Book Review and Blog Tour: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian


Author: Vera Kurian

ISBN: 9780778311553

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher: Park Row Books

Book Summary:

“I’ve never met someone like me, but when I do, eventually, I think it will be like two wolves meeting in the night, sniffing and recognizing a fellow hunter.”

Meet Chloe Sevre. Freshman honor student. Average-seeming, legging-wearing, hot girl next door…and diagnosed psychopath with an IQ of 135. Her hobbies include yogalates, frat parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her.

Now Chloe and six other students at John Adams College are part of an unusual clinical study that includes smartwatches to track their moods and movements, in exchange for free tuition. The study, led by a renowned psychiatrist, has inadvertently brought together some of the most dangerous minds who feel no guilt or fear. When one of the participants is found murdered, it becomes obvious they’re all in danger. Chloe goes from hunter to prey, and joins forces with two other psychopaths in the program to discover why they’re being targeted – if they could only trust each other.

Wildly entertaining with compelling characters and a vividly conjured campus setting, NEVER SAW ME COMING will keep you up all night, pinned to the page, wondering why you’re rooting for a would-be killer.

My review:

Chloe isn’t your average college freshman. She’s a psychopath. No, literally. She’s attending college as part of a program with six other diagnosed psychopath students, designed to monitor their moods and feelings, and just maybe to help them learn some semblance of empathy for other people. The scholarship is nice and all, but Chloe has plans of her own – she’s there to kill Will Bachman for a wrong done to her years ago.

The students aren’t supposed to know each other. They’re never supposed to meet. But when oen of them ends up dead, and then another, Chloe and two other students in the program work together to sort out who’s doing the killing. Can they figure it out before the killer takes them out, too?

This was a fascinating concept for a book! Chloe is an engaging main character – sharp and funny, and always calculating how to turn any situation to her advantage. She’s a psychopath, a “bad guy,” but she isn’t. Sure, she wants to kill Will, but he did her wrong. In her mind, that justifies his death. If Chloe were a real person and I knew her, I suspect I’d find her mostly likeable, if coming off a bit of a mean girl sometimes.

Someone killing program students is an entirely different matter, though. That isn’t acceptable, largely because Chloe values her own skin, and if she’s dead, she can’t take Will out.

Charles and Andre, the two program students working with Chloe to figure out who’s behind the killings, are interesting as well. Three young people with the same diagnosis, yet very different in their backgrounds and personalities, their relationships, and how they present themselves. Their interactions are fascinating. Can they trust each other? Is one of them the killer? Who’s lying? Who’s not exactly lying, but maybe gaming the others a little?

And the ending. I’m not giving it away, but I didn’t see it coming until it whapped me upside the head. I love books where I don’t figure it out ages before the big reveal!

This was a unique take on the thriller, and a bang-up debut from Vera Kurian. Five nail-biting stars from me. Thanks to Netgalley and Park Row Books for an advance reader copy.

Vera Kurian is a psychologist and writer and a longtime resident of Washington DC. She has a doctorate in social psychology, specializing in intergroup relations, political ideology, and quantitative methods. She has studied fiction at Breadloaf, Sewanee, VONA, and attended juried workshops at LitCamp, Colgate, Juniper, and the Marlboro Summer Writing Intensive. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a semifinalist for the Mark Twain Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest.

Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble

Social Links:

Author Website
Twitter: @vera_kurian
Instagram: @verakurianauthor

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Blog Tour and Giveaway: Creatrix Rising by Stephanie Raffelock | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

By Stephanie Raffelock
Categories: Nonfiction / Self Help Memoir
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub Date: August 24, 2021
Pages:176 Pages
Scroll for the Giveaway!

From the author of the award-winning book A Delightful Little Book on Aging comes a new self-help memoir Creatrix Rising: Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women. In her new book, Stephanie Raffelock liberates mold-defying midlife women, tired of the oft-inaccurate characterization of the “old crone,” to amplify the resounding strength within.

Ever since Eve was banned from the garden, women have endured the oftentimes painful and inaccurate definitions foisted upon them by the patriarchy. Maiden, mother, and crone, representing the three stages assigned to a woman’s life cycle, have been the limiting categories of both ancient and modern (neo-pagan) mythology. And one label in particular rankles: crone. The word conjures a wizened hag—useless for the most part, marginalized by appearance and ability.

None of us has ever truly fit the old-crone image, and for today’s midlife women, a new archetype is being birthed: the Creatrix.

In Creatrix Rising, Raffelock lays out—through personal stories and essays—the highlights of the past fifty years, in which women have gone from a quiet strength to a resounding voice. She invites us along on her own transformational journey by providing probing questions for reflection so that we can flesh out and bring to life this new archetype within ourselves. If what the Dalai Lama has predicted—that women will save the world—proves true, then the Creatrix will for certain be out front, leading the pack.


