Book Review: The Crowns of Croswald by D. E. Night

  • Title: The Crowns of Croswald
  • Series: The Croswald Series #1
  • Author: D. E. Night
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: Absolutely! A charming read, and not just for actual young adults.

From Goodreads:

This is a page-turning fantasy in the tradition of fairy tales, whimsical worlds, and coming-of-age stories.

The Crowns of Croswald invites young readers to explore themes of stepping into their own magic, discovering their true selves, and battling evil head-on. Hailed by Kirkus Reviews as “an action-packed treat […] with a relatable heroine facing challenges in a vivid world of magic and mystery,” and called a new classic by readers, The Crowns of Croswald series is a magical romp through a fully formed universe with dragons, magical quills, potions, and mythical creatures.

Ivy Lovely is 16 and she has no idea who she is—or what her powers could be. When she crosses a magical boundary, she discovers a whole new world of enchantment and mystery. Making friends that will last a lifetime—and save her life—she steps into her own abilities and discovers more about her hidden past, magical blood, and the power of Croswald’s mystical stones. But all is not well: a dark history and an evil Queen threatens all that is good. Will Ivy’s bravery and wit be enough?

Curious and whimsical, both shy and brave, Ivy is a hero that connects with readers of all ages. For those who wished that Narnia, Harry Potter, and Alice in Wonderland could go on forever, Croswald opens a whole new world of magic. Recommended as a read-aloud for families and a first middle-grade fantasy read, The Crowns of Croswald is a four-part series that will carry readers to a whimsical world that they won’t want to leave. 

My review:

This was a delightful read! In it, we meet Ivy Lovely, a scaldrony maid at the House of Plum. She’s in charge of the scaldrons, small dragons who use their flames to cook the food. An unexpected turn of events sends her fleeing, with the smallest scaldron, beyond the magic-blocking border that she’s lived behind her entire life. And thus begins the new life of Ivy Lovely. Whisked off to a magical school, learning she’s got magical powers, training to be a Scrivenist, and learning she may be so much more than a scaldrony maid – it’s quite the adventure!

I liked the magical system Night created. Scrivenists have the ability to recall everything they see and record it through drawing and writing. Once trained, they are assigned to a royal family, to act as that family’s historian and record-keeper. Royals are able to use different types of magic by means of different stones. It was fascinating to see the different types of powers and how the scrivenists worked.

I also loved that she named one of the scrivenists Derwin Edgar Night. I see what you did there, D. E.! Derwin Edgar Night is a very important figure in the story. Ivy has been dreaming of a man, and she realizes it is Night. She needs to find him to learn more about who she is, what her family history is.

The characters are delightful. Ivy is a young lady thrust into a situation completely different from what she’s known. She handles it like you’d expect a teenager to do – sometimes she is grace and class, sometimes she’s just muddling through, but she never loses her sense of humor and she never gives up. I thought Rebecca was going to be a snot, but she turns out to be quite a good friend to Ivy. I hope to see more of their friendship in future books. And Finn – there’s a little spark there with Ivy, I think. Will something come of it? I’ll have to read more and see!

There’s a touch of Harry Potter to this – magical school, Ivy going shopping for her school supplies, magical creatures and transportation. But Ivy’s story is uniquely hers. It’s billed as YA fantasy, but I promise you that I’m nowhere near “young adult,” and I was absolutely captivated by the story. I recommend this for fantasy lovers from sixth grade to 60 and beyond! Five stars, and bring on book two!

