Can’t-Wait Wednesday: The Wilderwomen by Ruth Emmie Lang

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights books soon to be released, the ones we’re excited about but haven’t read yet. It’s hosted by Wishful Endings, and was formerly hosted by Breaking the Spine. Y’all can check out all of this week’s Can’t-Wait Wednesday posts here.

Title: The Wilderwomen

Author: Ruth Emmie Lang

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

Publication Date: November 15, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Synopsis:

Five years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared. The older of her two daughters, Zadie, should have seen it coming, because she can literally see things coming. But not even her psychic abilities were able to prevent their mother from vanishing one morning.

Zadie’s estranged younger sister, Finn, can’t see into the future, but she has an uncannily good memory, so good that she remembers not only her own memories, but the echoes of memories other people have left behind. On the afternoon of her graduation party, Finn is seized by an “echo” more powerful than anything she’s experienced before: a woman singing a song she recognizes, a song about a bird…

When Finn wakes up alone in an aviary with no idea of how she got there, she realizes who the memory belongs to: Nora.

Now, it’s up to Finn to convince her sister that not only is their mom still out there, but that she wants to be found. Against Zadie’s better judgement, she and Finn hit the highway, using Finn’s echoes to retrace Nora’s footsteps and uncover the answer to the question that has been haunting them for years: Why did she leave?

But the more time Finn spends in their mother’s past, the harder it is for her to return to the present, to return to herself. As Zadie feels her sister start to slip away, she will have to decide what lengths she is willing to go to find their mother, knowing that if she chooses wrong, she could lose them both for good.

My thoughts:

I read Ruth Emmie Lang’s first novel, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, when it was released in 2017. I found it fascinating. So I’m very much looking forward to this, Lang’s second book. A quest, family, the unexplained – these are some of my favorite bookish themes! I’m anxious to get my hands on The Wilderwomen and get to reading.

Does it sound like one you’d enjoy?

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Book Review and Blog Tour: Hidden Bones by Rita Herron

Book: HIDDEN BONES

Author: Rita Herron

Pub Day: AUGUST 8TH 2022

Buy Links: 

https://geni.us/B09VTN1FZGsocial

About the Book: 

The girl trips over branches, losing her footing. The darkness swallows her and she grabs thin air as she falls, her scream piercing the night. When she slams into the bottom of the pit, her heart hammers. She can’t believe what she’s seeing—a pile of perfect white bones…

In the small town of Crooked Creek, where the Appalachian Mountains climb into the clouds, nineteen-year-old Mandy’s Spring Break takes a sinister turn. Detective Ellie Reeves races straight to the scene, driving through the winding roads to the abandoned orphanage.

Ellie saves the teenage girl but discovers human remains that have been there for thirty years, ever since the home for children closed down. Her heart shatters at the thought that they might belong to the helpless orphans.

Working day and night on the case, Ellie searches for the orphanage’s files, but they have been stolensomebody is clearly trying to cover their tracks. As she interviews the residents of the mountain community, Ellie finds out that almost everyone connected to the children’s home has disappeared.

Then a woman is found dead, her body marked with a strange symbol. When Ellie learns that the victim used to work at the orphanage, it’s clear that a twisted killer is trying to stop the truth coming out.

Ellie vows to solve this case that spans decades and, when her research into the meaning of the symbol leads her to a local business at the heart of recent controversy, she’s on the right track. Can she bring the secrets to light before another innocent person is murdered? And when she gets too close to uncovering the truth, will she survive?

A totally gripping and pulse-pounding crime-thriller that will have you holding your breath as you race through the pages! Perfect for fans of Lisa Regan, Kendra Elliot and Melinda Leigh.

My review:

Y’all know how much I love Lisa Regan’s books. So I figured Hidden Bones was a perfect read for me.

Guess what? I was right!

As I tend to do, I’ve jumped into the middle of the series here, so I’m getting to know Detective Ellie Reeves on the fly. I was able to follow the story well enough, but I need to go back and start at the beginning to get all the backstory.

The action starts off with a bang when a teenage girl falls into a pit and realizes she’s landed on a pile of bones. The bones are on the property of Hawk House, a former children’s home that closed down due to rumors of abuse and mistreatment. Ellie and her team investigate to determine whether the bones could belong to children that used to live at the home.

What starts out as an investigation of potentially old crimes is brought suddenly into the present when a woman’s body is found. Ellie learns that the victim used to work at the children’s home, and when more bodies turn up, she realizes someone doesn’t want the truth about Hawk House to come out.

This is a heck of a ride, y’all. Rita Herron does an outstanding job of throwing down hints and then spinning the story in a different direction. The dual timeline perspective used to tell the story works wonderfully here.

Lots of twists and turns make for a thrilling read! Character development is excellent, and the story never lags. The tension builds with each new discovery.

And talking about tension – at some point, Ellie is going to have to choose. Ranger Cord McClain or Special Agent Derrick Fox? Decisions, decisions. I think I’m Team Derrick right now. Maybe.

If you love a good thriller, you’ll want to make Ellie Reeves’s acquaintance. I’m glad I did. Five stars from me!

About the author:

USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author Rita Herron fell in love with books at the ripe age of eight when she read her first Trixie Belden mystery. But she didn’t think real people grew up to be writers, so she became a teacher instead. Now she writes so she doesn’t have to get a real job.

With over ninety books to her credit, she’s penned romantic suspense, romantic comedy, and YA novels, but she especially likes writing dark romantic suspense and crime fiction set in small southern towns.

