Texas Emergency & Resources | February 18

Texas is facing a winter like no other. Since the beginning of the week, the deep freeze crippled many residents’ ways of life. Over 2 million people are without power. Many are living with ‘boil water’ warnings. Due to poor infrastructure, home owners are suffering with busted pipes and flooded surroundings.

While there seems to be no end in sight, there are some resources we can tap into to reach out to Texans in need.

Resources for Texas Residents

Love Thy Neighbor Texas– The Austin Area Urban League offers a donation drive to assist Texans in serious need.

Warming Centers – The Texas Division of Emergency Management has a list of warming centers for many in dire need.

Red Cross– The Red Cross has a list of shelters and donation resources.

Welfare Calls to Texas – Beto O’ Rourke is currently running a volunteer hotline, reaching out to senior citzens in the area. Click the link to access the Zoom and participate.

Relief Efforts in Texas – Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez began a donation effort to help Texas residents. You may chip in any amount!

While this is a small list of resources, I hope it takes a small step of serenity for those in need. Many Texans need comfort right about now!

Blogmas Signoff

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Reading Blog | February 18, 2021

Reading while watching snowfall!

While I’m doing a new work routine at the school, winter reminds us that pauses still happen. In New Jersey, icy weather is in the area, so I finally have time for some reading!

My school district pivoted back to full day/full week instruction, which leaves little room for reading. I have poor time management skills to begin with, so its been days without me picking up a book. However, I’m determined to get my reading momentum back!

Current Reads

Reading Blog. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Link: https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1451435027l/25489625._SY475_.jpg

At the beginning of the month, I read much of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s a beautiful non-fiction, told in an essay style format. Coates is sharing with his son the meaning of protecting one’s own self from negative life influences. He discusses his time at Howard University and how these experiences shaped his life.

I still have 30 pages to complete, yet I’m enjoying this book! I’m looking forward to discussing this during my book group this weekend!

What I’m Reading Next

Reading Blog. When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole. Link: https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1585146341l/49398072.jpg

My next book is When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole. It’s a thriller that involves surprising disappearances in a changing Brooklyn neighborhood. I finished the first 2 chapters, and so far it’s a good one! It’s certainly one to read while watching the snow fall!

Finally, a Question

What new stories did you discover this week? Are you beginning a new series? Did you pick up a ‘new-to-you’ author? Feel free to share below!

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Tia Lugo Speaks No Evil: Cover Reveal

Tia Lugo Speaks No Evil is Danette Vigilante’s third book release! It features a young girl living with a shocking secret! Can Tia find serenity and enjoy her summer vacation? Does the answer rest in a magical place?

Perhaps Tia might turn to her grandmother (and the botanica she frequents) for the answer!

I’m happy to partner with Jolly Fish Press for the Tia Lugo Speaks No Evil cover reveal! It’s an Own Voices Middle Grade tale filled with friendship, magic and thrills!

Tia Lugo Speaks No Evil by Danette Vigilante. A young girl runs inside a botanica. A silhouette looks inside the window.

Tia Lugo Speaks No Evil: Book Information

Tia Lugo Speaks No Evil by Danette Vigilante
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Length: 208 pages
Genre: Middle Grade (10-14 years); Horror, Fiction, Legends & Myths
Representation: Latin American & Caribbean (Puerto Rico)
Format: Paperback and eBook
Book Release: August 17, 2021 (anticipated release)

Jolly Fish Press | North Star Editions | Bookshop | Indiebound | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis

Tia Lugo has a deadly secret.

Tia Lugo considers herself an ordinary thirteen-year-old girl. She just wants to enjoy the end of summer. Tia enjoys hanging out with her best friend and neighbor Julius. Her Puerto Rican grandmother relies heavily (and unnecessarily) on creepy candles, weird-smelling herb bundles, and eerie statues—all available for sale at the nearby botánica.

However, Tia witnesses a murder late one night from her bedroom window. And everything changes.

Now, Tia is terrified to tell anyone what she’s seen. What if the killer comes after her too? He knows where she lives. Even worse, Tia believes he’s sending her secret messages, reminding her to stay quiet. Desperate to keep herself and her family safe, Tia turns to the last place she ever thought she’d go: her grandmother’s favorite shopping spot, the botánica.