“The perfect topic at the perfect time, Stephanie Raffelock’s self-help memoir, Creatrix Rising, identifies a new archetype, the Creatrix, that transcends the old archetype of Crone. Her stories and insights about how far women have come is nothing short of inspirational. A must-read for any woman who wants to embrace the strength and creativity of midlife.” -Marci Shimoff, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Happy for No Reason and Chicken Soup for the Women’s Soul

“Poetic and philosophical, Creatrix Rising will inspire readers to claim the courage and confidence that already lives inside of them. An intimate story of transformation, of journeying through life on your own terms without apology.”
Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet and author of How to Love a Country

“The new archetype Stephanie Raffelock assigns to midlife women underscores the assets and wisdom older women bring to our culture and to the greater good. Creatrix Rising is an affirmation and celebration of the feminine story taking place in leadership and creativity throughout our country.”
Gabby Reese, volleyball legend, Nike’s first female spokeswoman, and New York Times best-selling author
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Link To The Book Trailer On YouTube
Maiden, Mother, Crone. The three archetypal stages of a woman’s life. The Maiden is young and fair, blooming with life and potential. The Mother is nurturing and giving. And the Crone? Well, we all know what people think of her. Dried up, not much use anymore, withering away to the end of life.
In Creatrix Rising, Stephanie Raffelock is here to smash the Crone archetype to smithereens. In the Crone’s place, Raffelock proposes the Creatrix.
“Unlike the Crone, the Creatrix is no haggard old woman of the forest. She has the radiant beauty we all seek, that of wisdom, compassion, courage, and strength. She is the witness that holds the lamp to illuminate the path the younger women behind her will traverse. The Creatrix is the pinnacle of a woman’s life.”
I’m a middle-aged woman myself. I’m a bit of an oddball in that I’m still in the parenting years in my 50s. I have two boys, 19 and 12, so they’re not quite grown and flown – I’m the oldest mom in the 7th grade class. Even so, in middle age, the idea that my best years are behind me has never set well with me. Growing up, I knew many older women who were graceful and confident, living their best lives. So why does society expect women to shrink and dwindle? Are we useless once we’re no longer able to contribute to the continuation of the species? I think not.
Raffelock’s Creatrix, introduced to us through stories and personal anecdotes, is no shriveled hag. She is a woman full of vitality and creativity, life and grace. Raffelock walks us through some of her own experiences that led her to conclude that there was a need for a new archetype. Her insights and experiences help me think of my own life in a new light.
I like the way the book is divided, and I like that it looks at the Creatrix in different aspects: Teacher, Healer, Illuminator, Artist. We’re all different, and it makes sense that that continues into our later years. I also like the questions for reflection, activity, and journaling. I read through the book straight through the first time, but I’ll be going back and working through all those questions.
I love the message of the book, that life isn’t winding down just because we’re at or past the midpoint of our lives. I kept hearing Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” as I was reading. I highly recommend this book for any woman who’s starting to feel less than because she isn’t a pretty young thing anymore. It’ll give you a much-needed new direction and new outlook on growing older and living with purpose.
Five stars from me!

Stephanie Raffelock is the author of Creatrix Rising, Unlocking the Power of Midlife Women, (She Writes Press – August, 2021). She also penned the award winning book, A Delightful Little Book on Aging.

A graduate of Naropa University’s program in Writing and Poetics, Stephanie was a contributor to The Rogue Valley Messenger in Oregon. She has blogged for Nexus Magazine, Omaha Lifestyles,, as well as

A former i-Heart Radio host, she is now a popular guest on podcasts, where she inspires women to embrace the strength and passion of their personal story. Stephanie continues to build her speaker’s resume by giving presentations for groups like The Ashland Literary Arts Festival, Breaking the Glass, WINS at Charles Schwab and Southern Oregon University, Friends of the Hannon Library. Her commitment to uplift women extends to teaching personal development classes for incarcerated women and non-profits, including Dress for Success, Austin.

A recent transplant to Austin, Texas Stephanie enjoys an active life with her husband, Dean, and their Labrador retriever, Mickey Mantel Raffelock.

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Blog Tour – Top 7 List and GIVEAWAY: Trace of Doubt by DiAnn Mills | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Categories: Romantic Suspense / Christian Fiction / FBI Crime Solving Novel / Clean Romance
Publisher: Tyndale House
Pub Date: September 7, 2021
Pages: 432 pages

Scroll for the Giveaway!
Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.
FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.
But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.


“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – LYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREAT and ONE FINAL BREATH

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart. . . Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Well-researched . . . with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN


Top 7 Reasons We Love Stories

By DiAnn Mills

Thousands of novels are released each year. So many wonderful and amazing books, and we’ll never be able to read them all. But we try.

What’s the fascination for story? Why do we crave the next novel and the next?

Here are seven reasons why I love story and you may fit there too.

  1. Entertainment is the number one reason we love novels. When our work is done for the day, we can relax and lose ourselves within the pages of a highly-crafted story.
  2. Story is a slice of real life. I dare say every plot has its origin in facts. Readers see truth in a non-threatening environment, an opportunity to explore values.
  3. Characters draw us into their setting. A well-written story explodes on the page with characters we adore. We relate to their wants and needs and how they interpret life. Our imaginations are challenged, and we become the character.
  4. Problems are solved within the story, and the reader seeks ways to make their own life easier.
  5. Heroes and heroines on an impossible journey inspire us to be better people, attempt new things, and see a goal to completion.
  6. Healing takes place within the storyline. Subject matter that touches our personal pain addresses ways we can survive our past. By exploring behavior, we gain new insights.
  7. Satisfaction of engaging in a story from the beginning to the end provides a sense of accomplishment.