Thanks to the author and publisher for a review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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Book Blitz: Knock! Knock! Lessons Learned and Stories Shared | Lone Star Book Blog Tours


Lessons Learned and Stories Shared 
Categories: Nonfiction / Motivational Stories / Positivity / Relationship Building / Integrity / Time Management / Entrepreneurship
Publisher: Lucid House Publishing
Date of Publication: January 8, 2021
Pages: 154
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Knock! Knock! is a fast-paced, fun-filled journey through the author’s career in sales that not only teaches you how to be better at selling but to also have a ton of fun while you are doing it.
Knock! Knock! invites you to join Doug on what salespeople call “a ride along,” which is where a senior salesperson shows a newbie the ropes. This book delivers a winning sales philosophy learned through years of experience and is illustrated by real-life stories that Doug shares — along with multiple Knock-Knock Moments (or lessons and revelations learned) that have fueled his career and that he believes will help yours.
Every one of us is in Sales. If you deal with people, you are in sales. Knock! Knock! teaches you how to get out of your Comfort Zone to believe in yourself and to believe in the product, services, or message you are trying to sell. But it also teaches you to have a great time while you are doing it.

Purchase: Amazon | Main Street Reads





Douglas Thompson’s passion for improving the customer’s experience as well as the sales profession continues to drive him as he comes up with new ideas to answer this question: How can we make the sales process better? Starting out as an insurance agent going down the street selling accident insurance by knocking on doors, Doug quickly moved into the management side of the life and health insurance industry, hiring and training agents to be successful doing the same. His ability to build successful sales teams caught the eye of the corporate leadership of several major companies. Doug became the vice president of sales and marketing for Conseco and was recruited to do the same for Pacificare, UnitedHealthcare, American Republic, Tranzact, and Humana.
Currently, he is the marketing director for a large national insurance wholesaler that recruits and trains insurance agents and agencies in the senior marketplace across the country, and he continues to build his own general agency, which offers life and health products to the senior population. He is known nationally for his innovations in the sales industry and frequently speaks and trains on his favorite topic of sales.
Doug and his wife Shirley own a Bed & Breakfast in Jefferson, Texas.

Follow Douglas Thompson on: Facebook | Website | Goodreads


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Book Review and Giveaway: Alfie Carter by BJ Mayo | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

BNR Alfie Carter

BJ Mayo
Published by Skyhorse Publishing
Pages: 288
Published: January 19th, 2021
Categories: Southern Fiction / Rural Fiction / Mystery
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Cover Alfie Carter med res

The seemingly never-ending Cabinda War (1975—) has left multitudes dead in its wake and thousands of children homeless and orphaned.

Jackaleena N’denga, a young Angolan girl, has become the sole survivor of one specifically brutal village massacre carried out by a band of guerrilla boy-soldiers.

Jackaleena’s resilience leads her to an orphanage on the west coast of Africa, known as Benguela by the Sea, where she and other children are taken in and protected. Her brilliant mind and endless questions capture the heart of her mentor, Margaret, who ensures her that her survival thus far—especially being the survivor from her village—must mean she has big things ahead of her. When the opportunity arises, she must find her purpose.

Not without a plan, Jackaleena stows away on a mercy ship that has made its yearly visit to the orphanage and is now preparing to return to America. Her journey takes her across the ocean, into the arms of New York City’s customs officials, and finally into placement in a temporary foster home in Texas.

Enter Alfie Carter—a workaholic, small-town detective who is also battling memories of his past. His life is forever changed when he meets a young African girl looking for her higher purpose.

Alfie Carter is told from the point of view of the titular Alfie, and also from the point of view of Jackaleena, a young girl from an African village. It’s a story that, at its heart, is about how our reaction to adversity shapes us, about finding faith – perhaps for the first time, perhaps coming back to it, and about discovering purpose and meaning in life.

The story starts at the end and flashes back to the beginning. Jackaleena – Jackie – is a tough-as-nails prosecutor who finds herself emotionally wrecked by her current case. In the judge’s chambers, we start to learn her story through flashbacks. As a young girl living in an African village, Jackaleena sees her entire village slaughtered by guerilla fighters. She is able to make her way to Benguela by the Sea, a missionary compound doing its best to care for the children orphaned by war. Even at her relatively early age, Jackaleena is possessed of a fierce determination. At Benguela, she sees a mercy ship anchored offshore. When she learns that it is going to America, she decides to stow away on the mercy ship and go there to find the big purpose that Jesus Man must have for her.

