To outsiders, the relationship between Manhattan antiquities assessor Annalisse Drury and sports car magnate Alec Zavos must look carefree and glamorous. In reality, it’s a love affair regularly punctuated by treasure hunting, high adventure, and the occasional dead body.
When Alec schedules a getaway trip to show Annalisse his mother’s Italian birthplace, he squeezes in the high-stakes business of divesting his family’s corporation. But things go terribly wrong as murder makes its familiar reappearance in their lives – and this time it’s Alec’s disgraced former CFO who’s the main suspect.
Accompanied by friend and detective Bill Drake, Annalisse and Alec find themselves embroiled in a behind-closed-doors conspiracy that threatens the reputation and legacy of Alec’s late father – linking him to embezzlement, extortion, and the dirty business of the Sicilian Mafia. The key to it all might be a gifted set of rosary beads where Annalisse can use her skills for appraising artifacts to uncover the truth. She leads Alec toward answers that are unthinkable—and events that will change their futures forever.
Scattered Legacy is the third in Marlene M. Bell’s thrilling Annalisse series, which weaves romance, crime, and historical mystery into addictive tales to instantly captivate fans of TV show Bones or Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.
In Scattered Legacy, Marlene Bell takes us from the Manhattan art gallery world to the glitz and glamour of Italy. Alec plans to take Annalisse to see Bari, Italy, his mother’s birthplace. It’s supposed to be a relaxing vacation, a time of togetherness for them. But they don’t figure on a murder implicating a former employee of the Zavos family business. Alec, Annalisse, and their friend and detective Bill Drake soon find themselves drawn into a tangle of mystery, murder, and Mafia.
The characters in this book are well-developed, the likable ones easy to like and the hateable ones easy to hate. Annalisse comes across as a bit diffident at times, especially when she starts to question where she really stands with Alec, but when the chips are down and it really counts, she stays cool, calm, and collected. Generosa, the art maven with a mysterious past. She loves her family, and she includes Annalisse in the circle of those she loves. She may not realize the danger that awaits when she gifts Annalisse with a medieval rosary. Alec, determined to clear his father’s name and successfully sell the family business as well as unravel the former CFO’s involvement in the ugly murder they’ve stumbled into.
Marlene Bell takes you on a transatlantic thrill ride with this one. I was drawn in from the beginning with the idea that Annalisse has suffered because of secrets kept from her. When it turned out that Generosa may have kept secrets of her own from everyone, even her family, I couldn’t put the book down! There’s a grisly death, white collar crime, a seemingly abandoned cat that may play an important role, chases and pursuits, and so much more. And let’s not forget romance. Could you have a book set in Italy with no romance in it? Don’t worry, though, the romance isn’t front and center at the expense of the mystery.
Scattered Legacy is the third in a series, but I was able to pick up enough of the back story from this book to read it as a stand-alone. I’ll go back and read the first two, though, because this one was mighty good! I recommend you do the same.
Five “ready to hop a plane and go to Italy” stars for Scattered Legacy. I hope there are more to come in the series!
Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer and acclaimed artist as well as a photographer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News, to name a few.
Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded ranch with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma guard dog named, Tia, along with Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks, the cats that believe they rule the household—and do.
1st SUPER GRAND PRIZE ($425 VALUE): Patricia Nash leather bag; Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Puglia Region of Italy; Orecchiette Pasta from the Puglia Region; Weekly 2022 Engagement Spiral Calendar; Silver/Gold Italy Coin necklace on 18” silver chain; autographed copy of Scattered Legacy; $50 VISA gift card.
2ND PRIZE & 3rd PRIZE – Signed copies of Scattered Legacy.
Would I recommend: If you love New Orleans, are from New Orleans, or are fascinated by New Orleans, you’ll enjoy this book.
A collection of moments captured during a lifetime spent growing up and living in New Orleans. These are the fleeting minutes and seconds that make up the ‘Bright Shinies’ of our life, those moments that happen once and are forgotten never. All of us have them, but not all of us notice them when they’re taking place. I happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right equipment to capture the ones displayed in this book. They represent times and places that will always be in memory for me, and now that they’re in print, you can enjoy them, too. Life, it’s said, is either too short or too long. That, I imagine, depends on where we are at any given time. Some times are better – or worse – than others. We tend to remember only the better ones. If we’re clever, tho’, we can examine the ones that were the least enjoyable and find something worth learning from those experiences. Key word: IF. In these pages you’ll be able to share with me those times that were special precisely because of their transience. It’s the knowledge that nothing lasts forever, and that each moment is a gift, that has the power to make us view others as being more memorable than others. It’s a ‘wheat and chaff’ kinda thing. If we pay attention, we learn over time which things have value and meaning and which … don’t. Thank you for purchasing this Book of Memories. I hope you’ll enjoy the images and the stories that accompany them as much as I enjoyed reliving these times. Please recommend this to your friends, and check back often for the next edition in the series about ‘Living On New Orleans Time’ … if you have the right mindset, it’s ‘New Orleans Time’ no matter where you live. Allons!