Why do you love story? Let’s share ideas.

Link to the Book Trailer on YouTube

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

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Excerpt and Blog Tour: The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable

  • Title: The Bookseller’s Secret
  • Author: Michelle Gable
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Where to buy: Bookshop.orgAmazonBarnes & NobleApple BooksKoboGoogle Books
  • Would I recommend: Absolutely! I’d never heard of Nancy Mitford before this book. Now I am absolutely enthralled by her, and I’ve got to read all of the books she wrote. I love learning about a piece of history that’s new to me!

About the book:

From New York Times bestselling author Michelle Gable comes a dual-narrative set at the famed Heywood Hill Bookshop in London about a struggling American writer on the hunt for a rumored lost manuscript written by the iconic Nancy Mitford—bookseller, spy, author, and aristocrat—during World War II.

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…


April 1946

Hotel de Bourgogne, Paris VII

There they are, held like flies in the amber of that moment—click goes the camera and on goes life; the minutes, the days, the years, the decades, taking them further and further from that happiness and promise of youth, from the hopes…and from the dreams they dreamed for themselves.

—Nancy Mitford,The Pursuit of Love

Alors, racontez!” the Colonel said, and spun her beneath his arm.

Nancy had to duck, of course. The man was frightfully short. 

“Racontez! Racontez!”

She laughed, thinking of all the times the Colonel made this demand. Racontez! Tell me!

Allô—allô,” he’d say across some crackling line. “Were you asleep?”

He might be in Paris, or Algiers, or another place he could not name. Weeks or months would pass and then a phone rang in London and set Nancy Mitford’s world straight again.

Alors, racontez! Tell me everything!

And she did.

The Colonel found Nancy’s stories comical, outrageous, unlike anything he’d ever known, his delight beginning first and foremost with the six Mitford girls, and their secret society. Nancy also had a brother, but he hardly counted at all.

C’est pas vrai!” the Colonel would cry, with each new tale. “That cannot be true!

“It all happened,” Nancy told him. “Every word. What do you expect with a Nazi, a Communist, and several Fascists, in one family tree?”

C’est incroyable!”

But the Hon Society was the past, and this gilded Parisian hotel room was now, likewise Nancy’s beloved Colonel, presently reaching into the bucket of champagne. How had she gotten to this place? It was the impossible dream.

“Promise we can stay here forever,” Nancy said.

“Here or somewhere like it,” he answered with a grin.

Nancy’s heart bounced. Heavens, he was ever-so-ugly with his pock-marked face and receding hairline, the precise opposite of her strapping husband, a man so wholesome he might’ve leapt from the pages of a seedsman catalogue. But Nancy loved her Colonel with every part of herself, in particular the female, which represented another chief difference between the two men.

“You know, my friends are desperate to take a French lover,” Nancy said, and she tossed her gloves onto the bed. “All thanks to a fictional character from a book. Everyone is positively in love with Fabrice!”

Bien sûr, as in real life,” the Colonel said as he popped the cork.

The champagne bubbled up the bottle’s neck, and dribbled onto his stubby hands.

“You’re such a wolf!” Nancy said. She heaved open the shutters and scanned the square below. “At last! A hotel with a view.”

Their room overlooked Le Palais Bourbon, home to l’Assemblée nationale, the two-hundred-year seat of the French government, minus the interlude during which it was occupied by the Luftwaffe. Mere months ago German propaganda hung from the building: DEUTSCHLAND SIEGT AN ALLEN FRONTEN. Germany is victorious on all fronts. But the banners were gone now, and France had been freed. Nancy was in Paris, just as she’d planned.

“This is heaven!” Nancy said. She peered over her shoulder and coquettishly kicked up a heel. “A luncheon party tomorrow? What do you think?”

“Okay, chéri, quoi que tu en dises,” the Colonel said, as she sauntered toward him.

“Whatever I want?” Nancy said. “I’ve been dying to hear those words! What about snails, chicken, and port salut? No more eating from tins for you. On that note, darling, you mustn’t worry about your job prospects. I know you’ll miss governing France but, goodness, we’ll have so much more free time!”

Nancy was proud of the work the Colonel had done as General de Gaulle’s chef du cabinet, but his resignation made life far more convenient. No longer would she have to wait around, or brook his maddeningly specific requests. I’ve got a heavy political day LET ME SEE—can you come at 2 minutes to 6?

“It’s really one of the best things that could’ve happened to us,” Nancy said. “Oh, darling, life will be pure bliss!” 

Nancy leaned forward and planted a kiss on the Colonel’s nose.

On trinque?” he said, and lifted a glass.

Nancy raised hers to meet it.

Santé!” he cheered.

Nancy rolled her eyes. “The French are so dull with their toasts. Who cares about my health? It’s wretched, most of the time. Cheers to novels, I’d say! Cheers to readers the world over!”

À la femme auteur, Nancy Mitford!” The Colonel clinked her glass. “Vive la littérature!”

Excerpted from The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable, Copyright © 2021 by Michelle Gable Bilski. Published by Graydon House Books.

About the author:

MICHELLE GABLE is the New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment, I’ll See You in Paris, The Book of Summer, and The Summer I Met Jack. She attended The College of William & Mary, where she majored in accounting, and spent twenty years working in finance before becoming a full-time writer. She grew up in San Diego and lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband and two daughters. Find her at or on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest, @MGableWriter.