Our introduction to Alfie takes place on his annual pilgrimage up to the mountains, where he goes to deal with the painful anniversary of his infant daughter’s death. Since his daughter’s death, Alfie has distanced himself from his wife, Bea, and pretty much given up on God. He throws himself into his work as a detective in the small town of Spring, Texas. His tenacity on the case has earned him the nickname of Bulldog. But his marriage languishes.

We learn a great deal about Jackaleena and Alfie through the unfolding of their stories, but they don’t cross paths until about the last ten percent of the book. So this isn’t a book where your main characters meet and have the entire book to let their relationship build. It’s more of a slow burn that could leave itself open for more of the story to be told in a second book.

It was interesting to see how the two main characters responded to adversity so differently. Jackaleena didn’t let grief or mourning deter her from her goals. Once she made up her mind on something, nothing slowed her down or derailed her plans. Alfie, on the other hand, let grief drive a wedge between him and Bea, to the point that he wouldn’t even visit his daughter’s grave or share his grief with Bea. He felt the need to be by himself to wrestle with his anger and loss.

I’ve always heard you should write what you know. I don’t think Alfie Carter is necessarily autobiographical in nature, but I do think BJ Mayo has known folks in his life that inspired his characters. Alfie, in particular, reads like someone you could work with, someone who lives next door. And I really liked some of the minor characters, such as Dr. Lynn and Rufus Obediah. These people, who had no real incentive to do so, helped Jackaleena on her journey just because they’re decent people. They made me smile.

I reviewed an advance copy, so I am hoping that some of the editing issues I noticed will be corrected in the final copy.  One thing that may not, though, is it seemed like no one spoke using contractions, and that  got stilted and awkward very quickly. It would have made sense for Jackaleena as she was learning English, but I don’t think I’ve ever known a Texan not to use contractions when they talk. I also noticed several instances with point-of-view changes, and that was distracting enough that it broke up the flow of the story to me.

Overall, though, the story and characters are engaging and interesting enough to carry the day. Alfie Carter is a solid four-star read for me.


author pic Mayo

BJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. He spent the first few years of his life living in a company field camp twenty-five miles from the closest town. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola West Africa. He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years with two grown children. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.
Visit BJ Mayo at his website:


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Book Review and Blog Tour: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary : A Novel 

Sarah Penner

On Sale Date: March 2, 2021

9780778311010, 0778311015


$27.99 USD

320 pages



February 3, 1791

She would come at daybreak—the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I did not yet know.

I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dark things of which she dreamed when night fell. She could be a victim or a transgressor. A new wife or a vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.

But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: the woman knew exactly who she wanted dead.

I lifted the blush-colored paper, illuminated by the dying f lame of a single rush wick candle. I ran my fingers over the ink of her words, imagining what despair brought the woman to seek out someone like me. Not just an apothecary, but a murderer. A master of disguise.

Her request was simple and straightforward. For my mistress’s husband, with his breakfast. Daybreak, 4 Feb. At once, I drew to mind a middle-aged housemaid, called to do the bidding of her mistress. And with an instinct perfected over the last two decades, I knew immediately the remedy most suited to this request: a chicken egg laced with nux vomica.

The preparation would take mere minutes; the poison was within reach. But for a reason yet unknown to me, something about the letter left me unsettled. It was not the subtle, woodsy odor of the parchment or the way the lower left corner curled forward slightly, as though once damp with tears. Instead, the disquiet brewed inside of me. An intuitive understanding that something must be avoided.

But what unwritten warning could reside on a single sheet of parchment, shrouded beneath pen strokes? None at all, I assured myself; this letter was no omen. My troubling thoughts were merely the result of my fatigue—the hour was late—and the persistent discomfort in my joints.

I drew my attention to my calfskin register on the table in front of me. My precious register was a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest of apothecary shops.

In the front pages of my register, the ink was soft, written with a lighter hand, void of grief and resistance. These faded, worn entries belonged to my mother. This apothecary shop for women’s maladies, situated at 3 Back Alley, was hers long before it was mine.