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Book Review and Blog Tour: The Water Witch by Jessica Thorne

Book: The Water Witch
Author: Jessica Thorne
Pub Day: August 5, 2022 
Buy Link: https://geni.us/B0B51V9MXCsocial

Book Description:

Sitting side by side on the clifftop, he turns to her solemnly and says, ‘The water witch is real.’ She rolls her eyes and grins, teasing him. ‘Sure. A psycho mermaid. Got it.’ But now he’s gone forever… will she find the truth beneath the waves?

Brittany, France. Ariadne Walker’s fiancé Simon drowned in the stormy Atlantic Ocean doing what he loved: searching for the lost underwater city of Ys. Local legend says it was destroyed centuries ago when the princess of Ys became a water witch, cursing the name of the man who betrayed her.

Ari never believed these tall tales. And the letter Simon sent before he died finishing their relationship is a devastating secret she’ll take to the grave. But arriving in Brittany, Ari encounters a man emerging from the sea in a rocky cove, saltwater dripping from his dark hair. Rafael swears the legends are true: and his ancestor was cursed by the water witch. Now, his own life is in terrible danger. And the secret to breaking the curse lies hidden in the lost city.

When Ari finds a strange engraved mask on the sea bed, and a cryptic map amongst Simon’s things, she has no choice but to believe Rafael’s plea. Can they follow the trail and save Rafael’s life? Poring over the map by candlelight, the flickering flames only add to the heat between them… but will Ari’s fragile heart soon be shattered all over again? And will they ever find Ys and break the curse – or will the water witch demand another sacrifice?

An absolutely addictive romantic fantasy read filled with passion and mystery, that will sweep you away to the wild coast of northern France. Inspired by real myths and legends from this magical place, The Water Witch is perfect for fans of Luanne G. Smith, River of Shadows and Jennifer L. Armentrout.

My review:

I liked The Bookbinder’s Daughter, another of Jessica Thorne’s books. So I jumped at the chance to read and review this one. While I think I like The Bookbinder’s Daughter better, this is an enjoyable story!

Bad enough that Ariadne (Ari) Walker’s fiancé Simon broke things off with her. But shortly after the breakup, he died. Drowned in his pursuit of the legendary lost city of Ys. Ari has sworn never to return to Brittany, and while she grieves Simon’s death, she sees it as a tragic accident. She puts little stock in local lore that says the princess of Ys was horribly betrayed by one she loved, and as a result, cursed the man who betrayed her and his descendants.

When her brother Jason asks her to come to Brittany to help bolster his case that his team has, in fact, located Ys, she plans to stay a couple of days. She has no intentions of staying in a place that brings her so much pain. But Rafael du Lac, charming and ridiculously wealthy and next of the du Lac men to die if the water witch has her way, convinces her otherwise. Soon things are happening that she can’t explain, and she finds herself drawn tighter and tighter into the search for Ys. Finding the city and breaking the curse may be the only way she – or any of them – survive.

The romance felt a little too rushed, too insta-romance for me. I mean, Ari is still heartbroken over both Simon’s dumping her and his unexpected death. But she’s now developing feelings for the new guy, who may be dying soon, too, if the curse has its way. I know, liberties must be taken for the book. That’s just a trope that bothers me a little.

And bless Rafael’s heart. He’s got so much money, he thinks it fixes everything. Ari says she needs to get back to her job? He sets up a foundation for the school where she teaches and covers all of her expenses to boot. There’s a problem with an artifact they found and the university whose help they may need authenticating everything says it’s a fake? He dumps a load of cash on them and suddenly they’re irrelevant. I almost felt sorry for Rafael, because clearly no amount of money can keep the water witch from coming for him.

But the lore, based on actual legends of Brittany, is fascinating. Characters are not always what they seem, and I found plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing. Thorne’s writing style is both beautiful and easy to read, and Ari is an easy character to care about.

So this wasn’t quite up to the level of The Bookbinder’s Daughter for me, but it’s a solid four-star read. Very enjoyable if you’re a fan of a good paranormal tale with a dash of fantasy, romance, and adventure.

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from Bookouture and NetGalley. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the author:

Jessica Thorne saw Star Wars at an impressionable age and life was never the same. She’s loved fantasy, romance and science fiction ever since and spends her time looking for adventure – in the pages of her books.

Sometimes she is Ruth Frances Long and won the European Science Fiction Society Spirit of Dedication Award for Best Author of Children’s Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2015.

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Posted in ARC Reads, Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Bookouture, Fantasy, Magical Realism, NetGalley, Paranormal | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Tuesday: Hilarious Book Titles

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out upcoming Top Ten themes on Jana’s blog and go here to see what others have on their Top Ten Tuesday lists!!

This week’s theme: Hilarious Book Titles! Disclaimer: just because a title may tickle my funny bone for some reason doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a funny book (but sometimes it does). Nor is the fact that the title makes me chuckle any negative reflection on my enjoyment of the book. And mine may not be so much hilarious as moderately amusing, but close enough

In no particular order:

Stiff Lizard by Lisa Haneberg (funny name, entertaining cozy mystery – yes, there were actual lizards involved)

The Harvard Skull Fiasco by Kris St. Gabriel (lots of quirky, off-the-wall humor)

Bash and the Pirate Pig by Burton W. Cole (the Bash books are wonderful for late elementary/early middle grade readers, and they’re funny for adults, too!)