Author Bio

Author Danette Vigilante

Danette Vigilante grew up in the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn, New York. She now resides in Staten Island with her family, sweet pup, and an elderly cat who has just learned to meow. Danette is the author of The Trouble with a Half Moon, a 2012-2013 Sunshine State Young Readers award nominee, and Saving Baby Doe, a 2014 pick for the New York Public Library 100 titles for Reading and Sharing list. Danette encourages literacy in her community via a Little Free Library installed on her front lawn.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads

Tia Lugo Speaks No Evil comes out on August 17, 2021! Make sure you pre-order this amazing book!

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‘The Benefits of Breathing’ | Book Review

‘The Benefits of Breathing’ is a collection of stories by Christopher Meeks. Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for allowing me to take part. I couldn’t wait to begin this heartfelt compilation!

‘The Benefits of Breathing’ Book Information

The Benefits of Breathing, Stories by Christopher Meeks. Link: https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1595437627l/54637786._SY475_.jpg

The Benefits of Breathing: Stories by Christopher Meeks
Genre: Literary Short Stories
Length: 240 pages
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: May 21, 2020

Amazon

Synopsis

As Roderick Clark says in the Foreword, “It’s all about love, isn’t it?

In The Benefits of Breathing, Meeks dives again into the human condition, particularly within relationships. As one reader wrote on Amazon, “Some authors need a lot of words to describe their worlds and their people. Christopher Meeks says a lot with a little.” 

The Los Angeles Times has called his stories “poignant and wise.” In this volume, “A Dog Story” captures a crumbled marriage and the love of a dog named Scrappy. “Joni Paredes” shows the birth of a new relationship that starts at a daughter’s wedding. “Nestor by the Numbers” follows one man’s often hilarious online dating experiences after he finally accepts his wife is gone. “Jerry with a Twist” shows an actor on an audition while his pregnant girlfriend helps him through a crisis. These and seven other stories will bring you into the special world of Meeks.

As author James Jordan on Goodreads “My reward for reading Christopher Meeks’s marvelous collection of eleven stories, The Benefits of Breathing, was no less than an epiphany about great literature generally and specifically an insight into why this compendium of short fiction is great literature. ” 

“If you like Raymond Carver,” said author David Scott Milton, “you’ll love Meeks.”

‘Author Information’

Chris Meeks, author of 'The Benefits of Breathing'.

Christopher Meeks first published short fiction in a number of literary journals, and the stories are available in award-winning collections, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea and Months and Seasons. This third collection, The Benefits of Breathing, was published this year.

Meeks also writes novels. The Brightest Moon of the Century centers on a man who yearns for love and success, covering over thirty years. Marc Schuster of Small Press Reviews describes it as “a great and truly humane novel in the tradition of Charles Dickens and John Irving.” Meeks’ next novel, Love at Absolute Zero, focuses on a physicist who uses the tools of science to find his soul mate–and he has just three days to do it. 

Blood Drama has Meeks edge into a thriller. Most recently, A Death in Vegas is a mystery. Now he’s joined Army veteran Samuel Gonzalez, Jr., for a visceral tour of Iraq with the men and women on the front lines in Baqubah in The Chords of War. It’s about a musician, kicked out of his own band, joining the Army for discipline. He plunges into the horrors of combat. He tries to hold on with his music.  

Website | Twitter | Facebook

My Review

The Benefits of Breathing is such a heartfelt collection stories. Christopher Meeks writes such a profound range of human emotion. In each story, people are searching for the meaning for love and humanity.

I found these 11 stories both moving and enjoyable. You can feel these characters going through intense breakthroughs that benefited their well being. Christopher Meeks writes with a raw honesty that readers can truly resonate with. I deeply appreciate Meeks’ ability to craft tales filled with beauty.

I recommend The Benefits of Breathing to those searching for quick yet meaningful stories. You won’t be disappointed in this moving compilation!

Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for a gifted copy!

Will you place Christopher Meeks’ collection in your TBR pile? Feel free to share your thoughts below!

Contact Cathleen!

Active Defense by Lynette Eason | Book Review

Active Defense is book 3 in the Danger Never Sleeps series. We once again delve into ‘military-to-civilian’ life from a strong woman’s perspective!

