Saturday, February 29, 2020

Sitting on a Fortune ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Review & Giveaway!

The Sisters, Texas Book 9 
Genre: Cozy Mystery / Romance / Women Sleuths
Publisher: Clear Creek Publishing
Date of Publication: February 11, 2020
Number of Pages: 228

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Hidden fortune. Hidden danger.

Madison Reynolds deCordova is about to uncover a dangerous secret…literally.

During In a Pinch Professional Services’s latest gig at an upholstery shop, Madison finds a chair that’s perfect for her husband’s birthday gift. At least it will be, once she removes the worn velvet. Hiding the chair at Granny Bert’s, Madison tackles her first solo upholstery project but soon discovers more than she bargained for! A hidden treasure beneath the cushion puts her in the middle of a new mystery and new danger.

The treasure isn’t her only problem. While helping a young boy find his lost dog, Madison lands on the wrong side of surly businessman Lamont Andrews. Meanwhile, best friend Genny is worried about one of her cafĂ© patrons. Mr. Pruett’s wild stories are getting wilder each day, and now he’s missing. Plus, there’s the matter of a troublesome new habit Maddy seems to have acquired: breaking and entering. It’s a harsh term for simply trying to rescue a dog and save an old man.

Somehow, she knows it all fits together. But what does a lost dog, a cluttered old barn, Mr. Pruett’s disappearance, and a hidden treasure have to do with her chair? Now someone is stalking her and her grandmother, and Madison knows that danger is on its way.

As always, The Sisters are full of fun, excitement, family antics, and more danger than the law allows!

HALL WAYS REVIEW: Texas author Becki Willis writes the most predictable, unpredictable cozy mysteries I have ever read. Sitting on a Fortune is book nine of the fabulous The Sisters, Texas Series, and readers who’ve read even one of the other books know this: we will always learn some new historical factoid(s); we can count on laughs and political rants from Granny Bert; something – be it by man or beast – will seriously tug at our heartstrings; and we’ll be feeling all sassy-pants that we have the mysteries solved right up until Willis throws a curveball (or five) and puts us in our place.

I started the series with book seven, then read one of the first five, then jumped to book eight before reading Sitting on a Fortune. I am quite proud of myself because as a reader who is typically a bit obsessive about reading series in order, this lack of sequencing is outside my comfort zone. However, I’ve become comfortable with skipping about in this series because Willis makes sure readers feel right at home in her books, no matter where you begin. It’s a real talent to tell just enough about the characters, their backgrounds, and their defining moments that a reader feels welcome; Willis has that talent in spades. Every book is welcoming with the perfect balance of enough information to make each story work for all readers and to pique their interest to go back and read or re-read prior installments.

The main premise of Sitting on a Fortune is a junker’s dream come true – well, other than the threats and danger that ensue after main character Maddy discovers treasure that’s been sewn into an old chair. Let the investigation begin! One of my favorite elements of the story is that, by design, the town’s graceful old library sits across the street from Maddy’s house, and Maddy regularly takes advantage of what it has to offer. I bring my own love of research and libraries to the scenes that Willis so deftly describes: the smell of the books, the look of the old furnishings, the order and organization of it all. These scenes remind readers that while the internet can be a great resource for research, sometimes real books, whose pages you feel and must flip through, have the best answers. At the same time, I got a chuckle out of Maddy’s ulterior motive for going to the library for another research trip because she had concerns about who might be tracking her own computer:

“Madison decided to walk over to the public library and contaminate their browsers instead of her own.”

While the plots and sub-plots and multiple stories are weaving their way around, what makes Sitting on a Fortune (and all the books in the series) shine is the characterization. These people feel real and familiar. Whether it’s that annoying nosy Nellie or that spunky senior citizen, readers know these small-town folks. At the same time, Becki Willis adds quirks that make the people endearing – or at least memorable – so that even in a wide cast of characters, there is no confusion between individuals. I got more than one giggle out of how Maddy talks out loud to herself and frequently gets caught doing it. And how every time her husband Brash appears, even in their own bedroom, it startles Maddy. I get you, Maddy.

Sitting on a Fortune satisfies on many levels, but it’s in the relationships between people and within a community that readers will be most gratified. That’s not to say everything is peachy in the relationships; true, the love is flowing at the deCordova house, but they are also surrounded by doses of envy, greed, and age-old grudges to keep things interesting. One of my favorite relationships is the friendship between Maddy and her best friend, Genny. The two of them manage to get themselves into all kinds of pickles, and at times they remind me of Lucy and Ethel with their antics. Yet, aside from the shenanigans, there is a real depth to their love and an unspoken understanding of each other that only comes between people who’ve weathered many storms together.