In Living on New Orleans Time, Richard Caire uses his photos of seemingly ordinary moments in New Orleans’ past and captures pieces of the city’s history. He preserves places that “ain’t dere no mo'” (I’m a central Louisiana girl, not a New Orleans native, but I can appreciate that sometimes places ain’t dere no mo’!) so that people can remember them – fondly, wistfully, however they want to. His descriptions of the places and things in the photographs range from the serious to the chuckle-inducing and everywhere in between, and they’re peppered with a range of pop culture references that I could appreciate. Monty Python, Talking Heads, the Platonic solids (okay, that last one isn’t pop culture). There are bits of sound advice and wisdom acquired over years woven in there, too. Mr. Caire has either done a lot of research for his book or lived a varied and fascinating life. I suspect it’s the latter.
If you love New Orleans, are from New Orleans, have any kind of passing interest in New Orleans, you’ll want to pick up this book. Mr. Caire memorializes the mundane, the weird, the abandoned and forgotten in such a marvelous way that even I find myself longing to visit New Orleans that was. The book makes me want to pay more attention, to find the beauty in the small things in my own life.
Also, if you find yourself with the envie for beignets and cafe au lait after reading this book, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
When Trace Malloy and Blaine Witherspoon collide on a desolate West Texas highway, their fender bender sets the tone for escalating clashes that will determine the future of the town of Conquistador.
Malloy, a ranch manager and lifelong cowboy, knows that his occupation—and his community—are dying. He wants new- millennium opportunities for his son, even though he himself failed to summon the courage to leave familiar touchstones behind.
Witherspoon, an ambitious, Lexus-driving techie, offers a solution. He moves to Conquistador to build and run a state-of-the-art semiconductor plant that will bring prestige and high-paying technology jobs to revive the town—and advance his own career.
What neither man anticipates is the power the “Big Empty” will wield over their plans. The flat, endless expanse of dusty plain is as much a character in the conflict as are the locals struggling to subsist in this timeworn backwater and the high-tech transplants hell-bent on conquering it. While Malloy grapples with the flaws of his ancestors and his growing ambivalence toward the chip plant, Witherspoon falls prey to construction snafus, corporate backstabbing, and financial fraud. As they each confront personal fears, they find themselves united in the search for their own version of purpose in a uniquely untamable Texas landscape.
PRAISE FOR THE BIG EMPTY:
“The Big Empty” captures a moment when Big Tech seemingly promised everything. By turns funny and painful, Steffy’s story builds like an accelerating freight train, reaching a fast-paced climax.”
— The Epoch Times
“Like the titular land itself, Steffy’s novel is uncompromising in spotlighting the strains that the drive toward material achievement puts on the individual in the face of nature’s whims.”
The Big Empty is a story of a clash of cultures. The present that’s rapidly becoming the past colliding with the seemingly incompatible future.
Life in the town of Conquistador is really all that Trace Malloy has ever known. He’s a ranch manager and a cowboy, and with the exception of a short stint trying unsuccessfully to break away from his hometown, he’s been in Conquistador all of his life. He realizes that ranching and the cowboy life are likely not viable options for the long term, and he wants to see his son Colt take advantage of other opportunities. Colt, unable to pursue his dream of flying in the Air Force due to the lingering damage from broken legs, stubbornly persists in saying he’s going to follow in his father’s footsteps right there in Conquistador.
But the future is on its way to Conquistador. AZTech, lured by the promise of tax breaks and accommodations, is building a computer chip manufacturing facility in the middle of the wide-open, dusty spaces. Blaine Witherspoon is heading up the project, seeing it as his ticket to bigger and better things in bigger and better places.
Past and present literally collide when Trace’s pickup and Blaine’s moving truck try to occupy the same piece of road at the same time. This doesn’t bode well for their future interactions. Blaine sees Trace as a backwards yokel who needs to join the twenty-first century, and Trace sees Blaine as someone with no frame of reference for his new environment, someone who wants to come in and change things to suit the needs of his new facility without giving any thought to how those changes will impact the people in Conquistador, their livelihoods, their very ability to survive.