North! 0r Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson (the second in Peterson’s amazing Wingfeather Saga – good for adults, good for kids, just go read it, all four books)

The Sweet Potato Queens’ First Big-Ass Novel: Stuff We Didn’t Actually Do, But Could Have, and May Yet by Jill Conner Browne (and if the title doesn’t have you rolling on the floor, the book certainly will)

What Does This Button Do?: An Autobiography by Bruce Dickinson (lead singer of Iron Maiden, for any of you headbangers out there)

Thud! by Terry Pratchett (come on, a random thud is funny)

Bless Your Heart, Tramp: and Other Southern Endearments by Celia Rivenbark (she has several books of Southern humor, all with outrageous titles)

Go the $%*! to Sleep by Adam Mansbach (I originally discovered this when it was a YouTube video reading of the book, read by none other than the one, the only SAMUEL L. JACKSON!!!! I laughed so hard, I could hardly breathe. My older son was what, 11 or so then? Not really to the point where I’d normally want my kids exposed repeatedly to the f-bomb, but I had to play it for him. He was all, you never said that to us, did you? I said, not so you could hear, son. Not so you could hear.)

Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder (a favorite of my younger son when he was quite a bit younger than he is now – because your mom reading a book with the word “fart” in it is the height of hilarity, don’tcha know)

And that’s it for the week! What funny book titles do you have rolling around in your head?

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Book Review and Blog Tour: The Last of the Seven by Steven Hartov

The Last of the Seven
Steven Hartov
On Sale Date: August 9, 2022
Fiction / Historical / WWII

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Bookshop
IndieBound
Books-A-Million
Kobo
Apple Books
Google Play
Libro.FM
Indigo

About the book:

A spellbinding novel of World War II based on the little-known history of the “X Troop” – a team of European Jews who escaped the Continent only to join the British Army and return home to exact their revenge on Hitler’s military.

A lone soldier wearing a German uniform stumbles into a British military camp in the North African desert with an incredible story to tell. He is the only survivor of an undercover operation meant to infiltrate a Nazi base, trading on the soldiers’ perfect fluency in German. For this man is not British born but instead a German Jew seeking revenge for the deaths of his family back home in Berlin.

As the Allies advance into Europe, the young lieutenant is brought to Sicily to recover, where he’s recruited by a British major to join to newly formed “X Troop,” a commando unit composed of German and Austrian Jews, training for a top-secret mission at a nearby camp in the Sicilian hills. They are all “lost boys,” driven not by patriotism but by vengeance. Drawing on meticulous research into this unique group of soldiers, The Last of the Seven is a lyrical, propulsive historical novel perfect for readers of Mark Sullivan, Robert Harris, and Alan Furst.

My review:

This book. The opening sequence, describing Bernard Froehlich’s desperate trek across an unforgiving desert hoping against hope for rescue, is brutal. I’m not super squeamish, but some of the descriptions almost put me off the book.

I’m so glad they didn’t.

Bernard Froehlich is found near a British outpost in the north African desert, wearing a German uniform. The Brits want to, if not shoot him on sight, at least capture him. But he convinces them he is, in fact, one of them. He tells a remarkable story, of being the lone survivor of a group of German Jewish soldiers going undercover as Nazis. As it turns out, he is not yet done serving for Britain.

I’ve never been in the military. I’ve certainly never been an undercover commando training for vital missions. But Steven Hartov writes in such a way as to make it clear how challenging such a task, such a role must be. We’ve all heard it said that war is hell, and so it is here.

I’ve read a fair amount of World War II historical fiction told from the perspective of women. The Last of the Seven is not that. It’s much more descriptive in its scenes of battles and wounds, of the training Froehlich and his men endure. But while it doesn’t focus on the more emotional side of war stories as seen from a woman’s point of view, it is not without emotion. Froehlich earnestly desires vengeance on the Nazis for what they did to his family. Deaths of comrades are truly mourned. War romance is bittersweet. The story runs the gamut of emotion and does an excellent job drawing the reader into each scene.

I knew nothing about the “X Troop,” the German Jews who fought for the Allies and used their heritage and native language against the Nazis. I can only imagine that imitating those who they most had cause to loathe brought an extra layer of difficulty to their service.

I found The Last of the Seven to be an engrossing, well-written, well-researched work of historical fiction, and I appreciated the fact that it taught me something new about World War II history. Read an excerpt below and see what you think.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

North Africa, Spring 1943

In the Sahara, the sun could make a man bleed.

It was hard to believe at first, especially if you’d ever trekked a frigid winter landscape somewhere, boots slogging through alpine snow, limbs shivering and aching bone deep. It was a challenge to imagine it, such a murderous sun, when December memory recalled teeth chattering like a Morse code key, toes and fingers numbed and raw, eyebrows stiff with frost, till all at once that blessed star emerged from charcoal clouds to save the day.

The sun was a holy thing then. The breath of God on your frozen face.

Ah, but in the vastness of that empty desert, when spring fell prey to cruel summer, when the cloudless sky was nothing but a silver mirror, the sand an iron griddle, and there was not a tree or cave or cactus to throw a shadow’s sliver. Nowhere to run from the sun. It was then that heaven’s jewel became a hunting thing, its furnace eye unblinking, merciless, and pounding.