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Book Review and Blog Tour: Her Deadly Touch (Detective Josie Quinn #12) by Lisa Regan

About the Book:

The woman is kneeling at a gravestone, her hair blowing in the breeze, a bunch of wilting yellow daffodils on the grass beside her. Her eyes are fixed on the ground and her mouth is parted in a silent prayer. But the wax dripping from her cold blue lips means it’s already too late to save her…

On her first day back with the Denton PD after a major trauma, Detective Josie Quinn is on the hunt for a missing woman, Krystal Duncan, the mother of one of five children killed in a devastating school bus crash. Hours later, Josie finds Krystal’s body beside her daughter’s grave, her lips sealed together forever with wax.

Forensics match the wax to one of the candles lit in memory of the sweet little souls who died, giving Josie her first lead to a support group made up of the parents who lost children in the crash. Painstakingly dissecting the lives of these grieving couples, it’s clear to Josie that each of them is hiding something about the day of the accident—but whose secret is worth killing for?

The case takes an agonizing turn when the body of another young mother is found near the site of the bus crash. Someone connected to the accident is out for revenge. As the members of the support group are picked off one by one, every second counts for Josie to save the lives of these loving parents who have already suffered the loss of those they treasured most…

An absolutely gripping and totally unputdownable crime thriller from an Amazon, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Be warned, this book will keep you up all night! Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Robert Dugoni and Rachel Caine.

My review:

Josie Quinn is coming back to work after the traumatic death of her grandmother Lisette. She isn’t sure she’s ready to be back at work. As she stops to visit the grave of her first husband, Ray, on her way in to the office, she hears a woman screaming. Turns out that what had appeared to be a mourner kneeling at a nearby gravesite is Krystal Duncan, a woman who’s been missing for several days and who is now most definitely dead. Duncan’s corpse has wax coming from her mouth, which is an odd note.

Krystal was the mother of one of five children killed several years earlier in a horrific school bus accident. The bus driver was charged in their deaths, and his trial is coming up soon. Does Krystal’s death have anything to do with that tragedy? When another parent of a child killed in the accident also goes missing, it’s an angle that Josie has to consider.

Once again, Lisa Regan has spun a suspenseful yarn that pulled me right in and didn’t let me go. Everyone in this book has secrets, and once she starts investigating, it doesn’t take long for Josie to figure out that the killer has got to be someone connected with the bus accident. What secrets do they know? How do they know them? Can she figure out what secret is worth killing for before all the parents of the children who died are taken out?

Not only is Josie having to solve a challenging, emotionally charged case, she’s also having to deal with her own emotions. She’s struggling with grief over Lisette’s death, and each crime scene brings flashbacks to the night Lisette was shot. Josie is tough, but in this book we clearly see that she isn’t some crime-solving superwoman. She’s human, and she hurts, and it makes her that much more of a believable, relatable character.

The story moved quickly, and it was hard for me to break away from it. I wanted desperately to see what happened next! And isn’t that the hallmark of a great story? Lisa Regan has set a new standard for thrillers with Josie Quinn. Gotta read ’em all.

Check out my reviews of other Josie Quinn books, Breathe Your Last and Hush Little Girl.

Disclaimer: My thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for an advance reader copy of the book. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the Author:

Lisa Regan is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Detective Josie Quinn series. Lisa is a member of Sisters In Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Master of Education Degree from Bloomsburg University. She lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the U.S. with her husband, daughter, and Boston Terrier named Mr. Phillip.

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Book Review and Giveaway: Under the Bayou Moon by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Valerie Fraser Luesse
Categories: Fiction / Christian / Historical
Publisher: Revell

Date of Publication: August 3, 2021

Number of Pages: 352

Scroll down for the giveaway!

When Ellie Fields accepts a teaching job in a tiny Louisiana town deep in bayou country in 1949, she knows her life will change–but she could never imagine just how dramatically.

Though rightfully suspicious of outsiders, who have threatened both their language and their unique culture, most of the residents come to appreciate the young and idealistic schoolteacher, and she’s soon teaching just about everyone, despite opposition from both the school board and a politician with ulterior motives. Yet it’s the lessons Ellie herself will learn–from new friends, a captivating Cajun fisherman, and even a legendary white alligator haunting the bayou–that will make all the difference.

Take a step away from the familiar and enter the shadowy waters of bayou country for a story of risk, resilience, and romance.