Blaine wants to get the factory up and running and meeting production goals on time and under budget. Trace wants to protect the town’s scarce resources and see them managed so that the needs of both town and factory can be met. They both realize that something has to give, and they make grudging efforts to find some common ground. Some of those efforts are comical – Trace inviting Blaine, his high-maintenance wife who’d rather be anywhere but West Texas, and his emo son with a drug habit to a barbecue at the ranch, for instance. The Witherspoons thoughtfully bring their own food to accommodate their vegetarian eating habits, and the Conquistador folks are a bit befuddled as to why anyone would make a burger patty out of vegetables when there are perfectly good burgers made of beef to be had. Some of those efforts hurt – Blaine invites Trace to tour the chip factory, and it becomes a literal pain for Trace as he struggles to navigate the sterile, unfamiliar environment. But they’re trying. Can they find enough common ground for the factory to succeed and bring prosperity to Conquistador?
Blaine and Trace are both well written characters. Blaine was at first a thoroughly unlikable character. He just came in wanting to do things how they were done back in California without thinking that hey, we aren’t in California anymore, maybe we need to rethink this. As the story unfolded, though, I started to feel a little bit sorry for him. He didn’t know what he was getting himself into, and he was so accustomed to doing things a certain way that it was difficult if not impossible for him to shift gears. His efforts to achieve a task that seemed to become more impossible each day were almost uncomfortable to watch. Trace was more likable, but I felt sorry for him, too. He struggled to maintain his way of life, and struggled to teach the newcomer how to adapt to West Texas. He ached for what he saw as his son throwing away a better future than what the cowboy life offered. He wrestled with guilt at not spending enough time with his mother, who was declining due to dementia. Both men have to find ways to adapt to new and different things.
I’ve never been to West Texas, but Steffy’s writing lets me envision the never-ending expanse of flat, dusty land that has its own harsh beauty. The setting here is more than just the physical space that the characters occupy. It takes on a life of its own. The dust isn’t mindful of how clean the chip factory needs to be; it just goes where it goes. When one of the new electrical lines run out to the factory collapses and sparks a wildfire, the fire threatens the town and the new facility alike. The immensity of the Big Empty is harsh to old-timer and newcomer alike, and environmentalism takes on a whole different meaning there.
This didn’t read like a debut novel. It was well written and well worth the time I invested reading it. Five stars, and I hope to read more from Steffy in the future.
Loren C. Steffy is the author of five nonfiction books. He is a writer at large for Texas Monthly, and his work has appeared in newspapers and magazines nationwide. He has previously worked for news organizations including Bloomberg and the Houston Chronicle, and he is a managing director for 30 Point Strategies, where he leads the 30 Point Press publishing imprint. His is a frequent guest on radio and television programs and is the co-host of the Rational Middle podcast. The Big Empty is his first novel. Steffy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. He lives in Wimberley, Texas, with his wife, three dogs and an ungrateful cat.
Would I recommend: This book is for anyone who is enchanted by a Southern accent and a little bit of magic.
The Lights of Sugarberry Cove is a charming, delightful story of family, healing, love, and small town Southern charm by USA Today bestselling author Heather Webber.
Sadie Way Scott has been avoiding her family and hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama, since she nearly drowned in the lake just outside her mother’s B&B. Eight years later, Sadie is the host of a much-loved show about southern cooking and family, but despite her success, she wonders why she was saved. What is she supposed to do?
Sadie’s sister, Leala Clare, is still haunted by the guilt she feels over the night her sister almost died. Now, at a crossroads in her marriage, Leala has everything she ever thought she wanted—so why is she so unhappy?
When their mother suffers a minor heart attack just before Sugarberry Cove’s famous water lantern festival, the two sisters come home to run the inn while she recovers. It’s the last place either of them wants to be, but with a little help from the inn’s quirky guests, the sisters may come to terms with their strained relationships, accept the past, and rediscover a little lake magic.
Heather Webber has done it again. If possible, I think The Lights of Sugarberry Cove is even better than Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe and South of the Buttonwood Tree.
The story is told alternately from Sadie’s, and then Leala’s, point of view. There are some unresolved emotions from the death of their father when they were young, on the part of both mother and daughters. Sadie is uncomfortable being back in a town where everyone sees her as some kind of miracle, her survival a wish granted by the lady of the lake. She’s also got to figure out how she feels about Will, the young man she left behind when she unceremoniously bolted from town. Leala has everything she always thought she wanted, but she isn’t happy, and she struggles to figure out why. And then there’s the consternation when Sadie and Leala learn that the bed and breakfast is in desperate need of some remodeling, and their mother’s finances don’t seem to be in a condition to do that.
Her characters are all so wonderfully imagined, they seem like people you could just sit down and talk to. I think Uncle Camp was my favorite, and sometimes I wanted to just smack Connor because he seemed like such a jerk.