You could shade your skull with a cap, drape your blistered neck with burlap, but still you had to see your path as your squinting eyes filled with flies who’d found the only liquid in the land. The lancing light bounced off the dunes to slowly broil your face, lips turned plaster white and split, and the oils of your nose and cheeks fried patches there like poultry on a spit. And then, the crow’s-feet wrinkles at the corners of your bleary vision turned to brittle parchment, until at last they cracked, and the most unnatural happened…

The man across the dunes was weeping tears of brine and blood. But they were not of sorrow or self-pity, for all of his emotions had hollowed out so many weeks ago. They were simply the last vestiges of all the fluid he had left, squeezed from the ducts by that relentless sun.

He was small there in the distance, and nearly weightless now, though from the way he moved it seemed he wore a yoke of iron. He was no more than an upthrust child’s thumb against the umber sands, shimmering in the steaming light of the fata morgana, an illusion where horizon met the sky.

He wore a Bedouin burnoose, tight about his oily blond curls and rough against his bristled jaw. His German staff sergeant’s tunic was girded with white salt lines of evaporated sweat, a single bandolier of ammunition, and the lanyard of a camel skin water bladder, now shriveled like an ancient’s scrotum, nothing left. One Feldwebel rank was on his collar, his Afrika Korps palm-tree shoulder patch was bleached into a ghost, and in one pocket were two lizard tails he’d chewed from time to time, though all the meat was spent. The right waist of his tunic was punched through with a bullet hole, its fringes black with dried blood, and in the left thigh of his trousers was another one just like it, the reason for his crooked limp.

In his dangling right hand, below a ragged sleeve, he clutched a German MP40 Schmeisser machine pistol, barrel down, its leather strap dragging through the sand. His left hand held nothing, the nut-brown fingers capped with broken nails with which he’d tried and failed to dig some water from the heart of a dying oasis. His breaths rattled like an asthmatic’s, yet he came on, another half an hour, another mile.

A pair of British soldiers from Montgomery’s Eighth Army watched him. They knelt behind a berm of sandbags, Tommy helmets buckled tight, sleeves rolled up and neat, shorts revealing sun-browned thighs above knee socks and tanker’s boots. They were alone, the western guards of a garrison south of Medenine, Tunisia, and they raised their bayoneted Enfield rifles to bear down on the stranger, like twins who often read each other’s minds.

At twenty feet the German sergeant stopped, unmoving, only breathing. The Cockney Tommy on the left aimed the rifle at his chest.

“Drop the bloody Schmeisser.”

The German jolted, as if surprised to hear a voice aside from his own mutterings to himself, unsure if these two Brits were real or cruel mirage. Yet he obeyed, as after all he knew it didn’t matter. The machine pistol was choked with grit and only the first shell would have fired. He opened his fingers and let the gun slip, like the hand of a dying lover, and it fell to the sand and was still.

The Tommy on the right said, “Hände hoch.” Hands up. He was a Scot and it came out as “Handerr hook.”

The German tried, but he couldn’t raise his arms higher than his waist, and his leather palms fluttered there above the sand like a maestro urging his musicians to play the passage pianissimo. His cracked lips formed a trembling “O,” though no sound emerged, and he mouthed Water, and then again—a goldfish with its face pressed to the glass of an aquarium. The Scot, keeping his Enfield trained, pulled a tin canteen from his battle harness.

“Don’t go near him, Robbie,” warned the Tommy on the left.

The Scot pitched the water bottle, cricket-style, where it pinged against a rock before the German’s boots. But the man could hardly bend his wounded leg and leaned in half a fencer’s lunge, snatching the canteen two-handed. He unscrewed the cap and brought it, shaking, to his mouth, and raised his face to heaven as the water gushed into his swollen gullet and dribbled from his filthy beard. His body trembled, and he looked at the two men and said, in nearly perfect British English, “I am not a German.”

The Tommies glanced at one another, then back at their intruder.

“You don’t say, Klaus?” the Cockney said to him.

“Looks like a bleedin’ Jerry to me, Harry,” the Scot growled to his partner.

“He’s bleedin’ all right, mate,” said Harry sideways. “Got a couple of nicks.”

“Nicks?” Robbie snorted. “Coupla hefty caliber holes. Can hardly see `em for the flies.”

Cockney Harry craned his neck to peer beyond the German’s head.

“You all alone, mate?”

“Six others,” the German managed in a brittle whisper.

“Don’t see ’em.”

“All dead.”

“Right,” said Robbie. “And where’d ye come from then?”

The German dropped the canteen. His fingers wouldn’t hold it.

“Borj el-Khadra, by way of Tobruk.”

“Bollocks,” Harry spat. “That’s three hundred miles.” He thrust his buckled chin above the sea of endless dunes. “Across that.”

For a long moment, the trio regarded one another like drunkards sizing up opponents for a brawl. The Tommies watched the German’s hands, for they hadn’t searched him yet, while for his part he struggled to stay upright. Cockney Harry gestured at Robbie the Scot, but only with his head.

“Fire the Very pistol, Robbie. Green flare, not red. Let’s have the captain up here for a chat.”

Aside from Robbie’s flare, which arced into the silver sky and fell to earth somewhere, the trio stayed immobile until at last a throaty engine loomed. A four-wheeled open command car appeared from the north, its peeling fuselage bristling with petrol jerrycans, pickaxes, and Bren light machine guns snouted at the sky. It spewed a cloud of dust as it hove to and an officer dismounted, his captain’s cap stained with sweat, Webley pistol lanyarded to a holster. His left hand tapped a swagger stick against his muscled calf while his right fingers smoothed a short mustache. His large driver followed close, hefting a Thompson submachine gun.