Ellie Fields comes to the small south Louisiana town of Bernadette, Louisiana looking to break out of the mold life seems to have set for her in her home state of Alabama. She isn’t sure who she’ll turn out to be, but she knows she can’t find out by staying where she’s always been. So she moves to a place where she knows no one to take the position of teacher in the town’s school.
The people of Bernadette are welcoming, but there is some skepticism about this new teacher. The state board of education decided that the French-speaking culture didn’t fit with the desired image of America, and the previous teacher had punished the students severely if they slipped and spoke in their native tongue. Ellie has her work cut out for her to not only educate the children, but to win their trust as well.
Raphe is a local fisherman who lost his family in a hurricane. He is raising his nephew Remy, who is one of Ellie’s students. He shares the legend of the white alligator, l’esprit blanc, with Ellie. She learns to love her new home, and the town comes to love and respect her for her care toward their children and their culture.
But all is not peaceful in Bernadette. As it does with just about everything in Louisiana, politics comes into play when a well-connected politician takes aim at enriching his bank account with the potential fortune in oil under Bernadette. He will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, and he doesn’t care who he has to hurt or kill to do it.
This book, y’all. I’m a Louisiana girl. (Raised in central Louisiana, not south, but still.) My former father-in-law was Cajun French. He’d tell us how they were punished if they spoke French in class. That is absolutely true. Louisiana, French to its core, tried to destroy its own heritage because some folks thought it was low-class. That breaks my heart. (Glad to say we got away from that narrow-minded attitude – I took French from elementary through high school, and French immersion classes aren’t uncommon these days. Trying to bring back what never should have been driven away.) The Cajun people will give you the shirt off their backs, but if they don’t trust you – and in the 1940s, they had no reason to trust anyone representing any aspect of the government – they will shut you out. Ellie had quite the task set for her, and Luesse has her handling that task admirably. I loved how Ellie drew in some of the older children to help her, not only to keep order, but to show all of them that she wasn’t interested in cutting off their connection to their roots. I loved how she used cultural aspects in the classroom, to engage the children and hold their interest.
And the politics ring true as well. Everything is political in Louisiana. That’s why our roads are hot garbage and so many things seem so very backward. It’s not out of the question that someone would bulldoze over others to get what they want if it stood to make them money.
The characters of the book were so vivid, I felt like they could live just down the road from me. The portrayal of the older Cajun ladies, willing to trade knowledge for knowledge, was marvelous. Haywood was a delight. I know people like Haywood, just full of the joy of life. He made me smile. And it was a treat seeing Ellie grow and blossom. She may not have known her own mind when she came to Bernadette, but she certainly went a long way toward figuring it out. I cried at the end, waving goodbye to friends.
Since this book is set in my home state, I was predisposed to like it before I turned the first page. The fact that the author is a Baylor graduate (like me!) also inclined me to think favorably of it. Now that I’ve finished, I can say that this is a book that will stay in my mind for a very, very long time. It isn’t the same type of magical realism as, say, Heather Webber or Sarah Addison Allen, but Under the Bayou Moon is magical all the same. Luesse draws a compelling picture of small-town south Louisiana, its people, and its culture, and that weaves a spell all its own. Go, read it. You won’t be disappointed.
Five luminous Louisiana stars for this Texas book.
Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac, Almost Home, and The Key to Everything, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Dave.

A copy of Under the Bayou Moon, $10 Starbucks gift card, & Flavors of the Bayou seasonings gift box.
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Book Review: Kingdom of Thorns by Katherine Macdonald

  • Title: Kingdom of Thorns
  • Series: The Fey Collection #1
  • Author: Katherine Macdonald
  • Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: Absolutely! A most excellent fairy tale retelling!

From Goodreads:

Cursed at her Christening, Briar is doomed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her seventeenth birthday and plunge her kingdom into eternal slumber. Less than enthused about her fate, she fights to break it, but a hundred years later the kingdom lies at the centre of a forest of thorns. The curse is complete and only true love’s kiss will break it.

Volunteering in the place of his brother, Leo is determined to brave the enchanted forest and attempt to end the hundred-year-old curse. If he fails, the dark fairy, imprisoned within the Kingdom of Thorns, will be unleashed upon the world and a kingdom will fall to ruin.

Guided by a mysterious young ranger named Talia, he sets off on his quest, but the darkness isn’t the only thing that grows in the woods, and Leopold finds himself locked in a bitter fight for his life, his sanity… and his heart.

A tale of true love, inner strength, and the power of free will. No damsels in distress here; just action, mesmerising description, and delightful witty banter. 

My review:

I do love a good fairy tale retelling, and I’ve decided no one does them better than Katherine Macdonald. Kingdom of Thorns is a wonderfully written, vividly imagined version of the story of Sleeping Beauty, one unlike any other I’ve read. Here, an enchanted sleep isn’t just a sleep, and nothing is what it seems.

The interactions between Talia and Leo are delightful to read. Leo has self-deprecating charm as a second son, but he doesn’t descend into self-pity. Talia is often brusque and sarcasm is her second language, but there is more to her than that. Their jibes back and forth, especially once they realize that maybe they feel more for each other than prince on a quest and forest guide, are lots of fun.

The dark fairy who cursed the princess is a menacing presence more often than a present and active character in the book, but that’s all that is needed. And when she shows up, she really is quite nasty.

I enjoyed Macdonald’s vision of how Briar tried to fight the curse and what effect that might have had. You think, oh, sleeping princess in a castle, her true love just has to find her and wake her up, problem solved. But I always thought it would be kind of ridiculous for a princess asleep for who knows how long to fall in love with the first guy who happened along and gave her a smooch – she wouldn’t know the first thing about him, how could he be her true love? And would getting there really be just as easy as walking into the castle? Macdonald fleshes all of that out quite nicely here.

I think this is my favorite of Macdonald’s books that I’ve read so far (and that’s saying something, because I adored Hades and Persephone). I laughed, I cried, I cheered. I want to read it again.