Book Information

Active Defense by Lynette Eason. Link: https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1593125995l/53911515.jpg

Active Defense by Lynette Eason
Book 3 in the Danger Never Sleeps series
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Revell
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: January 5, 2021

Synopsis

As a former field surgeon in Afghanistan, Heather Fontaine is used to life-or-death situations. She just didn’t expect them to follow her home. When she returns from a party to find that someone has broken into her house–and threatened her friends–she assumes it is the stalker who has been following her and creeping her out. She hopes to find safety and peace of mind by leaving the city and hiding out in a small town. But trouble has followed her even there.

Luckily, a stalker isn’t the only one watching Heather. Travis Walker has been secretly watching out for her for weeks. As owner of his own security agency, it’s what he does. Together, Travis and Heather must figure out who wants her dead–and why–before it’s too late.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lynette Eason will have you looking over your shoulder as you dive into this fast-paced, suspense-filled story about losing control and finding something even better.

Active Defense’ Author Information

Lynette Eason, author of Active Defense

Lynette Eason is the best-selling, award winning author of almost fifty books including the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunions series, the Hidden Identity series, the Elite Guardians series and the Blue Justice series. She writes for Revell and for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense line. Her books have appeared on the CBA, ECPA, and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller lists.

Lynette won several awards including the Carol Award, the IRCC award, the Selah, and the Christian Retailing’s Best 2017 Award. She placed in the top ten in the James Patterson 2016 co-writer contest. The movie, Her Stolen Past, based on Lynette’s novel, aired February 2, 2018 on the Lifetime Movie Network. Lynette is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Romance Writers of America (RWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), International Thriller Writers (ITW), and Faith, Hope, and Love (FHL) chapter of RWA as well as the Kiss of Death (KOD) chapter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Active Defense: My Review

Active Defense takes us to Jennifer Fontaine’s story. Jennifer is a talented Army surgeon, yet civilian life brings unexpected dangers. Jennifer is threatened by an unknown stalker. She sets out to solve the mystery as to why this ‘visitor’ is tormenting both her and her loved ones. We also follow Travis, a figure skilled in surveillance and protection. Both Travis and Jennifer join forces to stop this threat before serious consequences occur.

Although Active Defense is part of a series, you don’t need to read them in order. Each book centers around a character in the all female Army friendship. I also love that all the women thus far are professional and strong willed. Romance between Jennifer and Travis also runs deep within their chemistry!

I very much appreciated the sudden turns Active Defense led me through! It’s certainly an engaging tale. I’m eagerly anticipating the next book in the series!

Thank you to Revell Reads for the gifted copy!

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The London Monster by Donna Scott: Blog Tour

The London Monster has everything! Mystery, danger, excitement. This story will indeed have you on the edge!

I’m happy to partner with The Coffee Pot Book Club to feature The London Monster by Donna Scott! For information on The Coffee Pot Book Club, click here!

Book Information

The London Monster by Donna Scott, Book Cover

The London Monster by Donna Scott
Publisher: Atlantic Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction/Hist. Mystery
Length: 322 pages
Book Release Date: 21 November 2020

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Synopsis

1788. It’s exactly one hundred years before Jack the Ripper terrorizes the people of London. Before his arrival, a sexual miscreant known as the London Monster roams the streets in search of his next victim…

Thomas Hayes lost his mother in a vicious street assault. He then becomes an underground pugilist, fighting to rid the streets of violent criminals. However, his vigilante actions lead to him being mistaken for the most terrifying criminal of all.

Assistance arrives through Sophie Carlisle. Sophie is a young journalist with dreams of covering a big story. However, she is forced to masquerade as a man to do it. Engaged to a man she doesn’t love, Sophie yearns to break free to tell stories that matter about London’s darker side—gaming, prostitution, violence. She realizes that Tom could be of assistance. Together, they come up with a plan.

Straddling the line between vengeance and hiding his true identity as a politician’s son becomes increasingly difficult. Tom is pressured to win more fights. The more he wins, the more notoriety he receives. As a result, his identity may receive more exposure. This revelation could jeopardize his father’s political aspirations and destroy his family’s reputation.

Sophie is also in danger as hysteria spreads and the attacks increase in severity and frequency. No one knows who to trust, and no one is safe—Tom included, yet he refuses to end the hunt.

Little does he realize, the monster is also hunting him.