On occasion I read her entries—23 Mar 1767, Mrs. R. Ranford, Yarrow Milfoil 15 dr. 3x—and the words evoked memories of her: the way her hair fell against the back of her neck as she ground the yarrow stem with the pestle, or the taut, papery skin of her hand as she plucked seeds from the flower’s head. But my mother had not disguised her shop behind a false wall, and she had not slipped her remedies into vessels of dark red wine. She’d had no need to hide. The tinctures she dispensed were meant only for good: soothing the raw, tender parts of a new mother, or bringing menses upon a barren wife. Thus, she filled her register pages with the most benign of herbal remedies. They would raise no suspicion.

On my register pages, I wrote things such as nettle and hyssop and amaranth, yes, but also remedies more sinister: nightshade and hellebore and arsenic. Beneath the ink strokes of my register hid betrayal, anguish…and dark secrets.

Secrets about the vigorous young man who suffered an ailing heart on the eve of his wedding, or how it came to pass that a healthy new father fell victim to a sudden fever. My register laid it all bare: these were not weak hearts and fevers at all, but thorn apple juice and nightshade slipped into wines and pies by cunning women whose names now stained my register.

Oh, but if only the register told my own secret, the truth about how this all began. For I had documented every victim in these pages, all but one: Frederick. The sharp, black lines of his name defaced only my sullen heart, my scarred womb.

I gently closed the register, for I had no use of it tonight, and returned my attention to the letter. What worried me so? The edge of the parchment continued to catch my eye, as though something crawled beneath it. And the longer I remained at my table, the more my belly ached and my fingers trembled. In the distance, beyond the walls of the shop, the bells on a carriage sounded frighteningly similar to the chains on a constable’s belt. But I assured myself that the bailiffs would not come tonight, just as they had not come for the last two decades. My shop, like my poisons, was too cleverly disguised. No man would find this place; it was buried deep behind a cupboard wall at the base of a twisted alleyway in the darkest depths of London.

I drew my eyes to the soot-stained wall that I had not the heart, nor the strength, to scrub clean. An empty bottle on a shelf caught my reflection. My eyes, once bright green like my mother’s, now held little life within them. My cheeks, too, once flushed with vitality, were sallow and sunken. I had the appearance of a ghost, much older than my forty-one years of age.

Tenderly, I began to rub the round bone in my left wrist, swollen with heat like a stone left in the fire and forgotten. The discomfort in my joints had crawled through my body for years; it had grown so severe, I lived not a waking hour without pain. Every poison I dispensed brought a new wave of it upon me; some evenings, my fingers were so distended and stiff, I felt sure the skin would split open and expose what lay underneath.

Killing and secret-keeping had done this to me. It had begun to rot me from the inside out, and something inside meant to tear me open.

At once, the air grew stagnant, and smoke began to curl into the low stone ceiling of my hidden room. The candle was nearly spent, and soon the laudanum drops would wrap me in their heavy warmth. Night had long ago fallen, and she would arrive in just a few hours: the woman whose name I would add to my register and whose mystery I would begin to unravel, no matter the unease it brewed inside of me.

Excerpted from The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Penner. Published by Park Row Books. 

My review:

I do love a good dual-timeline story! And The Lost Apothecary is quite good. It’s told from the point of view of three main characters: Nella, the titular apothecary, dispensing medicines to heal or to kill; Eliza, who comes to Nella for a permanent remedy to a problem and becomes her assistant, of a sort; and Caroline, a modern-day woman who finds her marriage on shaky ground and who is struggling to find herself.

I really enjoyed this book! The premise drew me in, and the marvelous storytelling kept me hooked. The story isn’t about women getting back at men, so much, although I can see where someone might think that. It’s more about the choices women make and the consequences of those choices, and women finding their path even within the societal expectations of their time.

In Nella’s timeline, 1791, women had very few rights. They couldn’t divorce their husbands for abuse or unfaithfulness. Nella was trying to help women the only way she knew how. When she broke her own rule, that her poisons must never be used against women, that set into motion a devastating chain of events. Eliza wanted to help Nella. In trying to help, she made a choice that brought undesirable attention to Nella’s secret shop.

