CREATRIX RISING by Stephanie Raffelock–Audiobook Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

CREATRIX RISING
AUDIOBOOK
Written & Narrated by
STEPHANIE RAFFELOCK
Nonfiction / Self Help Memoir / Aging & Longevity
Publisher: Narrating Sound
Length: 4 hours, 43 minutes
Publication Date: February 22, 2022
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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.
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Last year, Creatrix Rising was one of my Top 21 Reads of 2021. After this re-read, it’s one of my favorites of 2022 as well. With nearly 4,000 unread books in my TBR mountain, I don’t often re-read. I made an exception for this book because I know my time and attention will be rewarded with invaluable pearls of wisdom, uplifting affirmations, and unparalleled inspiration.

These writings are meant to inspire you to tell your own story about how you are claiming your voice as a mature woman, and to recognize how truly powerful, remarkable, and noble that is.”

Read by Ms. Raffelock herself in her pleasingly melodious voice, the Creatrix Rising audiobook takes on a conversational tone. It is more informal, more intimate, and more personal than the written version.  If the listener takes the time to respond to the guide questions in the For Reflection, Activity, and Journaling section as I did, the audiobook becomes even more interactive. In this version, Ms. Raffelock’s role as mentor, friend, and confidante is magnified.

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Creatrix – a woman who makes things.”

When I reviewed this book for the first time, I immediately claimed to identify with the new archetype. Why not? I was a 48-year-old writer who had already published eight books. But the truth was I was merely being aspirational. By the time of my posting, I hadn’t written a new story in more than six months. I was a woman who hadn’t made anything. I wasn’t a creatrix in the truest sense of the word.

Now, I am.

She knows who she is and what she stands for, and where she belongs. She lives life as an artist, creatively and with passion.”

For my third new story of the year, for the first time in my career, I am writing a heroine who is turning fifty, who is experiencing the early stages of menopause, and who is enjoying a romance with a man ten years her junior. I’m writing about a creatrix and I would like to give credit to Ms. Raffelock and her book for the inspiration.

You’ve been passed a torch. Now you hold that light to help not only yourself, but other women as well. It’s time to name and claim your power.”

Impactful. A book that deserves space in the Keeper Shelf. I will re-read and re-listen to this every year.

To Lone Star Lit, She Writes Press, and Stephanie Raffelock, I appreciate being included in this blog tour. Thank you.

5 stars


Stephanie Raffelock is an author, speaker, and voiceover artist. She is the editor of the anthology, Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis (2022). Stephanie is the author of Creatrix Rising, Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women (2021) and she penned the award-winning book, A Delightful Little Book on Aging (2020). She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and a goofy Labrador Retriever named Mickey.

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FOUR WINNERS
Each receives an audiobook + a print copy of
CREATRIX RISING
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 9/16/22.)

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LOVE AND THE DREAM COME TRUE by Tammy L. Gray– Book Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway

LOVE AND THE DREAM
COME TRUE
State of Grace Trilogy, Book 3
by
TAMMY L. GRAY
Contemporary Christian Fiction / Clean Romance
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 368 pages
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
SCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY

The Anticipated Series Finale to the 2021 Carol Award-Winning Novel, Love and a Little White Lie

Their faith will face its toughest test yet.

Four years after getting the biggest break of his life, Cameron Lee’s music career has taken a nosedive, leaving him two options: become a sellout or give up on his lifelong dream. He reluctantly returns home for his sister’s wedding, hoping to avoid his past and find his love for music again.
Single mom Lexie Walters has suffered her fair share of tragedies and setbacks, but she has finally scraped together the money to achieve her dream of going into business with her cousin as an interior designer. When Lexie’s life is at an all-time high, she runs into her teenage crush, Cameron Lee.
Lost in the emotional turmoil of failure, Cameron is immediately drawn to Lexie and her infectious smile and optimistic spirit. Moreover, he adores her mouthy, no-holds-barred daughter. But fantasies only last so long, and soon Lexie and Cameron must face the real world, the one fraught with heartbreak, disappointment, and questions that sometimes can only be answered by a leap of faith.