Author Information

The London Monster author, Donna Scott

Donna Scott is an award-winning author of 17th and 18th century historical fiction. Before embarking on a writing career, she spent her time in the world of academia. She earned her BA in English from the University of Miami and her MS and EdD (ABD) from Florida International University. She has two sons and lives in sunny South Florida with her husband. Her first novel, Shame the Devil, received the first place Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction and a Best Book designation from Chanticleer International Book Reviews.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

The London Monster Book Excerpt

A Note
August 1789

I have little patience for misinformation.  First of all, I did not attack a Miss Kitty Wheeler in the Ranelagh pleasure garden.  I only whispered some indelicacies in her ear.  There were far too many people meandering about on that enchanted summer night, so I would never have been so reckless as to draw my knife.  I am not a fool, after all.

But the papers always manage to get it wrong.  Or perhaps it’s the women.  I have been described as a thin, vulgar-looking man with ugly legs and feet.  How would they know the true nature of my legs and feet?  Do I go about without stockings and shoes?  I think not!  Some accounts describe me as short with a villainous, narrow face, yet others paint me as a small, big-nosed man with curly hair, a tall man of regular features, or foreign-looking with a dark complexion.  I have been said to wear all-black clothing, a brown greatcoat and striped waistcoat, or a blue silk coat with ruffled details and blue and white stockings.  They say I have long slicked hair, plaited behind and turned up, or loose curls and a round or cocked hat with or without a cockade.  Essentially, I look like everyone or no one at all.

A monster’s musings…

The Morning Chronicle has often referred to me as a ‘miscreant’ or a ‘wretch’.  The Oracle is less judgmental and therefore uses terms like ‘attacker’ and ‘perpetrator’.  But the World is the most accurate of the papers, for it portrays the women as the real monsters.  They are the ones whose histrionics and featherbrained ways have placed all men in danger, for any innocent man can be accused of being me with one wrong look or harmless suggestion.

And that is how I do it.  First, with a kind word or two, and then with a proposition.  The circumstances—whether the object of my affection sways her hips when she walks or strides forward with impatience and arrogance—will determine how I choose my words.  The lady who entertains me first with the rhythmic swish of her skirts as I follow behind her will always get the kinder introduction.  Perhaps a compliment before I express my true wishes.  But it is the haughty jilt who will take the brunt of it.  I might whisper a vulgarity in her delicate pink ear, comment on my growing arousal or the bounce of her breasts. 

What brings me the most pleasure is that first gasp, the initial moment of shock which registers in her raised brow and parted lips, a sure sign I have offended.  After that, it is not exactly pleasure I feel, but anger that burns my chest—a building rage.  Every desire I’ve ever had spills freely from my tongue and coats her like the soot on a hearth’s bricks.  She might fight to get away—most of them do—but I am stronger, faster.  And it is only then that I draw my blade.

Chapter 1

September 1789
Newgate Prison, London

Even as he stood atop the wooden cart with his hands bound and a rope around his neck, Thomas Hayes didn’t regret what he had done.  Only three people knew the truth of it, of course—the lady involved, her assailant, and him.  But without the victim coming forth, no one would believe Tom’s pleas of innocence.

A chandler stirred the boiling tallow that was meant to cover Tom’s dead body when the deed was done.  The unpleasant odour of rancid lard filled his nostrils, yet strangely made him awfully hungry at the same time.  He should have been hanged in the morning, but as the hours passed and no one came to retrieve him, he thought they’d reconsidered and decided the best way of death would be from starvation.  He hadn’t eaten in two days, either because his gaolers forgot to feed him or because they simply thought it unnecessary.  Either way, his mouth watered and stomach growled in what was to be the last day of his two and twenty years of life.

Past Memories…

He imagined his father’s expression when he finally read the news from the Morning Herald or the Public Ledger:  Son of Candidate Joseph Hayes Hanged at Newgate for Attempted Murder.  His father’s face would drop into his hands, his head shaking with disappointment, and his dreams of becoming a member of the House of Commons turning to ash with each blazing written word.

The two men awaiting execution to Tom’s left mumbled their prayers.  Tom had said his that morning as he took the sacrament from the chaplain, having satisfied the man’s religious estimation that he was truly repentant.  But he wasn’t.  He’d do it all again if presented with the same circumstances.

