Thursday, July 30, 2020

Landing in My Present ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Review & Giveaway!

Mary Clark

Biography / Aviation / Historical / WWII
Publisher: Hellgate Press
Date of Publication: June 15, 2020
Number of Pages: 218

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Mary Walker Clark barely knew her father. When he died, he left not only the obvious void every teen would experience, but took with him scores of Indiana Jones-style tales about flying the Hump, a treacherous series of US missions that transported supplies over the Himalayas to China during World War II. 

It would take a chance interview with a pilot who had flown with her father in the war to launch a series of extraordinary journeysinto a shrouded past and halfway around the globe to India and Chinafor Clark to finally come to know the father whose absence had haunted her for decades. 

Landing in My Present chronicles the adventures of a daughter who chose to pry open a painful past while enlarging her view of an adventurous father long thought lost.


HALL WAYS REVIEW: Reading Landing in My Present by Mary Walker Clark feels like finding a diary or scrapbook in a dusty attic, opening it up, being enveloped in the past, and not emerging again for hours.  This book doesn’t fit neatly into any one literary box: it’s part memoir, part biography, part travelogue, and a splash of speculation. Calling it unique only scratches the surface.
“This journey has been filled with such [memory] recoveries, jarred by a photo, a friend’s story, a quiet moment of reflection—each building a fuller picture of my father.”
The personal photographs sprinkled throughout the book really enriched the story and brought an additional level of intimacy between author Mary Clark and her father, Charlie Walker, but they also help bond author and reader and reader to Charlie.  The inclusion of the photos makes us feel like we are discovering things about Charlie right alongside Mary. I found that their stories evoked foggy memories of my own of stories told and nearly forgotten within my own family. I made notes about things to ask my own dad.
“Each revelation brought Dad’s past into my present world, erasing years of silence.”
It’s always startling when you finally realize that your parents were (or are) something other than parents -- that they were important to all kinds of people who were never even on your radar.  As Mary reads letters and talks to extended family, she discovers her dad was the favorite uncle, the popular instructor, the faithful pen pal, and so much more. There’s a thread of regret that weaves through the book because Mary didn’t truly recognize or acknowledge her father’s greatness. She was proud, but not proud enough. In hindsight, she acknowledges she thought and acted like the sixteen-year-old she was, and then as the young woman finding her way, and then as the adult overloaded with responsibilities that overshadowed the past -- but it’s almost as if she still can’t forgive herself for any of it.  
“A plane went down for every two hundred trips over the mountains. For every thousand tons flown into China, three Americans gave their lives.”
Learning about the Flying the Hump, the airlift operation that took supplies (primarily gasoline) from India to western China by flying over the Himalayas, was a new-to-me piece of World War II information. I not only hadn’t heard of these daring and dangerous transport missions, but I had only the slightest knowledge of the uneasy alliances made for it to happen.  While I am sure there are detailed accounts in military histories, the real stories of the men in the air are likely stored only in memories and stories passed down through generations.  Mary’s deeper understanding of the role her father played in the war is a treasure; her sharing the treasure with readers is priceless.
The story builds to what seems to be the natural culmination: Clark’s actual travels to India and China to walk her father’s path. Again, the photos are a real enhancement as she recounts her encounters with the people and places (Happy Jack is a highlight), noting the differences in how the two countries received Clark and her brother as children of a Hump pilot. Learning about how the city of Kunming, China, honors and acknowledges the importance of the Hump operation and the Allied role in helping China during the war was another reminder of how much I don’t know about history – or the world, for that matter.
Where the digital reader may feel that the resolution is near at this point, my print copy showed a quarter inch of pages left and that the story wasn’t finished. Clark adds a “but wait, there’s more” move and goes into how coming home from her trip was not the end of the story. She details additional stories that unfolded and connections she made as a result of her research and the Hump connection, all underscoring that her journey to truly know her father continues. 
With the numerous photos, the short chapters, and lots of white space, Landing in My Present is a quick but fully satisfying reading experience. Clark’s writing is clean and effective in not only informing readers but forcing them to reflect and possibly experience a lump in the throat or tear in the eye. 