Claire made the choice, when she got married, to give up on her dreams. She didn’t enroll at Cambridge like she wanted to. Instead, she took the job that provided steady income and supported her husband’s goals. She lost sight of her hopes and dreams in the process. When she found the small vial half-buried in mud, she made a choice to see what she could find out about it. That choice changed the course of her life.

This is a story well told. The ending left me with a little bit of a sense of mystery. What was of this world and what might not be? Not a cliffhanger, just enough of a question to let the reader envision what the future might be like. Delightfully gothic, mysterious, and with characters you will embrace, The Lost Apothecary gets five stars from me. I loved it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Park Row Books for an advance copy.

About the Author:

Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe. To learn more, visit

Social Links:

Author website:
Facebook: @SarahPennerAuthor
Instagram: @sarah_penner_author
Twitter: @sl_penner

Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble
Apple Books
Google Play

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Book Beginnings on Friday and Book Blogger Hop – February 26, 2021

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.

This week I’m starting The Lost Apothecary – look for my blog tour entry next week!

February 3, 1791

She would come at daybreak – the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I did not yet know.

I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dark things of which she dreamed when night fell. She could be a victim or a transgressor. A new wife or a vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.

But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: the woman knew exactly who she wanted dead.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hooked! What do you think? Does this book beginning grab your attention?

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.

Absolutely! I love Goodreads. Y’all come find me there. Drop your profile link in the comments if you’re so inclined! New bookish friends are always a good thing.

And check out what others are saying on the hop here.

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Book Review: The Moonlight School by Suzanne Woods Fisher

  • Title: The Moonlight School
  • Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher
  • Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: Definitely!

From Goodreads:

Haunted by her sister’s mysterious disappearance, Lucy Wilson arrives in Rowan County, Kentucky, in the spring of 1911 to work for Cora Wilson Stewart, superintendent of education. When Cora sends Lucy into the hills to act as scribe for the mountain people, she is repelled by the primitive conditions and intellectual poverty she encounters. Few adults can read and write.

Born in those hills, Cora knows the plague of illiteracy. So does Brother Wyatt, a singing schoolmaster who travels through the hills. Involving Lucy and Wyatt, Cora hatches a plan to open the schoolhouses to adults on moonlit nights. The best way to combat poverty, she believes, is to eliminate illiteracy. But will the people come?

As Lucy emerges from a life in the shadows, she finds purpose; or maybe purpose finds her. With purpose comes answers to her questions, and something else she hadn’t expected: love.

Inspired by the true events of the Moonlight Schools, this standalone novel from bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher brings to life the story that shocked the nation into taking adult literacy seriously. You’ll finish the last page of this enthralling story with deep gratitude for the gift of reading. 

My review:

Cora Wilson Stewart (a genuine historical figure) was elected as superintendent of Rowan County schools. She was a champion of literacy for the people of Kentucky, and made it her mission to bring education to the backwoods. School for the children was one thing. But how to get the adults to learn? The “Moonlight School” was born, with the idea being that parents, who couldn’t get away from tending to family needs during the daylight hours, could come to school at night, by the light of the moon. Suzanne Woods Fisher fleshes out the facts of Stewart’s life in this vividly imagined tale.

Lucy Wilson has grown up a child of privilege, but her guilt over the disappearance of her younger sister Charlotte has been a burden she’s carried most of her life. She agrees to go to Morehead, Kentucky to serve as her cousin Cora’s assistant. When Lucy realizes that Cora intends for her to venture out into the hollers, to carry letters to the mountain folk, read the letters to them, and take dictation for letters in return, she is scared to death. Scared of falling off her horse, of getting on her horse, of whatever creatures might lurk in the shadowed hills. And she is absolutely stricken, both by the abject poverty in which these people live and by the fact that so many adults there can neither read nor write.