The gibbet stood only a foot higher than his head, and the ground little more than three feet below him.  He wore the same clothes he had been wearing the night he had attended the party at Apsley House, and knew with certainty that had his brothers been informed of his fate—another reason to curse him for ruining their family name—they would purchase his clothing and shoes back from the executioner once he was hanged. 

They were plain but beautifully made, his coat and breeches of the finest worsted wool and his shirt of white linen, now stained from weeks lying on the dirt floor of his cell.  Sadly, his recently purchased cocked hat was nowhere to be found.  The two men beside him were less formally dressed, both in crudely made hemp clothing, their brown forms slumped and feeble.  From the look on the spectators’ faces, he knew that he stood out like a peacock on parade.

The constable beside him nodded, and the executioner covered Tom’s bare head and face with a coarse white linen sack.  “There you go, lad.”

Now or never…

The bag scratched the skin on the bridge of his nose, so he tried to wriggle it away as best he could, considering the rope pressed tightly against his throat.  He was to be hanged in chains once he was declared dead—as were all felons, particularly those accused of attempted murder—and placed on display as carrion for nearby birds looking to feast on his remains.  That part bothered him the most.  He thanked God that his mother wasn’t alive to see it.

The crowd suddenly hushed, telling him he had only seconds left to live.  He took a deep breath through his mouth to avoid the tallow stench and relaxed as much as he could.  The sound of a bare hand slapping the horse’s hindquarters, then the jingling of its tack registered in his mind as the last sounds he would ever hear.  The cart below him shifted forward, and he stumbled to stay atop, but the flooring disappeared and the noose jerked him upright unforgivingly.  It was the last thing he remembered…

Finally, what are your thoughts on The London Monster? Will it make the top of your TBR pile?

Thank you so much to The Coffee Pot Book Club for letting me take part in The London Monster Blog Tour! Click below to view the other fabulous contributors!

The London Monster Tour Schedule

Contact Cathleen!

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas | Book Review

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas feature two children figuring out life after a tragic event in history. Loss truly effects us all.

I’m happy to partner with Turn the Page Tours and share The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas! For more information, as well as becoming a tour host, Click on their launch post.

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas: Book Info

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas by Kimberly WIllis Holt.

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas by Kimberly Willis Holt
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (BYR)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Middle Grade
Length: 320 pages
Release Date: January 12, 2021

Bookshop Link

Synopsis

Kimberly Willis Holt’s The Ambassador of Nowhere, Texas is a stunning post-9/11 companion to the National Book Award-winner When Zachary Beaver Came to Town.

Decades after the Vietnam War and Toby’s life-changing summer with Zachary Beaver, Toby’s daughter Rylee is at a crossroads–her best friend Twig has started pushing her away just as Ben, a new kid from New York, settles into their small town of Antler. Rylee befriends Ben and learns that Ben’s father was a first responder on 9/11. The two unlikely friends soon embark on a project to find Zachary Beaver and hopefully reconnect him with Rylee’s father almost thirty years later.

This beautiful middle grade novel is a tribute to friendships–old and new–and explores the challenges of rebuilding what may seem lost or destroyed.

Author Information

Kimberly Willis Holt, author of The Ambassador of Nohwere Texas.

Kimberly Willis Holt is the author of the Piper Reed series, including Piper Reed, Navy Brat, Piper Reed, Clubhouse Queen, and Piper Reed, Rodeo Star. She has written many award-winning novels, including The Water Seeker and My Louisiana Sky, as well as the picture books Waiting for Gregory and Skinny Brown Dog. A former Navy brat herself, Holt was born in Pensacola, Florida, and lived all over the U.S. and the world—from Paris to Norfolk to Guam to New Orleans. Holt long dreamed of being a writer, but first worked as a radio news director, marketed a water park, and was an interior decorator, among other jobs. A few years after she started writing, her third book, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, won a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. She resides in West Texas with her family.

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas: My Review

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas covers a lovely story of friendship woven into a traumatic time period. Rylee tries to handle many changes in her life among her fractured friendship with Twig. When the events of September 11 take place, Rylee struggles to understand the meaning of these changes.

When Joe Toscani and his mother move into town, Rylee meets someone who’s also living through the struggle, but in a deeply personal level. Joe experiences loss firsthand, and both he and his mother long to return to what was. While Rylee and Joe’s friendship starts shakily, they reach a common ground through patience.

