Tuesday, January 14, 2020

All In ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Review & Giveaway!

ALL IN
by
L.K. Simonds
Genre: Gritty Realistic / Christian Fiction
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Date of Publication: August 27, 2019
Number of Pages: 282

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A woman’s empty pursuit of happiness leads to a crisis before finding redemption in the Lord in this challenging and gritty Christian novel.

Twenty-nine-year-old novelist and blackjack dealer Cami Taylor seems to have it all—but just underneath her confident exterior and newfound celebrity is a young woman in trouble. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, wants to get married, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family—a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami would rather bolt like a deer.

Breaking things off with Joel, Cami launches herself on a new quest for happiness. But her pursuit of pleasure only takes her further from herself—and toward a harrowing new reality unlike anything she’s faced before. What follows for Cami is a fight to the death that can only be waged with God’s love.




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L.K. SIMONDS PRESENTS CAMI TAYLOR:



HALL WAYS REVIEW: It is a rare occasion when I know much about a book before I read it. With All In, I knew there was some controversy over the book being categorized as Christian fiction – gritty, realistic, Christian fiction. Who wouldn’t be interested in exploring that? With my interest piqued, I read the book description and just like the book’s title, I was all in.

“Manhattan lays out a daily smorgasbord of humanity. Old and young, rich and poor, bourgeois and Bolshevik…all together, they form a single living organism, a New York amoeba, shaping itself to the sidewalk container, shrinking from the overflowing wastebaskets and ubiquitous vendors.”

The strength of All In is in the vivid descriptions of people and places. Author L.K. Simonds writes with panache; her use of figurative language and carefully selected word choices (she bussed his cheek) ensnare and hold captive the reader. Truly, Simonds’s sentences are some of the most well-written I’ve read in some time. The writing is cerebral, and sentences are heavy with meaning, each giving readers more insight into main character Cami’s mind and heart. But much is also said between the lines, and while the story is a page-turner, there is much to be gained by mindful reading.

“Jackie wasn’t just a dealer. She was a gambler too. Always laying it all on the line, hoping for the big payoff.”

The cover image of All In, which also piqued my interest, is highly representative of Cami’s life, but it’s nuanced. Sure, there is an obvious connection: Cami took a job as a blackjack dealer in a casino in order to research and accurately write Jackie, the main character of her bestselling book. But it goes much deeper than that. In writing Jackie, Leona Camille Lingo becomes author Cami Taylor – who lives vicariously through her character, Jackie.  Sound complicated? It is. Gambling is an apt metaphor for Cami Taylor’s life.

Readers need to be aware that All In is not a book about a struggling Christian finding God: Cami is not a believer. She is self-aware, pragmatic even, about her lack of faith and self-destructive behavior and doesn’t worry about her soul. Does she sin? Well, yeah. She is human, and humans, whether they call themselves Christian or not, are sinners. Readers know Cami’s is a redemption story, and despite the divine intervention of having Kate dropped into Cami’s life, it takes the whole book to get there (seriously - to the final twenty pages). Truly, the book’s structure itself reflects the never-too-late religious narrative.

Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, I recommend readers be open-minded and remember that we all worship differently. Admittedly, the Pentecostal way in which Cami finally accepts Jesus Christ as her savior is outside my comfort zone. And while I believe in Jesus’ power to heal, I struggled to suspend my disbelief with how Cami’s conversion ultimately unfolded, and I think this could have been written a little differently to not alienate some readers.

For me, it took effort to step back here and not let the ending negate from the experience of reading the book.  But step-back I did, and I am left with a book that I would easily recommend to others who can be non-judgmental about belief systems other than their own. The writing is stunning, the story is enthralling, and All In is a powerful, realistic story that gloriously builds to one life-changing, lifesaving, defining moment.

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






L. K. Simonds is a Fort Worth local. She has worked as a waitress, KFC hostess, telephone marketer, assembly-line worker, nanny, hospital lab technician, and air traffic controller. She's an instrument-rated pilot and an alumna of Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas. All In is her first novel.
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Autographed, library-bound copy of All In
+ $50 Visa gift card
JANUARY 14-24, 2020
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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Spent Identity ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Review & Giveaway!

SPENT IDENTITY
Annalisse Series, Book 2
by
Marlene M. Bell
Genre: Mystery / Suspense / Light Romance
Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing
Date of Publication: December 11, 2019
Number of Pages: 378

Scroll down for the giveaway!



A body, a disappearance, just another hot summer in upstate New York.