The captain ambled up and stopped, his bloodshot eyes squinting at the strange tableau. Robbie the Scot turned and dipped his helmet brim, but Harry kept his rifle trained, and there were no salutes.

“What’s all this then, lads?” the captain said.

“Captured us an Afrika Korps infiltrator, sir,” said Harry.

“Sneaky desert serpent,” Robbie sneered.

“Good show then.” The captain nodded and scanned the prisoner head to foot. “Right. Summon a firing party.”

Harry turned and looked at his commander.

“Execution, sir?”

“Affirmative, Corporal.” The captain flicked his stick toward a distant rise. “And let’s stake his corpse on that hill. Perhaps it shall keep the other vultures at bay.”

“Yessir,” said the captain’s driver, and he turned back for the car to muster up a firing squad.

The captain wasn’t barbarous, but more than worn and weary, and his men were not quite sure if he was serious or bluffing. In the past few weeks, despite the routing of the Germans in the westward push for Tunisia, spies of every kind had probed his lines, including one Bedouin woman. They were often followed by marauding Stuka fighter-bombers. He’d lost four men, most painfully his major whom he’d buried and replaced, and had a fifth now dying in a tent, legless and weeping for his mother. So much, he thought, for Erwin Rommel’s “Krieg ohne Hass,” war without hate.

“I am not a German.” The intruder spoke again, and his voice spasmed with the effort.

The captain raised his chin. His driver stopped and turned. The prisoner’s accent was British, yet with a certain Berlin curl.

“That’s quite a claim,” the captain said, “given your costume.”

“He told us that shite too, sir,” said Robbie.

“Says he hoofed it from Borj el-Khadra,” Harry said. “By way of Tobruk, no less.”

The captain raised a palm to hush his men and squinted at the prisoner.

“What are you, then?”

The prisoner tried to swallow. The water hadn’t been enough. It would never be enough. His body quaked in feverish ripples now, his ragged clothing fluttering like gosling feathers. It was the proximity of rescue, now turned to sudden death, coupled with his famish, thirst, and wounds.

“SIG,” he said, tunneling in his delirium for the words. “Combined Operations.”

The captain raised an eyebrow. Harry asked him, “What’s ess-eye-gee, sir?”

“Special Interrogation Group.” The captain stroked his mustache corners. “Top secret commando unit, attached to LRDG and SAS. Mostly German Jews, but they were all killed at Tobruk, and that was many months ago.”

“Not I,” the prisoner croaked. His right hand reached into his tunic. The captain fumbled for his Webley and the Tommies’ Enfields stiffened, as the prisoner fetched a pair of British identification disks, one green, one amber, like autumn leaves on a threadbare lanyard, and they fell against his chest.

The captain glanced at them, and at the hollow bearded face again.

“Tobruk, you say. And where’ve you been since then…allegedly?”

“Captured. Escaped a month ago, or two, perhaps, I think.”

“You think.” The captain closed his fists and put them to his garrison belt. “And why, pray tell, if you were in this uniform, were you not executed as a spy? Those are Hitler’s orders, after all.”

“Because I had tea with Erwin Rommel,” the prisoner said, yet without a hint of irony that the German field marshal would have thusly intervened.

“Had a pint meself with Churchill just last week,” the captain’s driver quipped. The Tommies laughed, but the captain didn’t. There was something in the prisoner’s eyes—a sincerity of madness, or truth.

“What’s your name and rank?” he asked.

“Froelich, Bernard, second lieutenant.” He pronounced his given name as “Bern-udd” and his rank as “left-tenant.” Then he added, “Six seven two, four five seven.”

The captain produced a small pad and pencil from his tunic pocket—ink was useless in the desert. He wrote the details down, tore the page off and flicked it over his shoulder for the driver, his eyes never leaving the desperate gleaming blue ones there before him. They were bleeding from the ducts, but he’d seen that once or twice before.

“Sergeant Stafford,” he ordered, “take this to the wireless tent and have Binks get onto Cairo. Tell them we’ll need our answer double quick.”

The driver sped off amidst a cloud of dust, but his return was far from quick. A grueling fifteen minutes passed, while the prisoner teetered on his feet. He could no longer keep his head erect, and he fought to stay awake and straight. He told himself he’d stood this way before, for hours in formations, and he dredged up images of bucolic pleasures, the Danube and the Rhine, and even Galilee. He longed for rain and felt its kisses on his face, while rivulets of something else crawled down his beard and touched the corners of his mouth. But he tasted only brine, and then the armored car returned.

He raised his chin as the driver handed back the paper to the captain, who perused it, then spoke again.

“Lieutenant Froelich, if that’s you,” he said, “do you remember your last passwords?”

“I shall try,” the prisoner whispered as he stumbled through his memory, unsure if he could find the thing to save him from a bullet.

“If I said Rothmans cigarettes,” the captain posed, “what would you say?”

The prisoner’s sunburned brow creased deeply like a cutlass scar.

“I’d tell you I don’t like them, sir…that I fancy Players Navy Cut instead.”

The captain nodded, and offered his first thin smile of the week.

“That is correct.”

And Froelich slumped to his knees in the sand, a collapsed marionette, strings cut. And then he slipped from consciousness and toppled forward, knuckles in the desert, his palms turned up to the sun he hated.

“Fetch a stretcher, lads,” the captain said. “It’s him. He’s the last of them. He’s the seventh.”

Excerpted from The Last of the Seven @ 2022 by Steven Hartov, used with permission by Hanover Square Press.