I highly recommend this series for cozy mystery lovers and for those who enjoy small-town settings and situations (no Uber?). Sitting on a Fortune has a neatly and quickly wrapped-up resolution, but careful readers will notice one loose thread that leaves a lingering question and just a hint of remaining danger. Happily, readers don’t have to wait long for book ten in the series to come out; Rose by Any Other Name is set for an August 2020 release. In the meantime, I’m going back to the first four books, which are now available on audio (YAYYYYYY), so I can get fully up-to-speed on the characters and their backstories. (For an excellent full series review, visit Reading by Moonlight blog.)

Thank you to Lone Star Book Blog Tours and to the author, who most generously supplied me an eBook ARC in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. 

Becki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of '13, that dream became a reality. Since that time, she has published numerous books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction, Best Women’s Detective Fiction and Best Audio Book, won the 2018 RONE Award for Paranormal Fiction, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world.

An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel, but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, Writer’s League of Texas, Sisters in Crime, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.

Connect with Becki below. She loves to hear from readers and encourages feedback!

GRAND PRIZE: Kendra Scott necklace + eBook of Sitting on a Fortune
2nd Prize: Audio Codes for the first four The Sisters, Texas books

3rd Prize: Autographed paperback copy of Sitting on a Fortune
February 20-March 1, 2020
(U.S. Only) 

Full Series Review

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Coded for Murder ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Promo & Giveaway!

Genre: Murder Mystery / Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: DSB Mysteries
Publication Date: September 26, 2019
Number of Pages: 358 pages


Jade O’Neal is a senior at West Texas A & M University in Canyon, Texas. She’s on track to graduate with highest honors and a degree in history until she is accused of murder. She juggles her busy school and work schedule around taking care of an overgrown Rottweiler and being questioned by police until she finds a series of clues hidden in puzzle form. Time is against her as she follows the clues to find the true identity of the murderer while avoiding arrest and her own murder.

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Dianne Smithwick-Braden is a native Texan raised on the family farm near Vernon, Texas. She seasons her mysteries with a little romance, a dash of adventure, and a touch of humor. She currently resides in Amarillo, Texas with her husband, Richard. 
Signed copy of Coded for Murder, hot chocolate mix, mug, crossword puzzle book, mini-notepads, M&Ms, clip-on book light
Signed copies of Coded for Murder
February 25-March 5, 2020
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Monday, February 24, 2020

So Others May Live ~ Audio Book Blog Tour Review & Giveaway!

Narrated by Siobhan Dowd

Audio Length: 8 hours 50 minutes
Publisher: Brady L. Hutchison
Released: Dec. 31, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction

In the space of a single night, four lives collide as Berlin staggers under the weight of British bombs. Mick, a Lancaster pilot, proposed to Grace on his last leave but one more mission stands in between him and the end of his tour. Grace harbors a secret, one which she fears might change the nature of their relationship forever. Unsure of how he will respond, she has decided to tell him upon his return knowing that to do so risks losing him forever.

Seven hundred miles away in Berlin, war-weary firefighter Karl is haunted by the images he's seen both on the home front and in Russia. Now he takes command of a group of teenage auxiliaries who find themselves on the front lines of Germany's defenses against a nightly rain of fire. On a call, he meets Ursula, a young woman who lives near his station. Karl quickly finds himself falling for her, unaware that she is playing a dangerous game, one which might place his own life in danger.

As the raid unfolds, they face choices which will forever change them, and those they love.

HALL WAYS REVIEW: AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: So Others May Live takes readers back in history to World War II and into the lives of two sets of people, who are supposed to be enemies. One set of the main characters is living under the command of Hitler and the Nazis who are sending air raids to London. The other set is in England, whose Royal Air Force is sending air raids to Berlin. Everyone is dealing with the consequences of those air raids, of communism, and the effects of war. Lines of loyalty are blurred as the very real human cost comes to light, and it becomes clear that only extreme measures can change outcomes.   

“The men spoke with the easy familiarity of those who had faced death together and survived. Rank did not matter to them.”