“Cameron and Lexie’s chemistry is palpable, and readers will root for their happily ever after. This tender tale hits all the right notes.” Publishers Weekly

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Achingly poignant, uncomfortably true-to-life in many parts, and subtly spiritual, Love And The Dream Come True is a truly touching read.
Music is heart and soul and pain and loss.”
I came into this book not having read the two previous stories in the series and I think that worked for me. I was able to meet the characters, especially Cameron Lee, without forming expectations or opinions that may have affected my experience of reading about them.  When we meet Cameron at the beginning of the story, he is a mess. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. He takes panic pills, hides from family and friends, and is overwhelmed with unexpressed feelings. His path to redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation with his faith and his estranged friends, and healing through love is wonderful to witness.
Don’t fear anything but chances not taken.”
In contrast to Cam’s grump, Lexie is sunshine. She’s a bit scattered but she is bright and optimistic despite taking on a huge home renovation project and dealing with the angst of her teenage daughter Morgan at the same time. Her light balances the heavy in Cam’s storyline. Not to say that she doesn’t have her dark moments, particularly when it comes to the subject of her sister Annie. But she handles those with maturity and a natural tendency to love generously.
There is no surviving hardships without faith.”
Another bright spot in the book is Morgan. Having a thirteen-year-old kid myself, I immediately took to her and related with Lexie on the intricacies of parenting her. It’s often difficult to portray children in books, but I think Ms. Gray succeeded in creating a real, multi-dimensional character in Morgan.
 … life is made up of a whole bunch of should’ves … My advice is to learn. Learn from every moment and hope that as you do, the should’ves get further and further apart.”
While the story and the characters engaged me thoroughly, there was an aspect of the writing that distracted me and, in many ways, disappointed me. It’s the casual and repeated use of ableist language. Words and phrases that reference physical disabilities and words and phrases based on neurodivergence are scattered throughout the book. Perhaps unknowingly as these are everyday words. However, they’re expressed in a negative manner and oftentimes could have been substituted with more appropriate language.

… be grateful for the little things in life. That when you add them all together, they are much grander than the big things we think we need.”

This book made me cry. It also made me laugh and sigh. Huge kudos to the author for invoking strong reactions from this reader and I’m sure from many other readers as well.
Thanks to Lone Star Lit for including me in this blog tour and to Bethany House for providing me with a copy to review.
Three-half-stars

Tammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas. Her nine modern and true-to-life contemporary romances include the 2017 RITA Award-winning My Hope Next Door. When not taxiing her three kids to various events, Tammy can be spotted crunching numbers as the financial administrator at her hometown church.
Bethany House

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ONE WINNER:
Complete STATE OF GRACE SERIES in paperback!
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 9/2/22.)
FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY, OR VISIT THE PARTICIPATING BLOGS DIRECTLY:

8/23/2022

The Page Unbound

Guest Post

8/23/2022

Hall Ways Blog

BONUS Series Spotlight

8/24/2022

Book Fidelity

Review

8/24/2022

LSBBT Blog

BONUS Promo

8/25/2022

The Adventures of a Travelers Wife

Notable Quotables

8/26/2022

Carpe Diem Chronicles

Review

8/27/2022

The Clueless Gent

Excerpt

8/28/2022

All the Ups and Downs

Excerpt

8/29/2022

Librariel Book Adventures

Review

8/30/2022

Rebecca R. Cahill, Author

Deleted Scene

8/31/2022

StoreyBook Reviews

Review

9/1/2022

Chapter Break Book Blog

Review

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FANCY by Linda Broday — Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

FANCY

Love Train Multi-Author Series, #10

by

LINDA BRODAY

Western Romance /Sweet Romance/ American Historical Romance
Pages:          190 pages
Publication Date:     August 15, 2022

SCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY!


A stolen baby
An orphan child
A bargain struck
Told her baby died in childbirth, Fancy Dalton grieves for her son. But in the midst of a raging storm, a shadowy figure appears and tells her that he’s alive and well! He was stolen! Now she has an address and a name. From despair comes hope.
One thought drives her—finding and getting him back. Selling everything she owns, Fancy buys a one-way train ticket to Denver. Nothing and no one will stop her. In a mad dash to board the train, she collides with Jack Coltrain. As fate would have it, the rugged cowboy, on a mission of his own, sits next to her. Experience has taught her to be wary of men. But when her bag is stolen, he gets it back and earns a small piece of her trust.
As the iron wheels roll, taking her closer to her two-year-old son, Fancy and Jack discover an orphan girl who needs their help and open their arms to her. Ten hours from their goal, Fancy and Jack strike a deal—her help for his. Desperate times for both call for creative solutions…but marriage, even in name only? However, nothing is off the table. She’ll do whatever she must to save the orphan and get her child back. Still, giving Jack her heart…that’s not part of the bargain.
Click to purchase!

