and possible candidate for mayor, Roland Karr prides himself on protecting the community. When he nabs a Lauren Bacall look-alike for speeding, Roland is surprised that he lets the sassy beauty off the hook, but he can’t help it. She looks like she could use a break.

As Ginger settles into life in Magnolia, she can’t stop thinking about the handsome and debonair cop, but can she risk losing her heart when she’s lost everything else?

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With its double serving of swoony love stories, small-town quirks, adorable pets, and fascinating characters readers would want to get to know more, Gingerbread Kisses is an early holiday treat for Romance lovers everywhere. Its fun and light tone makes it an easy and enjoyable read and its steamy sexytimes live up to the series title of Hot In Magnolia. Funny, low-angst, and hot. Exactly how I like my Romance.
This is my first book by Minette Lauren, my first visit to Magnolia, and I’m happy to go back for more. I usually don’t seek out stories with actors and actresses as lead characters because I find so little in common with them, but Ms. Lauren made Ginger Lynn sympathetic to me and I give her kudos for that.
I admire Ginger’s determination to get back on her feet after her humiliating fall from grace, her willingness to work two jobs that she considered beneath her in the past, and her gradual warming up to the people of Magnolia. I understood her loss of confidence and cheered for her when she realized what’s important. I also liked the characterization of Roland as a by-the-book constable whose life is upended when Ginger came into town. I really like his patience with her and his respect for her wishes despite her sometimes hot-and-cold behavior. I especially like the ending where they both reached out to the other and decided to be together even to the point of giving up what’s familiar.
I have an equal appreciation for the second-chance romance between Lexi and Noah. I’m always soft for heroes who fall fast and fall hard for the object of his love and Noah ticks that box for me. There’s a “Seize the Day” quality to their getting together that is totally my jam.
Ms. Lauren’s vivid descriptions gave this book a great sense of place. I can picture in my head where the scene locations are as if they’re real. Magnolia seems to be a quintessential Texas small town with a higher proportion of hot men and women than most places in the state (or country). Herein lies my major cavil about this book–the lack of diversity. There’s not much indication of multiculturalism or unconventional lifestyles. Everyone seems to be fit, white, and straight. Not truly reflective of the society we live in today.
Overall, an engaging read and a book I’d recommend to the followers of this blog. It put me in a holiday spirit, inspiring me to bake gingerbread kiss cookies. I’m not sure if it’s Ginger’s grandma’s recipe, but it sure made the house smell like Christmas. Thanks to Ms. Lauren for the inspiration and for providing me with a complimentary copy to review through Lone Star Lit.
4 out of 5 stars

Minette Lauren is an award-winning author who loves animals and writes humorous romance in a small Texas town.

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THREE WINNERS
First place: Signed copies
of the Hot in Magnolia series books (prequel included) + $25 Amazon gift card
Second place: Signed copies of all four books in the series
Third place: Signed copy of Gingerbread Kisses

(Continental US residents only. Ends midnight, CDT, June 4, 2021)

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5/25/21

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HER EVERY MOVE by Kelly Irvin – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

HER EVERY MOVE
By Kelly Irvin
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 352 pages
Pub Date: February 9th, 2021
Categories: Christian / Romance / Suspense
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He’s a cop trying to stop a serial bomber. And she’ll stop at nothing to clear her own name.

When a deadly bomb goes off during a climate change debate, librarian and event coordinator Jackie Santoro becomes the prime suspect. Her motive, according to Detective Avery Wick: to avenge the suicide of her prominent father, who was accused of crimes by a city councilman attending the event.

Though Avery has doubts about Jackie’s guilt, he can’t exonerate her even after an extremist group takes responsibility for the bombing and continues to attack San Antonio’s treasured public spaces.

As Jackie tries to hold her shattered family together, she has no choice but to proceed with plans for the Caterina Ball, the library system’s biggest annual fundraiser. But she also fears the event provides the perfect opportunity for the bomber to strike again.

Despite their mistrust, Jackie and Avery join forces to unmask the truth—before the death toll mounts even higher.

Bestseller Kelly Irvin is back with a nail-biting romantic suspense where nothing is certain until the very last page.

PRAISE FOR HER EVERY MOVE:

“A gripping story that will have you on the edge of your seat until ‘The End.’”—Patricia Bradley, author of The Logan Point Series, Memphis Cold Case Novels, Natchez Trace Parkway Rangers series 

“Explosive, tender, and races all the way through!”Jennifer Graeser Dornbush, author, screenwriter, and forensic specialist