As with Webber’s other books, this story is, at its heart, about family. Sadie, Leala, and Susannah all have flaws and quirks. The other characters are family, too – whether actually related or family tht they’ve chosen (or that has chosen them). Like all families, sometimes tensions and tempers flare. And as tends to happen, sometimes secrets are kept that should have been brought to light long ago. But sharing those secrets so often brings healing, and ultimately, joy and relationships restored.
Not gonna lie, the ending made me cry. Let me say it again: I will grab any of Heather Webber’s books off the shelf without even seeing what they’re about. She is one of my favorite authors. If you like your books full of Southern charm and Southern characters, with a touch of magic, she may become one of your favorite authors, too.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Netgalley and Forge Books. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books that I don’t actually like.
Would I recommend: If you enjoy Christian fiction and books that offer an idea of how “the rest of the story” might have gone, this one may be for you!
The man they called Barabbas has come a long way from the wretched prisoner released by Pontius Pilate in lieu of Jesus of Nazareth. He and his wife Chanah are growing in regard among the leadership of Christ’s fledgling church, which is expanding and thriving.
But increasing Christian influence breeds jealousy among several Roman governors and senators. How will Emperor Nero react? Can the apostle Paul soothe the moody young ruler and help the valiant Roman saints continue to spread the Word?
The Parthian Empire also poses threats, including in Eastern Africa, where the former centurion Cornelius has become a prominent Christian leader. Will the Christians need to flee, or must they fight both the Romans and the Parthians?
I was privileged to reviewI Was Called Barabbas, the first book in M. D. House’s Barabbas Trilogy, so when Pillars of Barabbas came up for review, I jumped on it. House continues the tale of what Barabbas’ life may have looked like in fine fashion.
The novel is set about thirty years after the Crucifixion. Barabbas has continued to be involved in the church, and now holds the title of bishop. He and Chanah are sent back to Rome to oversee the building of a Christian temple there.
It’s clear that House did his research on the time period. The descriptions of houses, of the tensions between Rome and Parthia, of the political maneuvering and the dislike that some leaders had for the growing Christian faith, all seemed spot on.
The events described generally track pretty well with Scripture. The ones that don’t, I figured it’s because they aren’t included there. That’s the beauty of historical fiction. The author has the ability to flesh out what he thinks might have happened. The fact that Barabbas and Chanah were sent to build a temple threw me a bit, as it was my understanding that the early church met in small groups in homes, and that physical structures dedicated to worship didn’t come until later in time. That didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the story, though.
This was just a fun story to contemplate. On a bare reading of Scripture, we don’t learn much about Barabbas other than that he was released and Jesus was crucified instead. I’d bet most of us don’t really stop to think about how that event might have impacted Barabbas. Could he have continued with his life as a miscreant? Possibly. But I like to think that Jesus’ willingness to die in Barabbas’ place sent Barabbas home a changed man. That’s why I enjoy House’s writing so much. It makes my heart happy to think of Barabbas turning from his life of crime and going on to do mighty work for the Kingdom, and raising his children to do likewise.
I enjoyed the inclusion of Barabbas and Chanah’s children in the story. It’s exciting to see them grow up and start to move out into their own lives, their own work. I hope to see more of them in the third book of the trilogy.
Have you ever wished for a second chance to fix something you’ve messed up or for the courage to say yes to something that just may change your life? Sometimes saying yes to the last thing you want can mean saying yes to exactly what you need.
Ryan “The Rocket” Sutton’s winning streak is legendary makes him the undisputed best quarterback in the NFL. However, thanks to one dumb mistake, he’s a failure as a husband to Coco, the only woman he’s ever loved. When a judge’s mistake in divorce paperwork means Coco is still his wife, Ryan makes up his mind to fix what he ruined. Ryan’s game plan doesn’t count on an internationally famous movie director’s camera crew following him as he competes for Coco’s love.
After spending most of her adult life as a football wife and mother to twin sons, fashionista Coco Sutton is learning how to be single and fabulous. Emphasis on Fabulous. The sports trophies, memorabilia, and heavy masculine wood furniture in the home she used to share with Ryan have been banished to the attic, and her home is now a cozy haven of plush candle-scented comfort. She’s got big plans that include owning a boutique or maybe an art gallery, but she never planned to take on the biggest challenge of her life: staying single. Then her best friend gives her a copy of a book called The Yes Dare, and all her plans are turned upside down.
From a Hollywood movie to the local spring event formerly known as the Cow Chip Toss Festival and a country crooner with a crush on Coco, will Ryan dodge the obstacles to win back the only woman he ever loved?