Mary Walker Clark is a retired attorney turned travel writer who loves taking readers with her to worldwide destinations. She has been traveling independently and internationally for over fifty years. Her essays may be found in the Paris News, at her blog, "Mary Clark, Traveler," and her podcasts at KETR 88.9, an NPR affiliate. Clark is an award-winning member of the North American Travel Journalists Association and a contributor to Still Me, … After All These Years, 24 Writers Reflect on Aging. 

In 2016, Clark traveled to India and China to follow her father's WWII footsteps when he was a Hump pilot flying over the Himalayas. Her journey to connect with him fifty years after his death is told in her book, Landing in My Present

Clark is a fifth generation Texan living in Paris, Texas.

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FIRST WINNER: $25 Amazon card 
SECOND WINNER: Signed copy of Landing in My Present
THIRD WINNER: $15 Amazon card.
 July 21-July 31, 2020
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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Enemies of Doves ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Book Trailer & Giveaway!

Shanessa Gluhm

Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
Publisher: TouchPoint Press
Publication Date: March 20, 2020
Number of Pages: 324 pages

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Told in alternating timelines from World War II to 1992, debut author Shanessa Gluhm's Enemies of Doves is a tale of family secrets, jealousy, and deception perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Katherine Webb.

On a summer night in 1932, twelve-year-old Joel Fitchett wanders into an East Texas diner badly beaten and carrying his unconscious brother, Clancy. Though both boys claim they have no memory of what happened, the horrific details are etched into their minds as deep as the scar left across Joel's face.

Thirteen years later, both men still struggle with the aftershocks of that long-ago night and the pact they made to hide the truth. When they find themselves at the center of a murder investigation, they make a decision that will change everything. A second lie, a second pact, and, for a time, a second chance. In 1991 college student Garrison Stark travels to Texas chasing a rumor that Clancy Fitchett is his biological grandfather. Clancy has been missing since 1946, and Garrison hopes to find him and, in doing so, find a family. What he doesn't expect to discover is a tangle of secrets spanning sixty years involving Clancy, Joel, and the woman they both loved, Lorraine.

PRAISE for Enemies of Doves:
"Enemies of Doves weaves a timeline of events that makes for compelling reading. It's an ecological system of interlocking decisions, discoveries, and circumstances that spans some sixty years of love, danger, and revelations." —D. Donovan, senior reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“I’ve read some amazing thriller and suspense stories this year, but Enemies of Doves takes the mid-year prize. I’m not one for dual timelines, but this one was perfection with the fifty-year time-span moving forward in tandem. Garrison’s search will cause time to collide, unlocking a lifetime of secrets, and THE PLOT TWIST OF 2020!” —author Felicia Denise

“Shanessa Gluhm is a brilliant writer. I very seldom read a book that I cannot figure out how it will end, but this one literally blew me away!” —Lori Thomas Harrington, author of The Point


Shanessa Gluhm works as a librarian at an elementary school in New Mexico, where she lives with her husband and children. It was during her own elementary days when a teacher encouraged Shanessa to write and share stories with the class. She hasn’t stopped writing since. Enemies of Doves is her debut novel. 

1st: Signed Copy + $20 Amazon Card
2nd: eBook 
JULY 28-August 7, 2020

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BONUS Review

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Friday, July 24, 2020

Turn to Dust ~ Audio Book Blog Tour & Review!

Detective Kay Hunter Series, Book 9
Narrated by Alison Campbell

Length: 7 hours 56 minutes
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Sub-Genres: Mystery, Police Procedural
Released: May 14, 2020

When the body of a naked man is found in the middle of a barren field, a rural community is left in shock - and fear.

Discovering that someone is offering money in return for information about the dead man and anyone connected to him, Detective Kay Hunter realises there is a dark side to the victim’s past.

When a key witness disappears and a web of deceit and lies threatens to derail the investigation, she fears the worst.