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From its explosive opening scene to its dramatic climax, Kelly Irvin’s Her Every Move is one high-octane read. A ripped-from-the-headlines plot, a well-described familiar setting, a broad array of hot-button issues, and a large diverse cast made this book remarkably current and incredibly realistic.
Reading is a gift … Reading gives me joy, takes me places I’ve never been, and I learn things. What person wouldn’t want that gift?”
The San Antonio setting, my former residence and the last city I visited before the world shut down, first attracted me to this book. The heroine Jackie’s job as librarian and event planner further solidified my interest. But it was the fast-paced, action-packed, emotional storyline that kept me reading until the end.
The themes of familial love, lifelong friendships, social responsibility, faith amidst adversity, and complicated romance always appeal to me and they’re thoroughly explored in this book. Jackie’s strength while faced with unjust accusations of doing unspeakable crimes made her a sympathetic heroine. Avery’s steadfast performance of his duties despite developing conflicting personal feelings about the prime suspect Jackie and dealing with an unstable possible suspect in his best friend had me rooting for him.
My favorite character, however, is San Antonio itself. The culture, architecture, beauty, and history of this multiethnic city really came alive in the book.
We’re all guilty of believing we have plenty of time.”
For the most part, the book engaged my attention except in a couple of aspects. First is the excess of political issues raised. There’s climate change, domestic terrorism, racial profiling, gun control, budgetary constraints, etcetera. There could have been more focus on fewer causes for more impact.
Next is the weakness of the emotional ramifications after the reveal of the villain. There should have been long-term consequences for the people left behind and changes in policies, especially concerning public safety.
Lastly, the romance part needed more attention than it got. Jackie and Avery’s initial meeting was especially lacking in establishing their attraction. The ending was good but I wish there was more of the same sweetness in their journey to getting their happy-ever-after.
Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit and Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to review this book.
4 out of 5 stars
Bestseller Kelly Irvin is the author of 28 books, including romantic suspense and Amish romance. Publishers Weekly called Closer Than She Knows “a briskly written thriller.”  The Library Journal said of her novel Tell Her No Lies, “a complex web with enough twists and turns to keep even the savviest romantic suspense readers guessing until the end.” The two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist worked as a newspaper reporter for six years on the Texas-Mexico border. Those experiences fuel her romantic suspense novels set in Texas. A retired public relations professional, Kelly now writes fiction full-time. She lives with her husband professional photographer Tim Irvin in San Antonio. They have two children, three grandchildren, and two ornery cats.

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ALL THE COWBOYS AIN’T GONE by John J. Jacobson – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

ALL THE COWBOYS AIN’T GONE

BY JOHN J. JACOBSON
 
Pages: 352
Pub Date: February 23, 2021
Categories: Historical Fiction / Action Adventure / Western
 
 

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All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone is the rollicking adventure story of Lincoln Smith, a young Texan living at the beginning of the twentieth century, who thinks of himself as the last true cowboy. He longs for the days of the Old West, when men like his father, a famous Texas Ranger, lived by the chivalric code. Lincoln finds himself hopelessly out of time and place in the fast-changing United States of the new century. When he gets his heart broken by a sweetheart who doesn’t appreciate his anachronistic tendencies, he does what any sensible young romantic would do: he joins the French Foreign Legion. 
On his way to an ancient and exotic country at the edge of the Sahara, Lincoln encounters a number of curious characters and strange adventures, from a desert hermit who can slow up time to a battle with a crocodile cult that worships the god of death. He meets them all with his own charming brand of courage and resourcefulness.
Purchase: Bookshop.org
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Utterly entertaining, All The Cowboys Ain’t Gone had me laughing out loud with the characters’ antics and catching my breath with the non-stop action from beginning to end. I can see this made into a movie in the same vein as Indiana Jones and The Mummy.
Having a twelve-year-old son, I found myself taking to Lincoln right away. The opening scenes with his mother admonishing him for his language and supervising his lessons really resonated with me. The great start hooked me into this book that’s in a genre I don’t normally read.
Mr. Jacobson certainly has a flair for storytelling that’s playful and engaging. While I thought the events that happen to Lincoln from Texas to New Hampshire, Florida to New York, France to Algeria, and finally to the fictional Mur highly improbable, I still found myself engrossed in his adventures and delighted with his narrow escapes. It’s a tall tale befitting its Texas origins and I had absolutely no problem with that.
I enjoyed meeting the new characters Lincoln encountered, especially Jake and Johnny, Amanda, the Three from Camarón Legionnaires named after Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, and Omar. I even enjoyed the villains even though they’re campy and absolutely ridiculous. It’s all part of the charm of the book.
Lincoln is easy to root for. At times naïve, he nevertheless has a core of honor and loyalty which makes him perfect for the French Foreign Legion. By the end of the book, he has absolutely learned the lesson his mother taught him when he was a boy:
… though things aren’t the way you’d prefer, there are still going to be plenty of adventures; they’re just going to be different. You’re just going to have to use your imagination to find them.”
Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Blackstone Publishing for providing me with a copy of this absolute romp of a book to review.
4 Four-half-stars

Though John J. Jacobson didn’t join the French Foreign Legion after being jilted by a girlfriend, or over his displeasure of missing the last great cattle drive, he has, borrowing Churchill’s phrase, lived a rather variegated life. He was born in Nevada, grew up in the West, surfed big waves in Hawaii, circled the world thrice, survived the sixties and seventies, corporate America, and grad school. Among other degrees he has an MA in Renaissance literature from Claremont Graduate University.

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