I’m not a romance reader. But this book was wonderful. I read it while my whole family was sick with the Covid, and it was just what I needed. It was a quick read, with characters I could cheer for, and parts that made me laugh right out loud.
Ryan “The Rocket” Sutton, NFL quarterback extraordinaire, deeply regrets divorcing his ex-wife Coco. When he learns that a judge’s mistake on the divorce papers means they’re still legally married, he jumps on that as a second chance, an opportunity to win Coco back and make things right. Coco is, shall we say, skeptical. And she’s just let her best friend talk her into reading some book called the Yes Dare – encouraging her to say yes to more things in her life. That leads to Coco saying “yes” to being in charge of the town’s financially strapped annual Cow Chip Toss Festival, something she NEVER thought she’d do. All this is happening while Ryan is making a foray into professional baseball while still playing football, and a movie crew is following him and Coco around to document the whole story.
Ryan and Coco are both delightful characters. Ryan is so genuine in his love for Coco, I had a hard time believing he was ever, even for a brief moment, dallying with some other woman. And Coco is no pushover. She isn’t falling hook, line, and sinker for whatever Ryan says. Oh, no. If he wants to win her back, he’s going to have to work for it. Not that she’s trying to play hard to get. She just doesn’t see them ever getting back together. Ryan persists. Shenanigans ensue. There are some funny moments, some tense moments, and some where I just about cried.
The Suttons’ twin boys, mostly grown and flown and off at college, are wonderfully written. You can tell they love their parents dearly, and they’re on their dad’s side in the whole getting back together thing, even though they realize his efforts are kind of making their mom nuts. I’m a boy mom, so I’ll own to a soft spot for boy children.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a romance reader now. The Yes Dare has put me over the top on that. I have to go read the rest of the series now, and I hope there are more to come after this one.
Five sweet-as-pie stars from me!
Publishers Weekly bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and bestselling author of more than one hundred books with over two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she is a member of the Texas Bar Association Paralegal Division, Texas A&M Association of Former Students, Texas A&M Women Former Students (Aggie Women), Texas Historical Society, Sisters in Crime, Faith Hope and Love Christian Writers, and American Christian Fiction Writers. She would also be a member of the Daughters of the American Republic, Daughters of the Republic of Texas and a few others if she would just remember to fill out the paperwork that Great Aunt Mary Beth has sent her more than once.
Kathleen and her hero in combat boots husband have their own surprise love story that unfolded on social media a few years back. They make their home just north of Houston, Texas, and are the parents, grandparents, and in-laws of a blended family of Texans, Okies, and a trio of adorable Londoners.
From the thrilling voice of Sacha Wunsch comes a heart-stopping psychological mystery in a world where memories can be shared—but maybe not trusted.
Enhanced Memory changed everything. By sharing someone else’s memory, you can experience anything and everything with no risk at all: learn any skill instantly, travel the world from home, and safeguard all your most treasured secrets forever. Nova’s parents invented this technology, and it’s slowly taking over their lives. That’s where Nova comes in. She can pick up the slack for them—and she doesn’t mind. She knows Enhanced Memory is a gift, and its value outweighs its costs.
But Kade says Nova doesn’t even know the costs. Kade runs a secret vlog cataloging real experiences, is always on the move, and he’s strangely afraid of Nova—even though she feels more comfortable with him than she ever has with anyone. Suddenly there are things Nova can’t stop noticing: the way her parents don’t meet her eyes anymore, the questions no one wants her to ask, and the relentless feeling like there’s something she’s forgotten.
But there’s danger around every corner, and her own home might be the most dangerous place of all.
The platform was a hundred and fifty feet up.
I tried not to look down.
I hadn’t even known I was afraid of heights until the moment I stood up there.
The stranger came up to me, grinning. “You’re going to love it,” he said.
My entire body was sweating, most notably my palms, slipping as I tried to grip the safety harness.
Was I really going to do this?
No. I was going to get unclipped, turn around, and simply climb back down what felt like the millions of stairs stretching below me.
And then, just as I started to turn, someone pushed me off the platform.
I screamed as I dropped, nothing but air beneath me.
And then… I started to glide.
The scream kept coming a few seconds more, but my heart did a flip before it could reach my mind. I was soaring. Over the treetops. Whizzing along the zip line at high speeds. It was the best thing I had ever felt.
I had never been this free. Which made sense, I was essentially flying, after all.
Giggling was very much not in my nature, but there I was, giggling anyway. I closed my eyes to get a better sense of the wind on my face, but when the sweet scent of fresh-blooming flowers greeted me, I opened them again. Sure enough, the trees several yards below my feet were blooming some kind of large purple flower.