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Book Review and Giveaway: Taken at Birth by Jane Blasio | BlogAbout

  • Title: Taken at Birth: Stolen Babies, Hidden Lies, and My Journey to Finding Home
  • Author: Jane Blasio
  • Genre: Memoir, True Crime
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: If you’re interested in gripping true crime stories that also involve family and identity and faith, you will want to read this!

From Goodreads:

From the 1940s through the 1960s, young pregnant women entered the front door of a clinic in a small North Georgia town. Sometimes their babies exited out the back, sold to northern couples who were desperate to hold a newborn in their arms. But these weren’t adoptions–they were transactions. And one unethical doctor was exploiting other people’s tragedies.

Jane Blasio was one of those babies. At six, she learned she was adopted. At fourteen, she first saw her birth certificate, which led her to begin piecing together details of her past. Jane undertook a decades-long personal investigation to not only discover her own origins but identify and reunite other victims of the Hicks Clinic human trafficking scheme. Along the way she became an expert in illicit adoptions, serving as an investigator and telling her story on every major news network.

Taken at Birth is the remarkable account of her tireless quest for truth, justice, and resolution. Perfect for book clubs, as well as those interested in inspirational stories of adoption, human trafficking, and true crime.

My review:

I enjoy a good memoir, and Taken at Birth was just that. Jane Blasio’s true story of learning her parents bought her from a shady doctor in small-town Georgia is gripping, intense, and hard to put down once you get started.

I was adopted as an infant, so I can relate, just a little, to some of Jane’s experience. My adoption went through an agency – I wasn’t a black market baby. My parents told me I was adopted as soon as I was old enough to understand. I don’t remember a time I didn’t know I was adopted, and very much wanted, and very much loved. But I can empathize with Jane’s desire to know her roots, her people.

Dr. Hicks was a man who coerced young women into giving up their babies, or worse yet, aborted their babies against their will. A man who profited off of the heartache of couples unable to have children of their own. And yet, his family did good for the community of McCaysville, Georgia, to the point that a lot of people weren’t happy with Jane coming around, poking into things they considered none of her business.

But Jane persevered, and found not only the truth of her family, but also helped other birth mothers and “Hicks babies,” as they became known, find each other, or at least find closure. Her story is well worth the read.


Want to win a copy? Just leave me a comment below and let me know how to contact you if you win. I’ll choose the winner by random number generator on Friday, August 13.

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Book Blitz: The Forgotten World by Nick Courtright | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

The Forgotten World
Nick Courtright
Genre: Poetry / Travel / Fatherhood
Publisher: Gold Wake Press
Date of Publication: August 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 88 Pages

In his third collection, poet Nick Courtright explores the world at large in an effort to reconcile selfhood as an American in the international community, while also seeking anchors for remembering a wider world often lost to view in our shared though increasingly isolated experience of reality.

Beginning in Africa with investigations of religion and love, The Forgotten World then moves to Latin America to tackle colonialism and whiteness. From there it travels to Asia to discuss economic stratification and Europe to explore art and mental health, culminating in a stirring homecoming to troubled America, where family, the future, and what matters most rise to
the forefront of consideration.

Through all of it, Courtright displays a deft hand, at once pained, at once bright, to discover that although the wider world seems farther away than before, the lessons it offers are more needed than ever.

“In The Forgotten World, Nick Courtright explores the intersections of being a citizen of one country and the desire to live as a citizen of the world…” – Octavio Quintanilla, author of If I Go Missing and 2018-2020 Poet Laureate of San Antonio

Nick Courtright is the author of The Forgotten World (2021), Let There Be Light (2014) and Punchline (2012), and is the Executive Editor of Atmosphere Press. His work has appeared in The Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, and The Southern Review among dozens of others. With a Doctorate in Literature from the University of Texas, Nick lives in Austin with the poet Lisa Mottolo and their children, William and Samuel. Find him online and watching birds on his porch.

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Excerpt and Blog Tour: Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman

About the book:

WWII historical fiction inspired by the real women of the Women’s Air Raid Defense, RADAR GIRLS follows one unlikely recruit as she trains and serves in secrecy as a radar plotter on Hawaii. A tale of resilience and sisterhood, it sees the battles of the Pacific through the eyes of these pioneering women, and will appeal to fans of Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff.

An extraordinary story inspired by the real Women’s Air Raid Defense, where an unlikely recruit and her sisters-in-arms forge their place in WWII history.

Daisy Wilder prefers the company of horses to people, bare feet and saltwater to high heels and society parties. Then, in the dizzying aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daisy enlists in a top-secret program, replacing male soldiers in a war zone for the first time. Under fear of imminent invasion, the WARDs guide pilots into blacked-out air strips and track unidentified planes across Pacific skies.

But not everyone thinks the women are up to the job, and the new recruits must rise above their differences and work side-by-side despite the resistance and heartache they meet along the way. With America’s future on the line, Daisy is determined to prove herself worthy. And with the man she’s falling in love with out on the front lines, she cannot fail. From radar towers on remote mountaintops to flooded bomb shelters, she’ll need her new team when the stakes are highest. Because the most important battles are fought—and won—together.

This inspiring and uplifting tale of pioneering, unsung heroines vividly transports the reader to wartime Hawaii, where one woman’s call to duty leads her to find courage, strength and sisterhood.