The people in the story grabbed my heart much as they did Lucy’s. Finley James, the boy who isn’t interested in schoolin’. Angie Cooper, the girl who loves Finley James and aspires to be a teacher one day. Mollie McGlothin, the elderly woman who can’t read, but who is a rich repository of knowledge. Brother Wyatt, the singing school teacher with a different idea about what it means to have all things work together for good. I was absolutely invested in them and felt like I said goodbye to friends when I turned the last page.

Cora Wilson Stewart was an admirable figure. She didn’t conform to societal norms that said a woman had to be married and raise a family. She held a position traditionally reserved for men, and it wasn’t just a job to her. It was a passion. She firmly believed that education was the key to freedom for the people living in the Kentucky hills where she had been born, and she fought to bring education to him with everything in her. I would have liked to know her, I think.

And it was just a treat to see Lucy change and grow. At first, she’s the poor little city girl without a clue as to how to handle herself in the backwoods. She doesn’t even know how to get on a horse, much less actually ride. By the end of the book, though, she’s riding like she was born to it, and wonders when and how that happened. She changes on the inside, too. When she meets city-slick Andrew, who works for her father’s lumber company, she thinks perhaps might hold her interest. But Wyatt helps her to see that flash and style aren’t what truly counts in a man, and points her toward God, the All Mighty. She slowly realizes that maybe all she thought she knew – about her sister’s disappearance, about why people aren’t educated, about her father’s business – wasn’t quite right. She also comes to understand that God does care and can be trusted, and she sees that He had heard her prayers about her sister after all.

If you’re looking for a good book club read, this would be a great choice. Fisher includes a “what happened next” section, a “fact or fiction” section, and questions for discussion. As I wasn’t reading with a group, I got more from “what happened next” and “fact or fiction,” and now I’d like to read more about Cora Wilson Stewart. And isn’t that what a good story should do – inspire you to read more? The Moonlight School achieves that goal admirably, and makes me appreciate the access I’ve had to education all my life.

At the risk of sounding horribly cheesy, The Moonlight School is as luminous as, well, moonlight. It is a radiant work of historical fiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Five enthusiastic stars from me.

Thank you to Revell for an advance copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Before Time Runs Out by Amy Matayo

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: Before Time Runs Out

Series: Charles & Company Romance, #1

Author: Amy Matayo

Genre: Romance, Time Travel

Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Publisher: LongMill Press


Graduate student Bree Sanders is failing the one class she needs to get her degree. So when her professor gives her an ultimatum—ace her dissertation or risk having to repeat her final semester—she knows she has to pull out all the stops. After scrambling for an idea, she decides to create her own Ghost Club, a club that blames ghosts for unsolved crimes, the same type of club originally founded two centuries ago by Charles Dickens.

What she doesn’t expect is to find an original copy of one of Dickens’ early works, or to be transplanted into Dickens’s actual ghost club meeting, circa 1870, the instant she picks it up.

When Bree shows up in nineteenth-century England wearing cut-offs and an old t-shirt, her only option is to hide. The Cambridge of 1870 won’t look kindly on a woman dressed like her. So, when Theodore Keyes finds her tucked behind a bookcase at the Trinity College library and immediately demands to know where she came from, she knows he doesn’t belong here either. Turns out she’s right; the same book caused him to time-travel from 1947 almost three months ago and he’s been stuck in England since.

Together, the two vow to work side-by-side in their search for the lost book that will take them home. But as their feelings for one another deepen, Theo and Bree are caught between a desire to return to the lives they each left behind, and the knowledge that if they find the book, they won’t be able to leave together.

In the end, they each must decide which sacrifice is worth making—the one that will cost them their hearts, or the one that could cost them their very existence.

My thoughts:

If you followed my previous blog, you may have heard me mention Amy Matayo before. (You can see what I thought of her book, The Waves, here.) I’ve never considered myself a huge romance reader. But Ms. Matayo writes books that are more than “just” romance. Her characters are wonderfully drawn, and there’s always some adventure, some tension, and in this case, time travel! I can’t wait to get my hands on this one, and since it’s coming out March 9, huzzah, I don’t have to wait for long.