I sucked in a breath, wishing I could inhale the whole scene, wanting to appreciate it as much as I could—savor it—knowing it wouldn’t last forever, and landed gently on the other side.
I did not have to be pushed off the second platform—barely able to wait my turn to jump again. I soared from platform to platform, wishing nothing more than for this to go on forever, grinning all the way, and realizing only at the last second that the final landing platform wasn’t a platform at all, but a deep, cooling pool.
I sucked in a breath, and with a final burst of adrenaline, I splashed into the crystal-clear water.
TWENTY MINUTES EARLIER
“Come on, open it,” Mom said, her smiling beaming.
I held the small, beautifully wrapped box, unable to imagine what it was. My parents knew I wasn’t really that into jewelry, and neither were they really, but what else could be in such a small box?
I tore into it and flipped the lid open.
Which confused me even more. It wasn’t a ring or a pendant, just a small metal disk.
Dad sensed my confusion. “Give it a second,” he said, beaming even brighter than Mom.
In a blink, a form emerged, a hologram above the disk. There was no sound, but it looked like the person in the hologram was gliding through the tops of trees high in the air.
“This is…really cool,” I said, and meant it, but couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something.
Mom was practically bouncing on the couch. “We wanted to do something special for your birthday.”
“Thank you” was all I could really think to say. The disk was pretty cool, but what the hell was with their enthusiasm?
“You’re welcome Nova,” Dad said. “But this isn’t the whole thing. It’s the experience of it that’s the real gift.”
“The experience of it?”
Mom had gotten up and gone to the desk by the front door. She picked up another box, this one unwrapped, and pulled something from inside.
“Here, you put this on,” she said, handing me a clunky set of headphones plugged into a small handheld device about the size of a phone.
“The disk goes in there,” Dad said, and showed me how to open it, setting my new present inside.
And then I experienced my first ever zip line.
As the experience ended, I blinked my eyes open, a hundred percent sure I’d be soaking wet, but I was sitting right back in my living room. The sensation was a bit disorienting, but my parents were staring at me like they were about to explode.
“What was that?” I asked, grabbing the hem of my shirt, which I couldn’t quite comprehend being dry.
“That was Enhanced Memory,” Dad said, but the look on his face said so much more—like if he’d had feathers, they’d be plumaged out like the most badass peacock of the bunch.
“What did you think?” Mom asked, clasping her hands like she had so much energy whizzing through her body she had to do something to hold it in.
“Well obviously it was amazing, but by the way you two are acting, you already know that.” I couldn’t help but grin. They were just so cute sitting there all proud of themselves. “But seriously, what is this? What is Enhanced Memory?”
I’d seen 3D movies and had even tried virtual reality once, but this was way beyond either of those. This was next level.
“It’s simple,” Dad said. “The headphones are equipped with dozens of…well, let’s call them electrodes for sake of ease, though really, they’re more advanced than that.”
“Okay,” I said, mostly with him still, although knowing Dad it wouldn’t be long until the science-y droning took hold and steered him right off the layman’s term trail.
“And these,” he said, taking the disk out of the machine and holding it up, “are Memories.”
Mom nodded. “We discovered a way to extract memories and reproduce them.”
“Wait, you guys created this?”
Mom nodded, her smile huge and eyes wide. “This is what we’ve been working toward all these years.”
My mouth dropped open. I knew my parents had been working on some kind of project for a long time, but I guess I hadn’t really been that interested in what it was.
Mom laughed at my stunned expression while Dad came over to give me one of his signature kisses on the top of my head.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Mom said, beaming.
I mean, they were scientists and science was basically the last thing I wanted to pay attention to, so I never really asked many questions.
But this was way beyond science. This was…actually kind of awesome.
A smile crept across my face. I couldn’t wait to try it again.
Sacha Wunsch grew up dividing her time between the family farm in Canada and traveling to numerous fictional worlds. She was a bookseller before discovering her love of writing mind-twisty novels – which has proved an excellent job since she gets to blame all the TV she watches on her love of storytelling. She now splits her time between the city and the lake, and still travels to made-up worlds as often as she can.
“My darling girls. You were once so happy in this house. Now I’m gone, all I ask is that you spend one last summer here together on Dune Island. And please forgive me, your Nana, for the secret I’m about to tell you…”
Arriving at the honeysuckle-covered beach house inherited from her beloved grandmother, recently heartbroken Jill hopes to convince her two feuding sisters not to sell a place so full of happy childhood memories. But the envelope waiting on the driftwood table changes everything. In her elegant handwriting, Nana Rose promises a new letter will arrive each day of the summer revealing a family secret she took to her grave.
Shaken, Jill anxiously awaits each letter filled with Nana’s bittersweet memories of her own sister who she loved more than anyone—and lost far too young. But why did Nana never speak of this tragic loss to her grandchildren?