The Bust

Their shack, as Daisy referred to the house, was nestled in a cluster of bent ironwood trees, all by its lonesome. Set back far from the beach to protect it from a direct blast of onshore winds, it still took a constant battering and the salty air and elements had done a fine job reclaiming it. Windowpanes had been blasted opaque, you could see through the back wall, and flowers had taken up residence in the gutters. The siding had gone from forest green to pale green to peeling gray, the roof turned to rust.

When he had first started working up at the ranch, Daisy’s father had somehow persuaded Mr. Montgomery to sell him the small parcel of beachfront property for the price of a bag of sand. Most likely because it was in no-man’s-land between Waialua and the ranch. And because her father had been the best horse trainer in Hawai’i and everyone knew it.

She flung open the front door and ran inside. “Mom?” she called.

All quiet. She tiptoed across the lauhala mat in the living room, avoiding the creaking floorboards. Her mother spent much of her life in one of two states—sleeping or staring out to sea. The bedroom door was cracked and a lump lay under the blankets, pillow over her head. There was no point in trying to wake her, so Daisy ran back outside, hopped on her bike and rode for the stables.

The air was ripe with burnt sugarcane and a scratchy feeling of dread. She bumped along a dirt road as fast as her old bike would carry her. That plume of black smoke above Schofield caused her heart to sink. So many Japanese planes could mean only one thing. An attack or invasion of some kind was happening. But the sky remained empty and she saw no signs of ships on the horizon.

By the time she reached the stables, she had worked out what to tell Mr. Silva—the only person at the ranch who was even close to being a friend—and beg that he help her find Moon. Whether or not he would risk his job was another story. Jobs were not easy to come by, especially on this side of the island. Daisy counted herself lucky to have one. When she rounded the corner by the entrance, she about fell over on her bike. Mr. Silva’s rusted truck was gone and in its place sat Mr. Montgomery’s shiny new Ford, motor running and door open.

As far as old Hal Montgomery was concerned, Daisy was mostly invisible. She had worked for him going on seven years now—since she was sixteen—but she was a girl and girls were fluffy, pretty things who wore fancy dresses and attended parties. Not short-haired, trouser-wearing, outdoorsy misfits. And certainly not horse trainers and skin divers. Nope, those jobs belonged to men. There was also the matter of her father’s death, but she preferred not to think about that.

Should she turn around and hightail it out of there before he caught sight of her? He’d find out eventually, and he would be livid. Daisy pulled her bike behind the toolshed and slipped around the back side of the stables, peering in through a cloudy window. The tension in the air from earlier had dissipated and the horses were all quiet. A tall form stood in front of the old horse—Ka‘ena—she was supposed to ride. It was hard to tell through the foggy pane, but the man looked too tall and too thin to be Hal Montgomery.

Horsefeathers! It was Walker, Montgomery’s son. A line of perspiration formed on the back of her neck and she had the strong urge to flee. Not that Daisy had had much interaction with Walker in recent years. He was aloof and intimidating and the kind of person who made her forget how to speak, but he loved Moon fiercely. Of that she was sure. Just then, he turned and started jogging toward the door. His face was in shadow but it felt like he was looking right at her. She froze. If she ducked away now, he would surely catch the movement. She did it anyway.

She had just made it to her bike when Walker tore out of the tack room with a wild look in his eye. He had a rifle hanging across his chest, and he was carrying two others. He stopped when he saw her. “Hey!” he said.

“Oh, hello, Mr. Montgomery.”

He wore his flight suit, which was only halfway buttoned, like he’d been interrupted either trying to get in it or trying to get out of it. His face was flushed and lined with sweat. “Don’t you know we’ve been attacked? You ought to head for cover, somewhere inland.”

He was visibly shaken.

“I saw the planes. What do you know?” she said.

“Wheeler and Schofield are all shot up, and they did a number on Pearl. Battleships down, bay on fire. God knows how many dead.” His gaze dropped to her body for a moment and she felt her skin burn. There had been no time to change or even think about changing, and she was still in her half-wet swimsuit, hair probably sticking out in eleven directions. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I was worried about the horses,” she said.

“That makes two of us. And goddamn Moon is not in his stall. You know anything about that?”

Taking Moon had been about the dumbest thing she could have done. But at the time, it seemed a perfectly sane idea. The kind of thinking that got her into plenty of trouble over the years. Why hadn’t she learned? She looked at the coconut tree just past him as she spoke. “I have no idea. Perhaps Mr. Silva has him?”

“Mr. Silva went to town last night to see his sister,” he said.

She forced herself to look at him, feeling like she had the word guilty inked onto her forehead. “Looks like you have somewhere to be. You go on, I’ll find Moon. I promise.”

Her next order of business would be scouring the coast and finding that horse before Walker returned. There would be no sleeping until Moon was safely back at the stables.

“I sure hope so. That horse is mighty important to me,” he said.

Tell him!

She was about to come clean, when he moved around her, hopped in the car and slammed the door. He leaned out the window and said, “Something tells me you know more than you’re letting on, Wilder.”

With that, he sped off, leaving her standing in a cloud of red dirt and sand.