If it sounds like your cup of tea, you can preorder Before Time Runs Out here (affiliate link).

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Book Beginnings on Friday and Book Blogger Hop – February 19, 2021

Greetings and salutations! I missed last Friday. I was working on a proofreading project that required my full attention. But I’m back this week, sharing more bookish goodness and fun!

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.

This week’s read: All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone by John J. Jacobson. I’ll be sharing my thoughts about this book on the blog tour in a little while, so keep an eye out for that!

As the sun climbed into the dazzling South Texas sky, a young boy sat astride his mustang pony on a low bluff. Looking eastward in the early morning light, he could see a plume of white smoke.

The boy wore the chaps and spurs of a drover, though the last major cattle drive in Texas had been in 1885, three years ago. His blond hair, which he wore long in imitation of his father, hung out below his “sombrero,” as he liked to call his range hat. Slung over his shoulder were a small Comanche-style bow and quiver. His mother wouldn’t let him take his .22 caliber rifle out by himself until he turned twelve, three long months from now.

What do you think about this beginning?

See what others are reading here.

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.

Reading isn’t a fixed part of my routine in that I have a set time where I sit down and devote X amount of time to my book. It is part of every day, though. I can tuck my Kindle in my purse and read wherever I happen to have some down time – my lunch break at work, waiting to have the oil changed in my car, in the carpool line, wherever. And I do read a bit before bed just about every night (unless I’m so tired that I drop my Kindle on my face).

How about you? Do you have a reading routine?

See what others have to say here!

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Book Review and Giveaway: At Close Range by Leesa Ross | Lone Star Book Blog Tours


By Leesa Ross
Categories: Nonfiction / Memoir / Personal Transformation / Advocacy
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Pages: 192
Publication Date: April 15, 2020

Scroll down for the giveaway!



Leesa Ross did not expect to write a book. Neither did she expect the tragedy that her family endured, a horrific and sudden death that led her to write At Close Range. Her debut memoir is the story of what happened after her son Jon died in a freak gun accident at a party. Ross unsparingly shares the complexities of grief as it ripples through the generations of her family, then chronicles how the loss of Jon has sparked a new life for her as a prominent advocate for gun safety.  Before the accident, Ross never had a motivation to consider the role that guns played in her life. Now, she revisits ways in which guns became a part of everyday life for her three sons and their friends.

Ross’s attitude towards guns is thorny. She has collectors and hunters in her family. To balance her advocacy, she joined both Moms Demand Action and the NRA. Through At Close Range, the national conversation about gun control plays out in one family’s catalyzing moment and its aftermath. However, At Close Range ultimately shows one mother’s effort to create meaning from tragedy and find a universally reasonable position and focal point: gun safety and responsible ownership.

Purchase: Texas Tech University Press

At Close Range is Leesa Ross’ gut-wrenching story of the shooting death of her son, Jon. Jon was a young adult at the time he died, in his 20s. The account Leesa received from Jon’s friends who were there when it happened pointed to a horrific accident due to negligence, but the coroner ruled otherwise. In his eyes, it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound not inconsistent with suicide. That verdict was unacceptable to Leesa.
In At Close Range, Leesa paints a portrait of a family that, while not without their challenges, was a close family for the most part. She knew her children well, even if they weren’t all under the same roof any longer. And she knew that Jon didn’t kill himself intentionally. It wasn’t suicide. But how could she convince the coroner to change his ruling? Could she convince him to change it? And how would the process of losing her son change her?
Leesa’s writing style is straightforward and easy to read, and she does a good job of bringing the reader into the story. I wanted to reach into the pages and hug her as she struggled with the grief of losing her son while still trying to be a wife and mother. I wanted to tear my hair in frustration as she tried repeatedly to convince a coroner who’d made up his mind that he was interpreting the facts in a way she couldn’t abide.
This was not an easy book to read. Like Leesa’s family, my family always had guns around when I was growing up. My father was a hunter, and he had several rifles in the house. I learned how to shoot a .22 when I was just a kid, out on the deer lease. Many of my friends had parents who hunted, and it wasn’t uncommon when I was in high school to see multiple trucks in the parking lot with deer rifles mounted on racks. Sure, I grew up learning that a gun wasn’t a toy, and that I should never point at anything I didn’t intend to shoot. But accidents can happen to anyone, as Leesa’s words so clearly illustrate.
It was also hard to read how much Leesa wrestled with her own guilt and shame. Wondering could she have missed some clue. Worried what people would think about them when they heard the coroner’s verdict. Hard enough to handle the grief of your child’s death. How much more painful to have anxiety over what people will think about the way he died, to anguish over what they will now think of you as a parent.
But ultimately, the story is one of inspiration. Leesa let her hurt and anger and sadness move her toward a role as an advocate for gun safety. She uses this book to share what she has learned through her experiences with the rest of us. I hope this book spurs conversations about guns and gun safety for anyone with children, be they young or young adult.