Watching the sunset each night and wondering how well they really knew Nana Rose, Jill feels her family is closer than they’ve been in years. And after a chance encounter with blue-eyed tree surgeon Alex, she wonders if Nana believed being back on Dune Island would help Jill find love, too?
But when Nana’s final letter arrives, the revelation about how her sister died is more shocking than Jill ever imagined. Suddenly, despite the chance of happiness with Alex, selling the house seems the only way forward. Will Jill find a way to forge new bonds of sisterhood and save their inheritance,or will Nana Rose’s secret tear them all apart?
An absolutely gorgeous, gripping and heartbreaking read about the importance of family, and how even our loved ones can keep shattering secrets. Perfect for fans of Carolyn Brown, Debbie Macomber and Mary Alice Munroe.
I’ll grant you, A Letter from Nana Rose is not normally the type of book I’d gravitate toward. I prefer mysteries, usually of the cozy variety, or a good fantasy, or maybe a gripping thriller. But sister fiction? Romance? Meh. The hint of a long-kept secret to be revealed after Nana Rose’s death, though, was enough of a hook that I thought I’d take a chance on it.
I am so glad I did!
Nana Rose has been a fixture in the lives of Jill and her sisters, Rachel and Brooke, throughout their childhood. Now, though, Nana Rose has passed away, and the sisters are spending one more vacation at Dune Island at her request. She’s left a letter telling them that they’ll receive a letter from her each day of their stay, and she’s indicated that they’ll be learning things about their family that have never before been revealed.
Jill is hoping desperately to convince her sisters to keep Nana Rose’s house. Rachel and Brooke, though, have what they feel are strong cases for selling the property. As the letters come in day by day, and Nana’s story is told in flashbacks, the sisters learn that Nana Rose wasn’t the only one keeping secrets. Nana’s past is revealed, and the sisters learn things about each other, too.
This story, y’all. There were ups and downs as we learned what each sister was trying to keep from the others and how that might impact their decision regarding Nana’s house. There were moments of frustration when the sisters were apparently at an impasse, and it felt like they were each seeing only their own point of view. And when everything comes out into the open, when all the secrets are revealed, then we see the true power of love and family to unite and heal.
This is the first of Harper’s books that I’ve read. I don’t know if she’ll revisit these characters in another book, if we’ll see what happens with Jill and hunky tree surgeon Alex, if the sisters’ children will bring their kids to the house on Dune Island. I liked this story enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing the characters again in a future book.
If you’re a fan of books that are clean and sweet and give you the warm fuzzies, pick up A Letter from Nana Rose.
Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy from Netgalley and Bookouture. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
Would I recommend: Yes, if you’re a fan of a clean story with family at its heart and a little bit of romance (and maybe a tear or two at the end).
Present Day. After tragedy plunges her into grief and unresolved anger, Sarah Ashby returns to her childhood home determined to finally follow her long-denied dream of running Old Depot Grocery alongside her mother and grandmother. But when she arrives, her mother, Rosemary, announces to her that the store is closing. Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, make a pact to save the store, but Rosemary has worked her entire life to make sure her daughter never follows in her footsteps. She has her reasons–but she’ll certainly never reveal the real one.
1965. Glory Ann confesses to her family that she’s pregnant with her deceased fiancé’s baby. Pressured into a marriage of convenience with a shopkeeper to preserve the family reputation, Glory Ann vows never to love again. But some promises are not as easily kept as she imagined.
This dual-timeline story from Amanda Cox deftly explores the complexity of a mother-daughter dynamic, the way the secrets we keep shape our lives and the lives of others, and the healing power of telling the truth.
Amanda Cox’s first book, The Edge of Belonging, was one of my favorite reads of 2020. I had high expectations for this, her latest. She met them in fine style.
I enjoy a good dual-timeline story, and this one is very well done. We see the story unfold through the eyes of three women: Glory Ann, her daughter Rosemary, and her granddaughter Sarah. In 1965, Glory Ann finds herself in the family way, and her sweetheart is presumed dead in the war. Her parents, determined not to see their child and their family name ruined, find a young man, Clarence, who agrees to marry Glory Ann and raise the child as his own.
In the present time, Glory Ann and her daughter, Rosemary, are on the outs about the Old Depot Grocery. Rosemary insists it’s time to sell off the store, citing the shiny new supermarket in town as her reason to get while the getting is good, and Glory Ann is equally determined that it is not. Sarah hoped to come home and take up where she left off, running the store with her grandmother and mother. But now she fears that may not happen.