The Meaning of Friendship

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas covers friendship throughout multiple generations. This is the companion to Zachary Beaver Comes to Town. Toby (Rylee’s dad) is the central character, and their special friendship is highlighted throughout the tale. Friendships is once again a focal point during TAONT as Rylee figures out how to navigate her status with Twig. Additionally, Joe and Rylee go on their own journey to seek out her father’s lost friend Zachary. I appreciated the multiple storylines among Antler, Texas’s community. Although its community members are side characters, they offer lovely insights from its first book!

TAONT and History

In addition to friendship, TAONT is a middle grade story covering the impact of September 11, 2001. This was a very tragic part of American history. Kimberly Willis Holt nicely addressed the effects of 9/11 through Rylee and Joe’s eyes. Rylee’s shock and Joe’s frustration is raw, their pain reflected throughout the book. Traumatic events such as September 11 must be approached gently with children, and I felt that this book did good work addressing that.

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas: Final Thoughts

Although The Ambassador is a follow up to Zachary Beaver, the book is easy to follow on its own. It’s such a lovely tale centered around the meaning of friendship. Two children come together during an extremely traumatic time to embark on a journey. In doing so, they rediscover the meaning of true friendship.

Thank you so much to Turn the Page Tours and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for the gifted digital copy!

Giveaway!

Up for grabs is ONE (1) physical copy of The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas by Kimberly Willis Holt. This giveaway is open to US residents only. It will run from January 11th to January 18th at 11:59 PM CST. To enter, click the link below!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1e4a114d15/?

Also, click below to view the other fabulous contributors!

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas blog banner.

Contact Cathleen!

Stones of Light by Zack Argyle: Cover Reveal

Stones of Light is Zack Argyle’s stunning sequel to the Threadlight series! I’m happy to partner with Storytellers on Tour to present you this cover reveal!

For more information about Storytellers on Tour, click on their info post.

Book Information & Cover

Stones of Light by Zack Argyle.

Stones of Light by Zack Argyle
Book 2 of the Threadlight series
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Age Group: Adult
Expected Publication: April 4, 2021
Artist: Ömer Burak Önal

Synopsis

Chrys is trapped in his own mind.

Laurel has lost her threadlight.

And Alverax may have doomed them all.

What have they done…

Stones of Light: Author Information

Zack Argyle, author of Stones of Light.

Zack Argyle was raised with a wonderful family motto: don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. What better way than to write fiction? He spends his days writing code and his nights writing epic stories about family, love, loss, friendship, and pain all intermixed with a heavy dose of the fantastical.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Stones of Light. Artwork by Ömer Burak Önal. Link: https://www.artstation.com/equin0
Artwork by Ömer Burak Önal

Are you ready to check out Stones of Light in April? I always love a good epic fantasy!

Contact Cathleen!

Halfway to Harmony : Reflection and Review

Halfway to Harmony places two children on an unexpected adventure! Can one boy learn to find peace after loss?

I’m happy to partner with Turn the Page Tours to feature Halfway to Harmony by Barbara O’ Connor! For more information, check out their launch post.

Halfway to Harmony: Book Information

Halfway to Harmony by Barbara O'Connor.

Halfway to Harmony by Barbara O’Connor
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction
Length: 240 pages
Release Date: January 12, 2021

Goodreads | Macmillan

Synopsis

A heartfelt middle-grade novel from New York Times bestselling author Barbara O’Connor about a boy whose life is upended after the loss of his older brother–timeless, classic, and whimsical.

Walter Tipple is looking foradventure. He keeps having a dream that his big brother, Tank, appears before him and says, “Let’s you and me go see my world, little man.” But Tank went to the army and never came home, and Walter doesn’t know how to see the world without him.

Then he meets Posey, the brash new girl from next door, and an eccentric man named Banjo, who’s off on a bodacious adventure of his own. What follows is a summer of taking chances, becoming braver, and making friends–and maybe Walter can learn who he wants to be without the brother he always wanted to be like.

Halfway to Harmony is an utterly charming story about change and growing up.

Halfway to Harmony: Author Information

Halfway to Harmony Author, Barbara O Connor

Barbara O’Connor’s awards include the Parents Choice Gold and Silver Award, American Library Association Notable Books, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, School Library Journal Best Books, and Kirkus Best Books. Her books have been nominated for children’s choice awards in 38 states and voted as a state favorite by children in South Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, and South Dakota.