About the author:

Steven Hartov is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller In the Company of Heroes, as well as The Night Stalkers and Afghanistan on the Bounce. For six years he served as Editor-in-Chief of Special Operations Report. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX, and most recently the History Channel’s Secret Armies. A former Merchant Marine sailor, Israeli Defense Forces paratrooper and special operator, he is currently a Task Force Commander in the New York Guard. He lives in New Jersey

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Book Review: The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip by Sara Brunsvold

  • Title: The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip
  • Author: Sara Brunsvold
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Christian Fiction
  • Would I recommend: YES. The world needs more Mrs. Kips. Go get this book and be inspired.

Synopsis:

Aidyn Kelley is talented, ambitious, and ready for a more serious assignment than the fluff pieces she’s been getting as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star. In her eagerness, she pushes too hard, earning herself the menial task of writing an obituary for an unremarkable woman who’s just entered hospice care. But there’s more to Clara Kip than meets the eye. The spirited septuagenarian may be dying, but she’s not quite ready to cash it in yet. Never one to shy away from an assignment herself, she can see that God brought the young reporter into her life for a reason. And if it’s a story Aidyn Kelley wants, that’s just what Mrs. Kip will give her—but she’s going to have to work for it.

My review:

I have just finished reading The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip, and I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face. I think I can say without spoiling anything that Mrs. Kip dies in the book. There’s sadness over that. But in the final extraordinary death of Mrs. Kip, there is joy. She is a woman who’s dedicated her life to loving as Jesus loves, to serving others, and she goes home to her Savior a mighty conqueror.

Aidyn Kelley, a young and talented reporter, wanted a real story, under her byline. She chafed at doing what she saw as grunt work for another, more experienced reporter. She wanted something with substance. She tried to take matters into her own hands to get that story, but her efforts failed in a big way. When she’s assigned to write an obituary for Clara Kip, someone who says herself that she lived an “exceedingly unimpressive” life, she thinks her editor is punishing her for trying to get above her station.

Little does Aidyn know the story that Mrs. Kip has to tell, and little does she realize that her dreaded, hard-nosed editor is one of those warriors that the Lord hides in the most surprising places.

Mrs. Kip made a deal with Aidyn. For every extraordinary way to die that Aidyn dreamed up for her, Mrs. Kip would answer three questions about her life. This led to some pretty humorous moments as Aidyn came up with ways both mild and wild in which Mrs. Kip could meet her Maker. And true to her word, Mrs. Kip answered Aidyn’s questions. And the events of her life unfolded in memories and flashbacks.

At first, I wondered why Mrs. Kip didn’t just TELL Aidyn her story. Why did she want Aidyn to work for it? Why did she want Aidyn to want to know her story, to seek it out? And the more I read, the more I saw: God was working through Mrs. Kip to break Aidyn’s pride, to help her see what was truly important in life. Clara Kip was loving Aidyn the best she could by not just handing Aidyn her life story and saying, “Here you go!” By realizing that this wasn’t “just” an obituary, by seeing that Mrs. Kip’s was a story that needed to be told, by learning how Mrs. Kip impacted others by dying to self and going where the Lord led her, Aidyn found her own strength in the Lord. And she saw what a privilege it had been for Mrs. Kip, and what a delight it could be for her, to live a life of mindful, joyful service to others, with no heed given to whatever status the world did or didn’t convey.

“Authentic love is the greatest joy there is, Miss Kelley, but it requires a thousand little deaths to self.”

How often have I not loved people as best as I could? How much more could the light of Jesus have shone through me over the years had I been devoted to mindful, joyful service? This book made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think. And isn’t that what a good story is supposed to do?

As an added bonus, this story points us to the greatest Story ever told: God’s love for us and the gift of eternal life available to all of us – “whoever will” – through His Son Jesus. Mrs. Kip is a marvelous example of someone who loves well and does her human best to love like Jesus. She “lived as if death were merely a phase, not an end. She poured out as if she would never go empty.” In case you hadn’t figured, yes, I am a Christ-follower. Some days I follow better than others. Some days I reckon the Good Lord shakes His head and rolls His eyes and gently says, “Well, she’s trying!” I’m not going to thump you over the head with my Bible (it isn’t even a King James Bible!). If you’re a fellow believer, drop me an email and say hey! If there’s something I can pray for you about, drop me an email and let me know. If you aren’t a believer but you have questions, drop me an email and ask. I may not have all the answers, but I can do my best to find out. If you aren’t a believer and don’t want to hear about Jesus, I won’t beat you up about it. But I hope you stick around for my bookish shenanigans.

Now, back to my review. The extraordinary deaths of Mrs. Kip were the deaths she died to self serving others. As she said, “The Lord never failed to answer a prayer for work to do.” She died in amazing ways every time she said yes to His work. That made hers a story worth telling and a life well lived.

I’d give this book ten stars if I could. It is easily one of my favorite books of 2022, maybe ever. If any of what I’ve written here speaks to you, please, go get a copy of this book and get to reading.

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy from Revell Reads. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

Posted in ARC Reads, Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, NetGalley, Revell, Revell Reads | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Book Beginnings on Friday and Book Blogger Hop – August 4, 2022

Book Beginnings on Fridays is hosted each week by Rose City Reader. It’s a chance to share the first sentence or so of the book you are reading this week. You can check out others’ book beginnings here. I’m also going to link up with Carrie at Reading Is My Superpower for First Line Friday.