The main theme of the story is secrets. All three of our main characters have them. They keep their secrets to themselves, even when it would benefit them to let others in on what they’re trying to hide. Sometimes I wanted to smack Rosemary, or Sarah, or Glory Ann, for not letting people who might need to know in on their secrets. But the frustration I felt with them for keeping mum on things didn’t lessen the fact that I liked them as characters. Because honestly, haven’t we all kept secrets when it would have been smarter not to?
The men of the story weren’t the main focus, but they were just as important. The whole thing would have fallen apart without Clarence. I mean, imagine agreeing to marry a pregnant young lady and raise her child with someone else as your own. And you stick to your word, and you work to create a family where once just awkwardness existed. I wanted to hear more of Clarence’s story. Bo, Rosemary’s husband, played only a small role, but he was also a good example of a gentle and good man, loving his wife as best as he knew how. And Clay. My goodness, he just made me smile. I was cheering for him and Sarah. (Does it work out? I’m not telling. Read the book.)
And the ending. Y’all, I did not see it coming, and I was straight up bawling. Amanda Cox can surprise me in such a wonderful, emotional way, and she sure did it here. Secrets are revealed, wounds old and new are healed, and the past comes back most unexpectedly.
My thanks to Revell for a review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
Texas, the second largest state, both in land mass and population, has more than 50,000 burial grounds. As the final resting places of those whose earthly journey has ended, they are also repositories of valuable cultural history. Pioneer cemeteries provide a wealth of information on the people who settled Texas during its years as a Republic (1836-1845), and after it became the 28th state in 1845. In What Lies Beneath: Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards, Cynthia Leal Massey exhumes the stories of these pioneers, revealing the fascinating truth behind the earliest graveyards in the Lone Star State, including some of its most ancient. This guide also provides descriptions of headstone features and symbols and demystifies the burial traditions of early Texas pioneers and settlers.
KEEP SCROLLING AFTER YOU READ MY REVIEW TO GET TO THE GIVEAWAY!
I have long been fascinated by cemeteries and gravestones. Growing up in the South, I was expected to attend funerals and graveside services from an early age, and I always liked walking around cemeteries to see what interesting tidbits I might find on the grave markers. So when I had a chance to review What Lies Beneath, I jumped at it.
The book is divided into ten sections, based on the ten Texas Heritage Trails established by the Texas Historical Commission. That makes it easy to read in smaller chunks (if you can bear to put it down – I found it quite engrossing!), and if you’re interested in traveling to see any of these places in person, the book’s structure will make it easy to find and visit several in one area.
I lived in Texas for a time, and while I didn’t grow up there, I appreciate its history and culture. Massey doesn’t just give you a coffee table book full of pretty pictures. She really digs into the pioneer stories, the life and times of the folks whose grave markers she’s writing about. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know and was introduced to some fascinating characters. Some of the people whose burials she highlighted were lawmen. While many were good, honest men who strove to uphold the law, a couple turned out to be just about as bad as the criminals they were supposed to go after!
I’ve said before how much I enjoy books that both entertain and educate. What Lies Beneath does both admirably. It’s not a dry historical read at all. Massey’s prose brings the people she writes about to life, and I particularly enjoyed the sidebar facts. For instance, did you know that a “cemetery” is not the same thing as a “graveyard”? I’d never given it much thought. The terms have always been used interchangeably in my experience. But there is a difference. I also learned how women were identified on their tombstones if they died before or after their husbands. I had really never given that any thought at all.
We’d like to travel more, and I hope we can see at least some of the locations mentioned in the book. I’d love to go take pictures and share them on the Find A Grave site.
This is a great read for “the spooky month,” as my kids call October, and one I’d highly recommend for any student of history and anyone who, like me, feels the pull of the past coming from a graveyard.
Five stars as bright as the ones you’ll see in an old country cemetery on a moonless night.
Award-winning author Cynthia Leal Massey is a former corporate editor, college instructor, and magazine editor. She has published hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles and eight books. A full-time writer who publishes history columns for community publications, Cynthia was raised on the south side of San Antonio. She has resided in Helotes since 1994, and has served on the Helotes City Council since 2008, serving twice as Mayor Pro Tem. She is also president of the Historical Society of Helotes.
Cynthia, a former president of Women Writing the West, is a recipient of the Will Rogers Silver Medallion Award for her nonfiction book, Death of a Texas Ranger, A True Story of Murder and Vengeance on the Texas Frontier, which also won the San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award. She is the recipient of several literary awards, including the WILLA Literary Finalist Award for Best Original Softcover Fiction for her novel, The Caballeros of Ruby, Texas, called by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry, “a vivid picture of the Rio Grande Valley as it was fifty years ago and a very good read.”