PRAISE FOR FANCY:

“I have loved every Linda Broday book I have read, but I must say this one touched my heart.” Cricket (Goodreads)

“Linda Broday waved her magic wand when her turn came and gave us one of her most profound heroines she’s ever written. Fancy wrapped her tragic story around my heart and transported me into the late 1800s.” Tonya (Goodreads)

“Linda Broday has always been able to weave her characters together like a mix-match patch quilt, but the end results are amazing.” Rose Ann (Goodreads)

“…Her ability to convey the goodness of their souls will leave the reader wanting more.” Sally (Goodreads)

From its heart-wrenching start to its sigh-worthy ending, Linda Broday’s Fancy takes the reader on a highly evocative ride.
The devastating prologue had me in tears, ensuring my emotional connection with Fancy Dalton right away. Her will to make a fresh start after her mother’s death and her determination to find her stolen son even with her meager resources also earned my admiration.  With Fancy, Ms. Broday created a title character who is easy to root for and wish for only good things to happen to her.
One of those good things is Jack Coltrain. The epitome of a Broday hero, Jack is bold, valiant, and kindhearted yet prepared to act with violence if necessary to defend those he promised to protect and care for. The speed of their getting together through a marriage of convenience is totally understandable, even necessary, considering the fraught circumstances they found themselves in. Their happy-ever-after is inevitable and well-deserved.
Fancy, life is a journey. Not one trip, but hundreds. We have to keep going and proceed with courage each and every day as long as we have breath.”
One of the signatures of Ms. Broday’s stories is found family and that theme is central in this story through Fancy and Jack’s care for Piper, an orphan girl whose sad plight stroke a familiar chord within Fancy’s heart. This little girl is another character who made me cry with her exceptional pluck and maturity beyond her years.
Fast-paced and eventful, Fancy is a fantastic read for those who are looking for something quick but with depth, has sympathetic characters, is well-written, and sweetly romantic.
Thanks to Lone Star Lit for including me in this blog tour and to Ms. Broday for the early digital copy of the book to review.

I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty historical western romance novels and short stories. I reside in the Texas Panhandle on land the American Indian and early cowboys once roamed, and at times if the breeze is just right, I can hear their voices whispering in the wind. Texas’s rich history is one reason I set all my stories here where cowboys still remain caretakers of the land. I’m inspired every day by their immense dedication and love for the wide-open spaces. I combine those men with the love of family in all my stories and hope to continue to give readers books that entertain and fulfill.

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FOUR WINNERS!

One winner:
$25 Amazon gift card plus Kindle copy of Fancy
Three winners:
Kindle copies of Fancy
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 8/19/2022.)

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

8/9/22

Excerpt

Forgotten Winds

8/9/22

BONUS Promo

Hall Ways

8/10/22

Review

Librariel Book Adventures

8/10/22

BONUS Promo

LSBBT Blog

8/11/22

Character Spotlight

Chapter Break Book Blog

8/12/22

Review

StoreyBook Reviews

8/13/22

Notable Quotables

Shelf Life Blog

8/14/22

Character Interview

All the Ups and Downs

8/15/22

Review

Carpe Diem Chronicles

8/16/22

Sneak Peek

Stories Under Starlight

8/17/22

Review

Boys’ Mom Reads

8/18/22

Review

Writing and Music

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A SHOT IN THE 80% DARK By Amber Royer – Book Blitz and Giveaway

A SHOT IN THE 80% DARK
Bean to Bar Mysteries, Book 4

by
AMBER ROYER
Cozy Mystery / Culinary Mystery / Woman Sleuth
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Date of Publication: July 15, 2022
Number of Pages: 285 pages
Scroll down for Giveaway!

Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop is thriving. Despite everything she’s been through with the murders she’s helped solve, Felicity is ready to take on new challenges. So when a local museum offers her a contract to create a chocolate replica of a gigantic sailing ship sculpture for a gala celebrating Galveston’s history, she jumps at the chance to combine chocolate-crafting with art.

The project is fun – right up until there’s not just one but two dead artists on the scene, and Felicity has to change gears back to detective. Logan, Felicity’s business partner and previous bodyguard, and Arlo, Felicity’s ex who is now the cop investigating the case, are split on which victim they think was actually the intended one. Felicity may have to take some chances, both emotionally and in luring out a killer, to determine the truth.

Can she find out how Galveston’s history relates to the murders, unmask a killer, and prepare 2,000 chocolate desserts for the gala all at the same time?

CLICK TO PURCHASE!


Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: a Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach.

Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.

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With its increasingly diverse and representative cast of characters, absolutely amazing competence porn, exciting and fascinating whodunit cases, mouthwatering food descriptions, and excellent sense of place, Amber Royer’s Bean to Bar Mysteries is quickly becoming my favorite cozy mystery series to read of late.

There’s a lot going on in A Shot in the 80% Dark, all of them good.  Somehow, Ms. Royer is introducing the entire fifty thousand population of Galveston into her stories and she’s managing to make each of those characters distinct, memorable, real, and relatable. I especially admire her utilization of notoriously difficult side characters — pets and kids– to further the plot. Renoir, the museum’s cockatoo, is a scene-stealing star.

I am in awe of the displays of expertise and artistry in this series. From 3-D printing to Vietnamese coffee preparation, to SCUBA diving, and to sugar work using isomalt, I learn so many new things that I may be able to apply to practical use in the future. The author’s exhaustive research on various competencies and historical details leap off the pages of the book.

Naturally, I appreciate the procedural aspects of crime solving, but that is a basic requirement of the genre so I won’t dwell on that. What I really love to highlight is Ms. Royer’s deep knowledge of Galveston and how she completely transports the readers to the coastal resort city with her words. Traveling through books is never more true than in this story.

Life is too short to walk around waiting for relationships to solidify themselves.”

The only thing I’m not one hundred percent on board with is the love triangle between Felicity, Arlo, and Logan. It was handled well here and there seems to be forward progress so it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.

Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit for the opportunity to be in the tour and to Ms. Royer for providing me with a digital copy of the book to read and review.

4 Four-half-stars


—————————————
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TWO WINNERS
Autographed copies of A SHOT IN THE 80% DARK
(US only. Ends Midnight, CDT, July 28, 2022)

STEALING TIME By KJ Waters – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

THE STEALING TIME SERIES

Stealing Time

Shattering Time

Killing Time

by

KJ WATERS

Time Travel / Suspense / Romance / Alt History / Mystery

Publisher: Blondie Books

Scroll down for Giveaway!
 

Stealing Time, December 20, 2014, 319 pages

A devastating hurricane. A time travel betrayal. Will Ronnie survive the witch hunt or forever be lost in time?

Stealing Time is the first book in the “breathtakingly original” Stealing Time Series of time travel wrapped in a hurricane. If you like strong-willed modern women and gripping stories that transport you back in time, then you’ll love KJ Waters’s Books.

As Hurricane Charley churns a path of destruction towards Orlando, Florida, Ronnie Andrews scrambles to prepare for the storm and seeks shelter at her boyfriend’s weather lab. What she finds there is more terrifying than Mother Nature’s destruction.

During the peak of the hurricane, Ronnie is hurtled back in time to eighteenth-century London where she is caught in a web of superstition, deception, and lies in a life and death struggle to return to her own time. Her best friend Steph is thrust into the middle of the hurricane.

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.
◆  WEBSITE  ◆  FACEBOOK  ◆ AMAZON  ◆  INSTAGRAM  ◆
———————–
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 TWO WINNERS! 
Autographed copies of Charleston Conundrum
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/06/2022)

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.
CLICK TO PURCHASE!
Amazon


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.
WEBSITE  ◆  FACEBOOK
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————————————–
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 ONE WINNER! 
Autographed copy of Comfort Zone,
hand-painted note card from artist Elaine McMillan,
and NFL official Silver Series football signed by Jack Moses

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 4/29/2022)

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 
Scroll down for Giveaway!

 
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.