In the stables, the horses knew the sound of her footsteps, or maybe they smelled the salt on her hair. A concert of nickers and snorts erupted in the stalls. Daisy went to the coatrack first, and slid on an oversize button-up that she kept there for chilly days. It smelled of hay.

“How is everyone?” she said, stopping at each one to rub their necks or kiss their noses. “Quite a morning, hasn’t it been?”

Peanut was pacing with nostrils flared, and she spent a few minutes stroking his long neck before moving on. Horses were her lifeblood. Feeding, grooming, riding, loving. She only wished that Mr. Montgomery would let her train them—officially, that was. Without being asked as a last resort by Mr. Silva when everyone else had tried. Lord knew she was better than the rest of the guys. When she got to Moon’s stall, all the blood rushed from her head. The door had been left open and two Japanese slippers hung from the knob. She had hidden them in the corner under some straw—apparently not well enough.


Just then she heard another car pull up. The ranch truck. A couple of the ranch hands poured out, making a beeline to the stables. Mr. Montgomery followed on their heels with a machete in his hand and a gun on his hip. Daisy felt the skin tighten on the back of her neck. His ever-present limp seemed even more pronounced.

When he saw her, he said, “Where’s Silva?”

No mention that they were under attack.

“In town,” she answered.

“What about Walker?”

“Walker just left in a big hurry,” she answered.

One of the guys had his hunting dog with him. It was a big mutt that enjoyed staring down the horses and making them nervous, as if they needed to be any more nervous right now. Daisy wanted to tell him to get the dog out of there, but knew it would be pointless.

“The hosses in the pasture need to be secured,” Mr. M said.

“Do you need my help?” she offered.

“Nah, you should get out of here. Get home. Fuckers blew up all our planes and now paratroopers are coming down in the pineapple fields. Ain’t no place for a woman right now.”

Daisy wanted to stay and help, but also wanted to get the hell away before he noticed that Moon was not here. “Yes, sir.”

He stopped and sized her up for a moment, his thick brows pinched. “You still got that shotgun of your old man’s?”

“I do.”

“Make sure it’s loaded.”

On her way home, Daisy passed through Japanese camp, hoping to get more information from Mr. Sasaki, who always knew the latest happenings. A long row of cottages lined the road, every rock and leaf in its place. The houses were painted barn red with crisp, white trim. On any given Sunday, there would have been gangs of kids roaming the area, but now the place was eerily empty.

“Hello?” she called, letting her bike fall into the naupaka hedge.

When she knocked and no one answered, she started pounding. A curtain pulled aside and a small face peered out at her and waved her away. Mrs. Sasaki. She was torn, but chose to leave them be. With the whispers of paranoia lately, all the local Japanese folks were bound to be nervous. She didn’t blame them.

This time when Daisy ran up to the shack, her mother was sitting on the porch drinking coffee from her chipped mug.

She was still in her nightgown, staring out beyond the ocean. When she was in this state, a person could have walked into their house and made off with all of their belongings and her mother would not even bat an eye.

Daisy sat down next to her. “Mom, the Japanese Army attacked Pearl Harbor and Wheeler and who knows where else.”

Her mother clenched her jaw slightly, took a sip of her coffee, then set it down on the mango stump next to her chair. “They said it would happen,” she said flatly.

“This is serious, mom. People are dead. Civilians, too. I don’t know how many, but the islands are in danger of being invaded and there are Japanese ships and planes all around. They’re telling us to stay inside.”

A look of worry came over her mom’s face. “You should go find a safer place to stay, away from the coast.”

“And leave you here?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“I’m not leaving you.”

Her mom shrugged.

She knew Louise couldn’t help it, but a tiny part of Daisy was waiting for that day her mother would wake up and be the old Louise Wilder. The mother of red lipstick and coconut macaroons, of beach bonfires and salty hugs. The one who rode bikes with her daughter to school every day, singing with the birds along the way. The highs and lows had been there before, but now there were only lows and deeper lows.

After some time, her mother finally spoke. “Men, they do the dumbest things.”

“That may be true, but we’re at war. Does that mean anything to you?” Daisy said, her voice rising in frustration.

“Course it does, but what can we do?”

She had a point. Aside from hiding in the house or running away, what other options were there? Used to doing things, Daisy was desperate to help, but how? Their home was under attack and she felt as useful as a sack of dirt.

Louise leaned back. On days like these, she retreated so far into herself that she was unreachable. You could tell by looking in her eyes. Blank and bottomless. Mr. Silva always said that you could see the spirit in the eyes. Dull eyes, dull spirit. That Louise looked this way always made Daisy feel deeply alone. The onshore winds kicked up a notch and ruffled the surface of the ocean. She knew she should stay with her mom, but more than anything, she wanted to go in search of the horse. Moon meant more to her than just the job. She loved him something fierce.

Only one thing was clear: their lives would never be the same.
Excerpted from Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman, Copyright © 2021 by Sara Ackerman. Published by MIRA Books.

About the author: 

USA Today bestselling author Sara Ackerman was born and raised in Hawaii. She studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she’s not writing or teaching, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at and follow her on Instagram @saraackermanbooks and on FB @ackermanbooks.

Social Links:
Author Website
Facebook: @ackermanbooks
Twitter: @AckermanBooks
Instagram: @saraackermanbooks

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