Barbara was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. She draws on her Southern roots to write award-winning books for children in grades 3 to 6.

She currently lives in Asheville, NC. Her latest book is Wish, a middle grade novel published by FSG.


Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Review and Reflection

I was very excited upon learning that Barbara O’ Connor is releasing a new book! My previous experience with her work is Wish, and I fell in love with it! I looked forward to reading Halfway to Harmony, since I appreciate stories centering on friendship and finding oneself.

Halfway to Harmony conveys grief and loss through the eyes of Walter Tipple. Walter is trying to move on from the loss of his brother Tank. Throughout the book, Walter experiences adventure through his experiences with Posey, a new neighbor full of spunk! In addition to helping a man seek out his hot air balloon, Walter learns the meaning of kindred spirits. Walter certainly endures quite a journey of self discovery!

Halfway to Harmony Favorites

I compiled a short list of things I appreciated about Halfway to Harmony:

  • Addressing loss with care. From the start, Walter shares with us that Tank ‘is never returning home’. Special memories are treated with care, and we’re taken through family changes in his eyes. I feel that this is a thoughtful way of addressing loss, especially to a younger audience.
  • Evolving friendships. Walter learns to trust in others through Posey. Her sassy personality guides Walter in learning to trust in himself. Through many experiences (both emotional and fun), Walter begins the long process of healing.
  • Building confidence. In addition to Walter’s grieving process, he also learns to believe in himself. For many children, this is such an arduous journey, yet Barbara O’Connor approaches Walter’s road with great care.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, Halfway to Harmony is a thoughtful and lovely middle grade story. It addresses Walter’s personal journey through loss with great care, and we embark on fun adventures along the way. I highly recommend this book!

Thank you to Turn the Page Tours and Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group for the gifted digital copy!

Giveaway!

Enter to win one (1) finished copy of Halfway to Harmony! The giveaway runs through Monday January 11-Monday January 18, 2021.
Rafflecopter Link: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1e4a114d16/

Please click on the banner below to view the upcoming tour schedule!

Future Home of the Living God: Book Review

Future Home of the Living God : Book Information

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich. Link: https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1539778626l/38633525.jpg

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Format: Digital (Library copy)
Release Date: November 13, 2018

Synopsis

The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

Future Home of the Living God: My Review

While reading Future Home of the Living God, many emotions raced through my head. Shock. Wonder. Sorrow. Before I began reading, I went into this knowing it was compared to The Handmaid’s Tale. I can say that it’s equally shocking!

Cedar Songmaker begins her journey in this book reconnecting with her birth family. Along the way, the world is changing around her. Life is reverting backwards, as familiar food staples are vanishing. As fear runs rampant, it shifts to a persecution of women, especially those expecting. This fight for survival becomes crucial for Cedar, as she does whatever it takes to ensure the safety of both herself and her unborn child.

Characters & World Building

The characters in Future Home of the Living God are both well rounded and raw. This is an America living through crisis. Everyone is doing whatever it takes to survive. In the midst of a huge tragedy, Cedar also attempts to rebuild the bridge between herself and her birth mother. This causes an unlikely dynamic with her adoptive family!

Women in Survival Mode

There are sooo many layers to this book! Throughout the novel, Cedar speaks in the second person, relaying everything to her unborn child. She is afraid yet determined to fight in order to have a better future for her young one.

Future Home of the Living God kept me engaged from beginning to end! It was so moving to experience Cedar’s shifting emotions as she stockpiles for supplies. She feels both fear and guilt as other pregnant women face unknown destinies. Cedar is angry about her situation, and fearful about being seen. She feels constantly on edge 24/7!

Throughout her harrowing experiences, Cedar resorts to secret connections and tips for the sake of her child. It definitely gets interesting in Part 2 of the novel! Also, reading about Cedar’s bond with Sera her birth mom is very emotional! You’ll indeed feel shocked as their interactions unfold!

Recommendations

I recommend Future Home of the Living God to those who enjoy dystopian stories. If you love ‘end of the world’ tales, this is for you! If you love books with fearless women, pick this one up!

Final Thoughts on ‘Future Home…’

In conclusion, Future Home of the Living God is indeed an emotional yet powerful book. I highly recommend this riveting read!

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