Leesa Ross is a debut author who’s transformed a tragedy into a mission for safety. After losing a son to a shooting accident, she formed Lock Arms for Life, an educational organization teaching gun safety. A Texas mother of three, she leads Lock Arms, sits on the board of Texas Gun Sense, and belongs to the NRA.



FIVE WINNERS each get a hardcover copy of At Close Range.

US Only. Ends midnight, CST, 2/26/21

a Rafflecopter giveaway



or visit the blogs directly:

2/16/21 Review Hall Ways Blog
2/16/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
2/17/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
2/17/21 Review Missus Gonzo
2/18/21 Review The Clueless Gent
2/18/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
2/19/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
2/20/21 Review Tangled in Text
2/21/21 Review Jennie Reads
2/22/21 Review Julia Picks 1
2/22/21 Review Book Fidelity
2/23/21 Review The Page Unbound
2/24/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
2/24/21 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
2/25/21 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
2/25/21 Review Forgotten Winds


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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: The Demon Fall Trilogy by S. Usher Evans

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.

So what’s got me all fired up this week? Not one book, but THREE!!!

Here’s the synopsis of the Demon Spring trilogy, where we first meet Jack, Cam, and Anya:

Demons are real – and walk amongst us every day. At the International Coalition for Demon Management, agent Jack Grenard knows this better than most. The scion of a demon hunting family, his career was on an upward trajectory until demons brutally murdered his wife. Three years later, he’s restarting his life in Atlanta with his partner Cam, dealing with low-level demonic lords and keeping the peace. But looming in the distance is Demon Spring, the breaking of the barrier between our world and the demonic one that occurs every four years. No one knows when or where it will occur exactly, but the unlucky city will be ravaged for a fortnight by monsters and mayhem.

Jack has it on good authority that the schism will occur far from Atlanta – that is, until he comes across a human-saving demon who seems to be keeping a secret. She’s enigmatic and dangerous, but Jack is inexplicably drawn to her. But as the days tick closer to Demon Spring, Jack wonders if she’s simply a distraction or something much more deadly.

I met S. Usher Evans after my husband bought three of her books as gifts for me at Geekonomicon back in, what, 2015? Those books were the start of my love for everything she writes, from Empath and the Razia series all the way through the Princess Vigilante series. The Demon Fall trilogy is a continuation of the story that began with the Demon Spring trilogy, and I am here for it. I have a shelf on one of my bookcases devoted to Evans’ works. I’m going to have to figure out how to make room for Demon Fall.

And look at those covers! The purple! They are gorgeous! I must have them. Thankfully, I shouldn’t have long to wait. Reawakening is due to release April 27, Resurrection May 25, and Reclamation July 27.

If y’all want to check out all of the goodness that is the writing of S. Usher Evans, go here. Tell her Lisa sent you. It won’t get you a discount or anything, but it would be nice to know me running my mouth helped new readers find her!

And if you want a booty-kickin’ urban fantasy, start with Demon Spring now, and then you’ll be all ready to read Demon Fall when the books come out!

Posted in Book Memes, Can't-Wait Wednesday | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments