Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Emily Box Set (What Doesn't Kill You Series 5-7)

The Emily Box Set
What Doesn't Kill You, Books 5-7
By Pamela Fagan Hutchins
Contemporary / Romantic Mystery

HALL WAYS REVIEW: 5 Stars stories/4 Stars narration. Audio Book Review. (I bought the eBooks and added Audible narration.) I had already read (in print) the third book in the Emily sub-set, #7, of the What Doesn't Kill You series, Hell to Paybut it was fun to go backwards and read (with my ears) forward with books 5 & 6 to learn the back-stories. Main character Emily is a mess and a HOOT, and so real.  "Oh spit," did I laugh a lot, and "Mother Goose," I could relate to Emily with her coffee love and crooked teeth and alternative vocabulary.

These books are chock-full of memorable characters and notable quotables, and I enjoyed and related to how Emily struggles with her faith, how to worship, how to pray, and how to be grateful. One of my favorite quotes from book one was, "I'd done a little too much of the 'why me' and the 'not fair' instead of just being thankful for what I did have." The point was not lost on me that often when Emily does the "Christian thing," it ends up badly. The slow-burn relationship between Emily and Jack is well-done, especially as things begin to smolder in book two, and again, just like Emily, the relationship feels real. It's not perfect: there are mis-communications and missed signals and uncertainty -- and a fair share of embarrassment, thanks to Emily's mother.

The narrator, Tracy Hundley excels in her female Texan voicing -- she has an accurate Texas accent and uses the right lilt and cadence in her speech and author Pamela Fagan Hutchins's fabulous phrasology. Initially, it seems like there is almost no attempt to make the male characters' voices sound male, though they do have different inflections, but that got better over the course of the three books. I am not a fan of her voicing of children and young people, and those pop-up with some frequency, but the adult females and a few selected male characters were so excellent, I didn't much care. (Melinda, described as "As shallow as a Texas river in August," sounded a bit Miss Piggy-ish, but you know, I think that is pretty accurate!)

I intend to go back to the beginning of the series -- and read the books after this set -- to get to know Emily's other friends and their stories. I like that though the books main friend group characters are what tie the full (now 9 book) series together, they work as stand alones, too. Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an immensely talented writer and has created a world with endless possibilities for storylines, each approached to match the unique women in this friend circle. There's humor, action, suspense, and romance a'plenty! HIGHLY recommend.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pamela writes overly long e-mails, the What Doesn't Kill You romantic mysteries, and (possibly) hilarious nonfiction. She resides deep in the heart of Nowheresville, TX and way up in the frozen north of Snowheresville, WY. Pamela is passionate about hiking with her hunky husband and pack of rescue dogs (and an occasional goat and donkey), riding her gigantic horses, experimenting with her Keurig, and traveling in the Bookmobile.

Pamela's mysteries have won a lot of awards, from the 2017 Silver Falchion for Best Adult Mystery WINNER (Fighting for Anna) to the 2016 and 2015 WINNERS for USA Best Books Fiction: Cross Genre (Hell to Pay, Heaven to Betsy). With downloads of nearly 2,000,000 for the What Doesn't Kill You series, readers seem to enjoy her smart, sassy female sleuths.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

The Company Files: 1. The Good Man ~ ~ Blog Tour, Review, & Giveaway!

The Company Files: 1. The Good Man
by Gabriel Valjan
Category: Adult Fiction, 251 pages
Genre: Thriller, Historical Fiction, Crime Fiction, Espionage
Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing
Release date: December 2017
Content Rating: PG + M
(No bad language but there is an attempted rape scene and some violence.)

Book Description:  In 1948, Vienna was divided among four powers: France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Jack Marshall had served with Walker during the war, and now, working together for The Company, they are tasked to do the inconceivable. Could former Nazis really be recruited to assist the U.S. in the atomic race? As their team moves forward, they quickly discover they are not the only ones looking for these men. And the others in the search may just have the objective of murder.

In this tale of historical noir, of corruption and deceit, no one is who they say they are. Who is The Good Man in a world where an enemy may be a friend, an ally may be the enemy, and governments deny everything?

To read reviews, please visit Gabriel Valjan's Page on iRead Book Tours.


HALL WAYS REVIEW: ✪✪✪✪✪  It’s 1948 Vienna, a city trying to redefine itself but having a hard time of it with a population infiltrated with Russians, Nazis, British, Americans, war criminals and war heroes, the innocent and the guilty, and opportunists abounding. Revenge and retribution and international superiority are strong motives in a place that’s grim and where the sometimes-shiny surface is best left undisturbed for what ugliness might lie beneath. The powers of multiple countries each have reasons to find Nazis, but for the Americans and the British, they want to recruit the Nazi scientists to further their countrys' own research and interests. As one Russian notes: “Today’s hero becomes tomorrow’s villain and, in the future, rehabilitated icon.”

Author Gabriel Valjan does an outstanding job with the setting of The Good Man, the first book in The Company Files series. Not only does he create a tangible mood, but his descriptions add to the authenticity. He includes a variety of what I assume to be real places in Vienna -- streets, neighborhoods, buildings, monuments -- and organically incorporates historical tidbits for reference and insight. I learned a lot about a place and a fascinating period that I have not yet explored.

The Good Man is told from three different characters’ points of view: Americans Walker and Jack (who work for The Company) and Russian Sheldon. Each brings a unique perspective to the story, but all are products of their experiences in the war. Walker is defined most clearly, but Jack and Sheldon are a bit murkier. I really like Walker’s reliance on routine, procedure, and the familiar to calm and re-focus himself. He’s quirky, but I get him. The grammarian in me loves when Walker is deliberating with himself about the case, and his conclusion is, “That was a lot of subjunctives.” Shows his quiet intelligence and again, the methodology around which he works. And Walker is complex: he can drop a person without a second thought yet is charitable and visits children’s hospitals on the sly.

Jack is more difficult to read. Even when Jack narrates, readers don’t get the full picture of what’s going on in his brain. The same is true for Sheldon, plus readers are missing a sizable chunk of his backstory between his time in the concentration camps and where he is currently. Valjan includes some scenes and actions that drop hints there is MUCH more to Sheldon than meets the eye.  I look forward to learning more about both he and Jack (and others) in future books in the series. (Side note about other characters: even the secondary characters are fleshed-out very well, are complex, and some will evoke a visceral response in readers.)

The story is raw and gritty and violent – reflective of the underside of the world in Vienna and beyond. Death comes often and often comes unnaturally and while Valjan is detailed in his descriptions, they aren’t overly graphic – they are horrific by deed, but much is left to the readers’ imagination, which I appreciate. This is no cozy mystery.

“Not bad for a snake built like a moose with a frog’s reflexes.”

Valjan’s writes intelligently and he’s clever in his wording. The dialogue is perfectly balanced with expository writing, and natural -- and Valjan does a great job of projecting meaning beyond the words and innuendo by including characters’ gestures and expressions. The plot is intricate, and it’s unique in that where most books in this sub-genre are action-packed and fast-paced, the stories in The Good Man are slower to unfold, and it is the attention to detail that kept me firmly planted in the story. There are a scattered few typos and some comma errors, but though I noticed them, I doubt most will notice or be distracted by them.

The Good Man is a solid noir espionage novel that kept me engaged and on my toes with plot twists and turns-of-events that conclude with a very satisfying ending.  After the conclusion of the story is a sample of book two, The Naming Game to whet readers' appetites for more -- plus there are descriptions of Gabriel Valjen’s five books in his Roma Series (now added to the ever-toppling TBR pile).

Thank you to iRead Book Tours for providing me a print copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. 

Meet the Author: Gabriel Valjan is the author of The Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen.

Connect with the Author: 
Website ~ Twitter ~ Pinterest

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Dark Harvest ~ ~ Blog Tour, Review, & Giveaway!

Author: Chris Patchell
Narrators: Lisa Stathoplos, Corey Gagne
Series: The Holt Foundation Stories, Book 2
Length: 11 hours 7 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Released: Sep. 27, 2017
Genre: Suspense, Thriller


Becky Kincaid ventures out in the middle of a snowstorm to buy a car seat for her unborn baby and never makes it home. When a second pregnant woman disappears, Marissa Rooney and the team at the Holt Foundation fear a sinister motive lurks behind the crimes.

Lead investigator Seth Crawford desperately searches for the thread that binds the two cases together, knowing that if he fails, another woman will soon be gone. While Seth hunts for clues, a madman has Marissa in his sights and she carries a secret that could tear her whole world apart.
Can Seth stop the killer before he reaps his...dark harvest?

Chris Patchell is the bestselling author of In the Dark, Dark Harvest, and the Indie Reader Discovery Award winning novel Deadly Lies. Having recently left her long-time career in tech to pursue her passion for writing full-time, Chris pens gritty suspense novels set in the Pacific Northwest, where she lives with her family and two neurotic dogs.


Narrator Bio

Lisa Stathoplos has been a professional actor working onstage, in film and commercial VO work for many years as well as narrating books and performing in Audiodramas for and Hachette Audio. Most recently, Lisa played Nina Locke in Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’ epic multiple Audie award-winning 13-hour audio drama of their wildly popular graphic novel LOCKE AND KEY produced by Pocket Universe Productions’ AudioComics division and Finalrune Productions for Audible Studios.

Narrator Bio

Corey Gagne is an audiobook narrator, stage, and voice actor from Portland, Maine. Corey trained at Mountview Theater Conservatory (now Mountview Academy) in London, England, and has appeared on stage in London, New York, Philadelphia, Austin, and Portland. His work as an audiobook narrator includes Inci by Mike Resnick and Tina Gower, The Constable's Tale by Donald Smith, the Sin du Jour series by Matt Wallace, The Goblin Crown by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, The Twilight of the Gods Series by Christopher G. Nuttall, The Black Wolves of Boston by Wen Spencer, The Builders by Daniel Polanski, and Dark Harvest and In the Dark by Chris Patchell.

HALL WAYS REVIEW: Dark Harvest (A Holt Foundation Story, #2) continues right where In the Dark, book one of the series ended.  Author Chris Patchett immediately sets a new scene and tone that has readers on edge as we see the horror of what’s coming – but we don’t know why.

For the audio book, listeners are again treated to the dual narration team of Lisa Stathoplos and Corey Gagne, who both seem more comfortable with the characters (there are at least 10 returning from book one) and better define them. I noticed Seth sounds a little more subdued than in book one, but it becomes clear quickly that he is fighting some internal battles and working to keep his emotions under control.

"Hope is a crappy strategy...but right now she had nothing else."

Conversely, Marissa seethes and is quick to fly off the handle, succumbing to the stress of taking care of PTSD-suffering daughter Brooke, being a corporate slave, and trying to keep her relationship from Seth from tanking. The narrators do an excellent job voicing all the characters, but particularly with Marissa and Seth, who are returning from book one and dealing with some serious issues.

The plot line of Dark Harvest is horribly creepy – and fully enthralling. What seems at first straight-forward in why the disappearances are happening soon twists into something even darker and disturbing. As with In the Dark, readers discover who is the perp early on, but in Dark Harvest, it’s more of a race to stop the crimes instead of a mystery to solve. Patchett has created some new characters who are truly loathsome, and the author continues to flesh-out some of the returning characters, so readers get to better know them. There is one character’s back-story that seemed overly detailed, lengthy, and unnecessary, and there are other characters about whom I want to know more. Hopefully there will be a third novel that dives-in to some of their stories. In any case, the explosive ending will have readers on the edge of their seats and leaves a set-up perfect for a next installment in the series.

While the subject matter is grim, and the body count is high, Patchett doesn’t get overly graphic in her descriptions, leaving the finer details mercifully up to the readers’ imaginations. As with the prior novel, I could do without the profanity, which fits even less with most of the characters in this book. Audio book listeners need to be mindful of who else is in listening range; it’s an adult book with sex and violence.   

Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions and the author for providing me a free audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.


Runs Feb. 11th-25thOpen internationally (via Amazon US or UK)

The Holt Foundation Stories Giveaway: Amazon Echo Dot

Dark Harvest, Book 2

Feb. 18th:

Next Book Review

T's Stuff

Cali Book Reviews

Turning Another Page

Feb. 19th:

What Is That Book About

Jazzy Book Reviews

Feb. 20th:

Lilly's Book World

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

2 Girls and A Book

Feb. 22nd:

Wall-to-Wall Books

Notes from 'Round the Bend

Feb. 23rd:


Hall Ways Blog

Feb. 24th:

Twisted Book Junkie

The Book Addict's Reviews

Feb. 25th:


La libreria di Beppe

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Lone Star Book Blog Tours 2017 Bloggers' Choice Awards ~ ~ ~ ~ Best Fiction Book

The Lone Star Book Blog Tours team has voted, and the results are in!  From Best Fiction to Most Engaged Author, we have seventeen awards to hand out to the awesome Texas books and authors featured on Lone Star Book Blog Tours in 2017.

From February 15-23, 2018, please join us as we hop around the LSBBT blogs and share the winners, runners-up, and shortlisted titles. Don’t miss it!

MY TWO CENTS: Wow! Talk about an excellent TBR list for you! I was super lucky that I managed to read most of these books last year (and have gushed about them on one of the prior 9 awards posts because they ALL have made prior appearances.) and just have These Healing Hills, Before the Rain Falls, and The Day the Angels Fell  left to read this year -- and I need to get on it since those last two authors already have new books coming in the next couple of months! (You can watch for Camille DiMaio's The Way of Beauty on tour with LSBBT in May!) Many of these other authors are cranking out the new titles, too: Melissa Lenhardt has Heresy, the start of a new series; Kimberly Fish has Harmon General, the follow-up to The Big InchEliza Maxwell has a new stand-alone, The Widow's Watcher (LSBBT tour in May); and Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall have Dam Nation, the next Bonnie & Clyde book (LSBBT tour in May) How they can manage to crank out books faster than I can read them amazes me! 

Click to learn more about:
Badlands by Melissa Lenhardt
Hidden Sea by Miles Arceneaux
Comfort Plans by Kimberly Fish
The Big Inch by Kimberly Fish
These Healing Hills by Ann Gabhart
The Day the Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker
Blood Oath by Melissa Lenhardt
The Grave Tender by Eliza Maxwell
Bonnie & Clyde: Resurrection Road by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
Before the Rain Falls by Camille DiMaio


Thank you for following along! If you are a Texas author or have a Texas book you'd like to take on tour with Lone Star Book Blog Tours, just fill out the contact form (bottom of the blog page) and I'll hook you up!  Want to be a part of the LSBBT blogger team? Click the "Texas Blogger" tab on this blog and then fill out the contact form if you think you are a good fit for the group! 

We love our Texas books, Texas authors, and Texas bloggers!

Best Fiction Book

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lone Star Book Blog Tours 2017 Bloggers' Choice Awards ~ ~ ~ ~ Best Non-Fiction Book

The Lone Star Book Blog Tours team has voted, and the results are in!  From Best Fiction to Most Engaged Author, we have seventeen awards to hand out to the awesome Texas books and authors featured on Lone Star Book Blog Tours in 2017.

From February 15-23, 2018, please join us as we hop around the LSBBT blogs and share the winners, runners-up, and shortlisted titles. Don’t miss it!

MY TWO CENTS: This is so exciting! We had a lot of non-fiction books on tour, and I read a lot of them -- but only two of these six that made the final cut. The Rebirth of Hope, Sau Le Hudecek's story of her immigration that brought her from Vietnam to my home town of Fort Worth, was an amazing story of bravery, strength, determination, and perseverance. I remember that when I was reading it, I would frequently stop to share a story with one of my kids or husband. She never gave up. Never stopped working for her goals. Never let anything stop her in a time and place where the barriers were plentiful. Incredible. And Yonderings is a completely different kind of incredible. Author Ben English transported me to Big Bend, Texas of old and shared his discoveries and reflections and recollections of his life and lessons. Practical in its tips, magical in its descriptions, I still feel the book and the place tugging at me. For the other winning titles, we had terrific special features that gave me a connection to the books an pique my interest still.  

Click to learn more about:
Breakfast in Texas by Terry Thompson-Anderson
The Rebirth of Hope by Sau Le Hudecek
Of Bulletins and Booze by Bob Horton
The Swimming Holes of Texas by Julie Wernersbach and Carolyn Tracy
Understanding Cemetery Symbols by Tui Snider
Yonderings by Ben English


Thank you for following along! If you are a Texas author or have a Texas book you'd like to take on tour with Lone Star Book Blog Tours, just fill out the contact form (bottom of the blog page) and I'll hook you up!  Want to be a part of the LSBBT blogger team? Click the "Texas Blogger" tab on this blog and then fill out the contact form if you think you are a good fit for the group! 

We love our Texas books, Texas authors, and Texas bloggers!