This week’s book beginning:

Synopsis:

Aidyn Kelley is talented, ambitious, and ready for a more serious assignment than the fluff pieces she’s been getting as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star. In her eagerness, she pushes too hard, earning herself the menial task of writing an obituary for an unremarkable woman who’s just entered hospice care. But there’s more to Clara Kip than meets the eye. The spirited septuagenarian may be dying, but she’s not quite ready to cash it in yet. Never one to shy away from an assignment herself, she can see that God brought the young reporter into her life for a reason. And if it’s a story Aidyn Kelley wants, that’s just what Mrs. Kip will give her—but she’s going to have to work for it.

Clara Kip had prayed repeatedly to die in São Paulo. It truly seemed the smallest of requests. People died in Brazil every day. What was one more? Especially one who had dreamed of the country most of her life.

The Lord, however, gave her Kansas.

I’ll tell ya, if that opening doesn’t grab you, read it anyway. I’m not done yet, and I have absolutely fallen in love with Mrs. Kip. She knows her time on earth is nearly done, but she reckons the Lord has put her where she is for a reason, and she’s going to make the most of the time she has left. She and Aidyn haven’t crossed paths yet in my reading, but I can’t wait to see their first meeting. My review will be up in a few days!

And what do you think? Would you pick up the book and get to know Mrs. Kip?

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer. It starts each Friday and runs through the following Thursday. Each week, there’s a new prompt featuring a book-related question. It’s designed to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, make new blogging friends, and gain followers. See what others have to say on this topic and link up your own post here.

This week’s prompt:

Have you ever switched reading genres? If so, why? (submitted by Billy @ Coffee Addicted Writer)

Switched reading genres how? I mean, I read all sorts of things. My first picks are normally fantasy and cozy mystery, sure. But my reading range covers anything from thriller to police procedural to memoir to romance to historical fiction to chick lit. If the blurb grabs my attention, I’ll read it. I’ve never been one to really limit myself to a single genre.

So yes, I switch genres, just about every time I pick up a new book.

How about you? Do you stick to a favorite genre or do you mix it up?

Posted in Book Beginnings on Fridays, Book Blogger Hop, Book Memes, Christian Fiction, Revell | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Secrets of the Nile by Tasha Alexander

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights books soon to be released, the ones we’re excited about but haven’t read yet. It’s hosted by Wishful Endings, and was formerly hosted by Breaking the Spine. Y’all can check out all of this week’s Can’t-Wait Wednesday posts here.

Title: Secrets of the Nile

Series: Lady Emily #16

Author: Tasha Alexander

Genre: Historical Mystery

Publication Date: October 4, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Synopsis:

In a brilliant homage to Agatha Christie, critically acclaimed author Tasha Alexander sends Lady Emily to Egypt during British colonial rule to investigate a crime that leads back to the era of the Pharaohs.

Lord Bertram Deeley, a renowned amateur British collector of antiquities is entertaining his closest friends at a lavish cruise up the Nile to his home at Luxor when he suddenly collapses after offering a welcome toast, a victim of the lethal poison cyanide. Who amongst this group of his nearest and dearest would want to kill their generous host: an archeologist whose dig Deeley was funding until he suddenly withdrew support? A powerful politician whose career Deeley had secretly destroyed? A dyspeptic aristocratic English spinster whose hired travelling companion seems determined to protect her employer? Or even the formidable Mrs. Hargreaves, Lady Emily’s mother-in-law, who may have spurned the advances of Lord Deeley when they were both younger? A key clue may lie with several ancient ushabtis, exquisite three-thousand-year-old sculptures that played a role in yet another murder in Ancient Egypt, a crime with a very real link to Lord Deeley’s death. Lady Emily and Colin gather their suspects together to reveal the identity of a killer whose motive is as shocking as it is brilliant.

My thoughts:

I love a good Agatha Christie mystery. I’ve long enjoyed Ellis Peters’ Amelia Peabody books, set in Egypt in the British colonial period. Here I’ve got a book that pays homage to Christie and is set in Egypt. What’s not to like?! I can’t WAIT to read this one!!!

Have you read any of Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily books? Would you read this one? What are you waiting for this week?

Posted in Book Memes, Can't-Wait Wednesday, Historical Fiction, Mystery | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Book Review and Blog Tour: Paper Targets by Patricia Watts | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

PAPER TARGETS

by Patricia Watts

Suspense / Literary Fiction / Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Pages: 324 pages
Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Scroll down for a giveaway!

Everyone knew that Roanne never got angry­—until the night she killed her ex-husband and herself.

Roanne, a nice, suburban lady in her sixties who works at a Hallmark shop and volunteers at the Food Bank in Round Rock, Texas, calls her lifelong friend, Connie, confesses to murder, then puts the gun to her own head. Connie, spurred by Roanne’s last words about a lifetime of unspoken rage, sets aside her work as a cozy mystery writer and cupcake shop owner to confront the men who have stolen her dignity while she remained silent, including a bully brother, a rapist, and an ex-spouse.

On a journey to reclaim her inner power and to make peace with the loss of her treasured friend, Connie’s mission is to avoid the same tragic path as Roanne, but she takes along a gun, just in case.

With pathos and humor, Paper Targets, by Patricia Watts, calls us to speak our own narratives, even when it is uncomfortable or risky, and shows us the magnificence of a friendship that transcends time.