Author Lee Hutch has done his research and his experience as a firefighter brings readers a harrowing story filled with the vivid ugliness of war. Based on the cover blurb, I was expecting the story to be more about relationships between the characters and less about individual struggles, both internal and within their roles in society. Be warned: So Others May Live is realistic historical fiction, and nothing is sugar-coated. It is about survival, but not as much about the relationships that help one survive. Readers do get a glimpse at the camaraderie between the pilots, and the camaraderie between firefighters, and those parts were touching and powerful. However, because the stories are so grim, I really needed more about the relationships and the threads of hope that sustain humans in dark times.

“Faces came and went in the mess. New officers often went down before Michael even learned their names. Most went down within their first five missions.”

While the narration is outstanding (more on that below), I think So Others May Live might have worked better for me had I read it with my eyes, not my ears. Hutch’s descriptions are often richly detailed, pulling readers into the scenes (bomb shelters are “an olfactory nightmare”), but there are several places where the story drags, and readers are being told a litany of historical facts – it’s information overload. And in these scenes, there isn’t enough action to hold interest unless you are a huge history buff.  Another warning that the story is realistic: some of the descriptions of the aftermath of bombings bordered on putrid. This is not to say that the author was unnecessarily graphic – there is nothing gratuitous –rather, descriptions are realistic.  For someone like me (who avoids realistic war films and books), I think reading with my eyes would have helped me step away and handle the scenes better, but honestly, I probably wouldn’t have picked this to read because it’s too painful and true to history and without even a glimmer of hope.

So Others May Live is told in four parts, at times through a limited omniscient point of view and at other times, through each of the four main characters’ perspectives. This strategy ultimately shows that victims of wars, no matter which country they are in, have more in common than not, and that whether civilian or military, they often feel that it’s not their war but the battling governments’ war.  Human casualties are expected; they are relegated to statistics in ledgers.

Part four of the book was the strongest and the action is ramped up to make for some edge-of-your-seat moments. There are few loose ends by the end of the story, but there is nothing neat about the resolutions to each of the characters’ stories. The story is authentic, so expect a realistic conclusion that will weigh heavily on your heart and for sensitive readers, the melancholy is pervasive.

ABOUT THE NARRATION: Siobhan Dowd is a master narrator. (or naRATEor, as she would say.) She performed multiple accents: British -- including cockney -- German, Scottish, and even Louisiana-in, and regardless of male or female voices, she gave a unique identity and personality to the characters.  Her pacing is perfect, and I was able to listen at regular speed. Technically, the recording was excellent with no glitches or hiccups, and the sound being even throughout.

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

I received this audio book as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Lee Hutch. The gifting of this audio book did not affect my opinion of it.

Award winning author Lee Hutch grew up on the Texas/Louisiana border. As a child, he enjoyed reading history books and hanging around fire stations. As an adult, he entered the fire service and worked as both a firefighter and then an arson investigator before an injury led to his retirement. Along the way, he picked up a BA and an MA in History and an MS in Criminal Justice. He now teaches history for a community college in Southeast Texas. He loves books, cats, boxing, the Red Sox, and the New Orleans Saints.

His historical interests include the history of the fire service, particularly how firefighters have adapted to wartime conditions, the American Civil War, and the World Wars. When he's not in the classroom or in his office, Lee can be found reading or listening to either a Red Sox or a Saints game on the radio with his cat Anastasia. His next novel is set in Civil War era New York.

Narrator Bio

I record High Quality Voiceover in variations of my native South London accent - I can offer both bright and enthusiastic commercial reads, or a more laid back and enigmatic explainer style. 

I have lots of experience in Explainers, E-Learning, Commercials, Audio Books, and more.

I work in VO full time, and deliver high quality audio from my fully equipped home recording studio in South West London, always including amends or pick ups as needed to ensure complete client satisfaction. 

I use Source Connect or Cleanfeed for remote record-directed sessions and I can travel in and around London and the South East for studio based jobs.

Please have a look (and listen) around my site and get in touch by email, phone, or via social media if you’d like any more information on my services or to book a job.

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Feb. 20th:

Locks, Hooks and Books
The Book Junkie Reads . . .
Audiobook News Blog

Feb. 21st:
4 the Love of Audiobooks
Viviana MacKade
Super Booked!
Reading A Page Turner

Feb. 22nd:
Eileen Troemel
Nesie's Place
The Clipped Nightingale

Feb. 23rd:
Dab of Darkness Book Reviews
Momma Says To Read or Not to Read
2 Girls & A Book

Feb. 24th:
Adventures Thru Wonderland
Jazzy Book Reviews
Hall Ways Blog

Feb. 25th:
I'm Into Books
The World As I See It
Books, Tea, Healthy Me

Feb. 26th:
Bookmark and Fork
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