It’s July when antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury reaches her family’s small-town farm to consult with the trusted aunt who raised her. She learns that her beloved homestead—the one she expects to inherit—is for sale. While Annalisse reels at the betrayal and her shattered dreams, the Walker Farm ranch manager discovers a corpse in the barn. Officials close the suspected murder scene, and Annalisse seeks refuge with her aunt at Alec Zavos’s rural estate in New York’s Catskill Mountains.

Then Aunt Kate vanishes.

Annalisse solicits the help of Greek tycoon, Alec Zavos, even though their rocky romance has dissolved into routine separation. What began as hope on Crete nine months ago has eaten away at Annalisse’s hope for a future with him.

In Spent Identity, Annalisse and Alec come together for the second time and find themselves in the center of not one mystery, but several. Where is Kate, and why sell her farm now? Is the dead man a coincidence or a clue to the aunt’s disappearance? John Doe’s identity may hold needed answers to solve the puzzle before Kate’s unstable health issues make her rescue impossible. The clock ticks, and a vengeful murderer is in charge…


WATCH THE BOOK TRAILER FOR SPENT IDENTITY:

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HALL WAYS REVIEW:  What hits readers from the very first lines of Spent Identity is the smell. Reading Spent Identity is as much an olfactory experience as anything else. Whether an aroma emanates from food or folk or flora or fauna, readers can count on experiencing scents right along with the characters in the book. I have a particularly sensitive sense of smell, so I read and wrinkled my nose at the descriptions of death, decay, and body odors (of both the dead and the living, who may “smell like old corn chips and onions.” Ha! Spot on!) Smells can be such a powerful trigger, and author Marlene Bell incorporates them perfectly into the story as a mechanism to give readers extra information and make the scenes realistic.

Bell sneaks in small details that careful readers will notice (like the worn copy of Annalisse’s favorite book that she always carries). Many are red herrings, but some are real clues to completing the many puzzles readers will discover in Spent Identity. There are several layers of mystery and at times, the threads of information seem disconnected, wispily floating in the air like spider’s silk. Wonderfully, the threads all find each other and connect so that motivations are exposed, and questions are mostly answered – quite a feat considering the main characters’ propensity for self-sabotage, finding danger, and getting injured.   

There are five key players in Spent Identity, and while Bell fleshes-out some more completely than others, none are ever fully revealed to readers. That’s a little frustrating, resulting in my feeling less sympathetic or even ambivalent about the characters. I want to care more, but I just don’t know enough about what makes any of them tick. Additionally, some of the characters’ actions and reactions puzzle me and/or feel false, particularly in terms of their lack of professionalism or acting illogically given all the surrounding factors and prior experiences that they bring to the table. Happily, the action-packed, rapid pace of the story combined with my desire to see how it all would turn out kept me fully engrossed in the story so much that I shirked work duties and read it in two sittings.

Spent Identity can stand alone even though it’s the second book in the Annalisse Series, but the author brings a lot of broad details from the first book into the second book.  I read (with my ears) book one, Stolen Obsession, and so I knew the references in full and enjoyed the reminders of the chaos and calamities that these characters have already endured. Having this prior knowledge enriches the reading experience, and I recommend that readers start with book one. Honestly, some of the full background information that can only be gleaned by reading the first book seems vital to fully understanding Spent Identity, particularly when it comes to relationships between characters. Without that insight, I can see how some readers starting with book two might not have patience for Annalisse’s or Alec’s (or even Chase’s) behavior. Plus, everyone needs to know Generosa Zavos! Read book one.

The ending of Spent Identity is fully satisfying and allows readers to breathe after holding their collective breath through the dizzying pace of this roller coaster ride of a book. Bell leaves readers gratified -- and intrigued with a bit of a cliffhanger and a well-placed page at the story’s conclusion announcing book three, Calico Raven. Hooray! I am in!

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


Marlene M. Bell is an acclaimed artist and photographer as well as a writer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of publications such as, Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living, and Sheep Industry News. Ewephoric, her mail order venture, began in 1985 out of a desire for realistic sheep stationery. A color catalog of non-fiction books and sheep-related gifts may be requested on her website or www.texassheep.com.

Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside on a wooded ranch in beautiful East Texas with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large and lovable Maremma guard dog named Tia, and Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks, the cats who believe they rule the household -- and do.


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$350 PRIZE PACK / ONE WINNER
Autographed copy of Spent Identity & companion notebook, Mary Poppins-style bag (18x13” tapestry carpet bag with leather trim, handmade in Israel), $100 Amazon gift card, and 18” freshwater pearl necklace. 
JANUARY 7-17, 2020

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