CLICK TO PURCHASE!

| Amazon | Author’s Website | Barnes & Noble |



This book deals with some difficult subjects: murder, suicide, poor treatment/abuse of women. If these are subjects that cause you distress, please do not read this review.

Paper Targets opens with a bang, literally. Connie and Roanne have been best friends for fifty years. They’ve been through a lot together. So when Roanne decides to end her ex-husband’s life and then her own, she does it with Connie on the line. Before she does, she tells Connie that the anger has trapped her, there was no way out, but that Connie needs to speak up. “Don’t let them have the final say.”

Connie is left floundering without her best friend, but she takes Roanne’s words to heart. She makes it her mission to revisit the men in her life who have talked down to her, taken her for granted, left her feeling “less than.” Former bosses, boyfriends, lovers, her ex-husband, even her deceased father – none of them escape Connie’s speaking up for herself.

The story alternates between past and present events, and each glimpse of the past sheds more light on the present. We see Roanne and Connie growing up, see how they took each unkind word and each slight, whether intended or not. Patricia Watts does an excellent job developing each character, showing how their pasts shaped them and impacted their present relationships.

The cover of this story makes you think this is a lighter story. Maybe a cozy mystery or a rom-com. It is not. It deals with some fairly weighty topics. In fact, the bulk of the story revolves around Connie finding the inner strength to reclaim the parts of herself that men have taken away or squelched over the years. She knew Roanne never did find that strength, never could stand up to the men who would put her down until she had enough and pulled the trigger.

I think most women have experienced, at some point, a man telling them, “You can’t do that, you’re a girl.” Maybe not in those precise words, but in attitude and in action. Any woman who’s ever had that happen, who’s been made to feel like she doesn’t measure up to some arbitrary standard simply because of her gender, will absolutely cheer for Connie. They might even see a little of themselves in Roanne, because at some point, maybe we’ve all thought, “We’re not gonna take it anymore.”

Paper Targets covers challenging subject matter, but it is a worthwhile read. I won’t say I enjoyed it. That sounds too casual. But it is a thought-provoking story, and it will stick with me long after the last page has been turned.

Patricia Watts worked as a journalist for more than 20 years for newspapers in Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska. Following her news career, she tried her skill as a paralegal and then spent ten years investigating discrimination cases for the Alaska Human Rights Commission. Her novels include: Ghost Light and The Big Empty, crime mysteries co-written with Alaska author Stan Jones; The Frayer, suspense noir; and Watchdogs, a steamy thriller. Her home base is San Diego. She earned her B.A. in journalism at Humboldt State in California. She is the mother of a son and daughter and has eight grandchildren.

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Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Crime Fiction, General Fiction, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Lone Star Literary Life, Women's Fiction | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in a Place I’d Love to Visit

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out upcoming Top Ten themes on Jana’s blog and go here to see what others have on their Top Ten Tuesday lists!!

This week’s theme: Books Set in a Place I’d Love to Visit (real places or fictional). What fun! In no particular order, here are mine.

Murder on the Med is set in Greece. That’s definitely on my list of places to visit.

The Blessing Way is set in New Mexico, as are all of Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee books. I’ve been there, but it’s been a long time. I’d like to go back and visit and include a stop at a dear friend’s house.

The Owl Service is set in Wales. That’s been a bucket list trip for a while now.

Under Lock & Skeleton Key is set in California. I’ve been to California, sure. But I want to go visit Tempest and her family specifically. I want to hang out with Grannie Mor and eat some of Grandpa Ash’s cooking. I want to explore the house with its secret staircases and odd angles and hidey-holes. It would be fun!

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe – any of Heather Webber’s books, really. In this one, the setting is Wicklow, Alabama. And I would like to eat at the Blackbird Cafe. But the small Southern towns she writes, they all call to me.

Sunrise is set in Alaska. Susan May Warren’s descriptions are so vivid and so beautiful, I’d love to see it. Even in winter. When it’s cold. And I don’t like cold. But I’d go there.

The Vanishing Type is set in Miracle Springs, North Carolina. I’ve also been to North Carolina. I want to go specifically to Miracle Springs. I want Hester to bake a comfort scone just for me. I want to browse Miracle Books and see what Nora recommends.

Magic’s Pawn is the first in Mercedes Lackey’s The Last Herald-Mage series, and but one of her books set in the kingdom of Valdemar. I’ve wanted to visit Valdemar since I first met Vanyel and all of the characters that inhabit the kingdom and the world as a whole.

Murder by Mocha is set in New York City. I am not a city girl. I’ve never had a huge envie to go to the Big Apple. But if I could meet Clare Cosi and all of her awesome baristas, and Mike Quinn, and Matteo, and Madame, and have coffee and treats at the Village Blend, I would be there in a hot second.

Living on New Orleans Time is set in New Orleans as much as anywhere. Y’all who’ve followed along with the blog might know I’m a Louisiana girl. You might be thinking, why do you want to go to New Orleans? Haven’t you been there a lot already? The answer to that second question would be, I’ve been a fair bit. But I don’t really want to go to New Orleans. Instead, I want to go to Tennessee. You see, the author of this book is my biological dad. That’s where he is. I was adopted as a baby and only found him last year. So I want to go meet him in person and hug his neck. That would be the best ever! (And y’all go get the book. It’s a memoir and travelogue and collection of fascinating writing from a unique point of view. I’m not just saying that ’cause he’s my dad. Y’all should already know I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.)

Posted in Book Memes, Top Ten Tuesday | Tagged , , | 19 Comments