Can Kay and her team of detectives find out who is behind the man’s murder before another victim is targeted?
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HALL WAYS REVIEW: AUDIO BOOK REVIEW. Reading (with my ears) the latest book in the Detective Kay Hunter series was the perfect escape during these social distancing days. It felt like spending time with old friends after a long time apart from them – I read the prior book, Cradle to Grave, nearly nine months ago! The fabulous Alison Campbell returns to narrate the story, and within four minutes, author Rachel Amphlett gives us the first mention of steaming hot coffee. Perfection.  

Amphlett has a predictable formula that’s held for all nine of the books so far in this series – and that’s why I keep returning. I know exactly what to expect: a hideous death that turns out to be a murder; an investigation that uncovers nefarious goings-on, a late-in-the game discovery where the clock is ticking, and lives are on the line. The stories are police procedural, with the same core team working the crime and crime scenes, and main character Kay’s husband can be counted on to be her rock and our source of amusement. Sound dull? No way. Amphlett fleshes out these bones to provide readers a unique, gruesome, and engrossing story every. single. time. I almost always listen straight through in a day – do-able since most books come in at around 8 hours.

“Hunger beats solidarity most of the time, in my experience.”

In Turn to Dust, Amphlett masterfully builds a story around the victim and masterfully manipulates readers into making (incorrect) assumptions and drawing (wrong) conclusions about him. Predictably, the murder barely scratches the surface of a bigger sinister picture in Amphlett’s stories, bringing in a human-interest element that reminds readers to look beyond appearances and not to judge. I am being intentionally vague because to be specific would spoil the fun of discovering and uncovering the truth, right alongside Kay and her investigative team.

Did I mention gruesome? I do believe Turn to Dust has the most bizarre murder scene of the series thus far, and some really twisted (literally) things happen to victims. Amphlett’s descriptions are rich and detailed enough that readers’ noses will be wrinkling and stomachs clenching. This, in contrast to the ever-polite and proper manner of the British detectives, is one of the things I love. (Side note: I always learn new Brit-speak, and in this book, I learned the term “sleeping rough,” for how the homeless spend the night. Accurate.)

“She was partially thankful that the sign had been turned in the window to read “closed.” Otherwise she would have been tempted to browse the shelves. Adam…would have a heart attack if she bought more books.”

I also love the core characters, especially in off-duty mode. I love Kay and her love of wine, books, and bookshops; I love Barnes’s humor, even (especially?) when it comes out at inappropriate times; I love Adam and his rotating animal menagerie; I love Carris’s loyalty and empathy. Amphlett shows the human side of the detectives and peeks into their lives outside working the cases. There was less of the characters’ private worlds in Turn to Dust, and I particularly missed not having more Adam/Kay time. Strangely, Kay’s extended family is completely absent in this installment, unless I missed any mentions since I was reading with my ears. 

Regardless, I’ll be back for the next installment in the Detective Kay Hunter series – and there just must be one. I’m not anywhere near ready to say goodbye. And Kay would never stop at a ninth story. A nice round dozen, I’d think, is more her style.

ABOUT THE NARRATION: Alison Campbell provides an outstanding performance, as always. Campbell’s pacing is even, her diction perfectly clear. I listened at regular speed for once, though Authors Direct, the platform I used, allows small incremental tweaks to the speed. Nice. Still waiting for the return of her creepy-guy voice, but she had lots of practice with weepy women in this one.

Thank you to the author and Audiobookworm Productions for providing an audio code in exchange for my honest review – the only kind I give. Forgive any misspellings of character names – don’t know ‘em when I read with my ears.

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

Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore's TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.


Narrator Bio

Alison Campbell is an actress based in Bristol, U.K. She has lent her voice to 50+ audiobooks, cartoons, documentaries and dramas. She can be found treading the boards across the country, in everything from Shakespeare to hip hop kids adventures. On screen she has appeared in dramas and science documentaries, her most recent co star was a CGI elephant. She can also be found performing the Natural Theatre Company's award-winning surreal brand of interactive comedy around the globe.

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