Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Up Near Dallas ~ ~ Blog Tour, Review, & Giveaway!

Winds of Change -- Book III
  Genre:  Texas Historical Fiction / Romance
Date of Publication: November 12, 2017
Number of Pages: 307

Scroll down for the giveaway!

The year is 1934. Economic turbulence rocks the country. And record drought dries up crops, along with the spirits of every farmer south of the Mason-Dixon. Yet for sixteen-year-old Mick McLaren, life is good as he takes to the open road to chase his dream of being a musician. Riding boxcars, hitchhiking, walking and driving his way across Depression Era Texas, he finds not only himself, but the love of a girl from Dallas named Margaret. Along the way, they befriend Cowboy Larson, a Delta Blues guitarist. Together the three teens, from three very different worlds, come-of-age as their life-changing journey carries them through killer dust storms, extreme poverty, and the unprecedented gangster activity of the Dirty Thirties. 

Amazon ▪ Barnes & Noble ▪ iBooks ▪ Kobo

=================== ║=================== 

HALL WAYS REVIEW: ✪✪✪✪ Up Near Dallas by Gina Hooten Popp is an excellent time machine ride back to 1934 Texas, where life is a dusty, drought-stricken struggle for most people. There is a deep division and disconnect between the very rich, who live relatively unscathed, and the very poor and pretty much everyone else in between. Popp makes her points (many applicable to modern times) clearly, and along with Mick McLaren and Margaret Morningstar, our sixteen-year-old main characters, readers grow and just might change how they view life on the other side of the tracks.

As I often do, I jumped right in on reading Up Near Dallas without knowing much about it or remembering that it is the third book in the Winds of Change series. And it worked just fine as a stand-alone book. HOWEVER,  though this is a little bass-ackwards, as we are prone to say in Texas, I recommend reading at least the summaries of books one and two before starting this book. Doing that would put book three in context (this is a family saga stretching from the late 1800s forward) and explain why Up Near Dallas is told the way it’s told. I think it would be better to read them in sequence, but the best part about not doing that is that those characters about whom I wanted to know more, more, more (Mick’s parents and grandparents) are the focus of those earlier books. Perfect!   (Ooh, and there’s even a free novella prequel, The Emigrant’s Song. I plan on going back and starting there.)

Up Near Dallas is told in very short chapters and from four different points-of-view. Those two elements and the fact that our main characters are teenagers – and there is insta-love -- made the book feel like it was suited for a young-adult audience. (Tie in the prior books, and it likely works for young adult, new adult, and adult readers, but I am not sure.)

Speaking of those fascinating characters…author Gina Hooten Popp knows how to write ‘em. There is a wide cast of players (again, it seems many are from prior books), and each is distinctly written and brings something interesting to the table. That is one of the over-reaching themes in the story – that life is about people and the bonds and relationships forged between them by shared experience or even random encounters. Up Near Dallas focuses on hope in a world full of despair.

"One thing good that has come out of all these hard times -- 
people coming together to help each other."

The experience our main characters Mick and Margaret share is the catalyst for both to grow, but each in a different way. I don’t want to spoil what this “experience” is (Popp ties-in an important historical event in each of her books, and in Up Near Dallas, it’s FAB), but readers will enjoy not just following the event itself, but how out of it, Mick begins to realize his privilege and learns true empathy, and Margaret becomes empowered and learns to scratch below the surface to understand someone’s character. I mentioned the insta-love that happens; I understand an event of this magnitude would bring two people together, but I don’t feel like I am shown enough, especially with Margaret, to merit what seems like a sudden pining, head-over-heels love she feels. 

The story is carried primarily by dialogue, which comes across naturally, like I’d expect to hear people of that time speak.  Popp’s descriptions are richly painted, so that readers feel the magnitude of a dust storm or the tranquility of an evening in the Texas countryside.  

"There's no sound in the world like the hum of 
the wind blowing through oak trees before a thunderstorm."

The writing is solid, but there are a few plot holes that need filling or fleshing-out to strengthen the story. Additionally, another round of editing would help take the book to the next level as those typos and errors are distracting to this reader. (I know, I know. THIS reader is considerably more persnickety than most.)

There are several directions the next book could take (and there MUST be a next book with that ending!), and there are opportunities abounding for tangent books following the lives of any of the fascinating characters. (Dr. Lyles, please.) Meanwhile, I look forward to going back to the beginning and reading book one, The Storm After, which tells of Mick’s grandpa surviving the Galveston Hurricane in 1900!), and Lucky’s Way, which tells of Mick’s dad as a WWI fighter pilot.

Thank you to Lone Star Book Blog Tours and the author for giving me a gorgeous print copy in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. 

A native Texan, Gina Hooten Popp was born in Greenville and now lives in Dallas with her husband and son. Along with writing novels, Gina has enjoyed a long career as a professional writer in advertising. Her debut novel THE STORM AFTER was a finalist in the 2014 RONE Awards, and her just-released book CHICO BOY: A NOVEL was a 2016 Medalist Winner in the New Apple Annual Book Awards. Recently, her novel LUCKY'S WAY, about a young fighter pilot from Houston, was endorsed by the United States World War One Centennial Commission. 

December 5-December 13, 2017
(U.S. Only)

Guest Post
Notable Quotable
Author Interview

   blog tour services provided by


  1. Thank you so much for the in-depth review. I thought you did an outstanding job of capturing the essence of UP NEAR DALLAS. I hope you enjoy the other books in the series. Gina

    1. My pleasure, Gina! Thank you for sharing your book with us -- can't wait to get up-to-speed and read the prior books!