Ain’t Nobody Nobody: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review & Giveaway

AIN’T NOBODY
NOBODY
by
HEATHER HARPER ELLETT
Genre: Murder Mystery / Southern Noir / Dark Humor
Publisher: Polis Books
Date of Publication: September 24, 2019
Number of Pages: 336
Scroll down for Giveaway!
Named a Best Debut of Fall/Winter 2019 by Library Journal, Ain’t Nobody Nobody is the story of a disgraced East Texas sheriff, his dead best friend’s surly teenage daughter, and a naive ranch hand who find unlikely redemption in a murdered hog hunter on a fence. 
 
Part Breaking Bad and part Faulkner, this tragi-comic mystery is perfect for readers who enjoy dark humor (think Fargo) and like their crime fiction with a literary flare. 
A Best Mystery of 2019 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
CLICK TO PURCHASE!

Five-Stars

Heather Harper Ellett’s debut novel Ain’t Nobody Nobody is a darkly comedic murder mystery set in rural East Texas that takes a uniquely creative and thoroughly engaging approach to themes such as loss, grief, guilt, and redemption.

The characters are richly drawn and, combined with a strong sense of locale, evoke very vivid images of backwoods roads and trails, impoverished small towns, and people, who are neither all good nor bad, but act out of desperation, hopes and dreams, and necessity.

There are numerous plot twists and turns that begin with a dead body draped over a fence line. Who is it, how did it get there, and what happens to it? What secrets, threats, and yes… even opportunities are hidden on this private isolated property? Should friendship and loyalty be allowed to blur the lines between duty and morality? How far should someone go to protect loved ones?  If the chance for a better life included criminal activity, would you do it? The answers to these questions propel the story forward and keep the pages turning.

An unidentified narrator pieces the elements of this mystery together, often interacting with the reader, while feral hogs, common to this part of Texas, are featured throughout the narrative. For anyone unfamiliar with the species these animals will eat anything (including humans), proliferate in spite of hunters, traps, and poisons used to control their numbers, and are highly destructive. In Ain’t Nobody Nobody they’re symbolic of the damage that occurs when lives are shattered by get rich schemes, suicide, murder, and revenge, and the author even uses their image at the beginning of each chapter.

I’ve deliberately not discussed the various players in this story leaving them for the reader to discover. They’re not as numerous as the hogs, but each is intricately woven into Heather Harper Ellett’s first entry into the literary world. It will definitely not be her last!

“Ain’t nobody nobody, I guess.”

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for this review


 

Born and raised in East Texas, Heather Harper Ellett is a graduate of SMU and a therapist in private practice. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son.

 
 

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  January 2-12, 2020

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Holiday Reading

The holidays have you stressed out? Curl up with a book and let that stress pass you by!

Holiday Gift GuideObviously we all have our favorite genres and writers that we tend to gravitate towards. But, may I suggest that there are countless new authors and their works worth looking into, many of them to be found at Lone Star Literary Life.

Published Book CoverMy latest book Tarnished Brass is among the many featured titles. Set in El Salvador, it looks at the civil war that was fought in this small Central American country from 1980-1992. Except those that were involved in the conflict, few Americans remember that the United States provided arms and training support to the El Salvador Armed Forces. Some may recall the Iran Contra scandal, but U.S. foreign policy at the time and the reasons behind it are all but forgotten. Tarnished Brass is loosely based on my memories as a young Army officer thrust into the midst of this brutal war, but the story has been fictionalized to also give voice to the guerrilla movement, the refugees who fled the fighting, and the rise of MS-13. If you enjoy historical fiction or there’s someone on your Christmas list who does, this book might just be for you!

Tarnished Brass and all my books can be found at many online retail bookstores. At  Amazon.com you can peruse the reviews, decide whether to purchase, and perhaps (after you’ve read it) add one of your own.

Merry Christmas!

Why Stuff Matters: Lone Star Book Blog Tour and Review

WHY STUFF MATTERS
by
JEN WALDO
Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Humor
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: June 4, 2019 (US)
Number of Pages: 212
When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection. 
When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection. Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica’s late husband’s twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who’s been dumped on Jessica’s doorstep by the child’s self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica’s elderly tenants. 
Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.
CLICK TO PURCHASE!
5128f-review
Five-Stars
     Jen Waldo’s latest novel, Why Stuff Matters, can be enjoyed on so many different levels. Set in Caprock, Texas the story focuses on an antique mall where the antics of the tenants will cause readers to smile while also bringing into focus the human condition and how people deal with aging, death, and abandonment.
    Both the building and the vendors are old. Layers of dust literally coat the shelves and merchandise, while figuratively the same can be said for the people. They’re resistant to change of any kind and will lie, scheme, conspire, and even commit murder to maintain things as they are. That layer of grime not only describes their surroundings, but their lives. They suffer from any number of maladies with almost everyone affected by respiratory ailments because they refuse to clean their stalls or replace the rugs that are so old they’re filthy, bug infested, and moldy. Most of them are involved in some type of nefarious activity vice selling the merchandise in their stalls. In fact, they so over value the items that there is little possibility that a would be buyer will not go elsewhere to make the same purchase. Their connection is not to people but to inanimate objects that should long ago have been, sold, replaced, or junked. Why do they hold onto things that have no intrinsic value and forgo meaningful relationships? Perhaps because everyone eventually dies or moves on leaving them alone with the “stuff” they’ve collected…  the sum total of their lives. They also refuse to consider what happens when they die. They don’t have wills or end-of-life designations; they leave that for others to sort out once they’re gone. Oh, they’ll split the merchandise or share equally in any money left behind by someone else because that’s just the way it’s always been done, but don’t ask them to consider any end-of-life planning for themselves. That requires an emotional attachment beyond just their possessions.
     The person left to sort things out and deal with these cantankerous old folks is Jessica, a grieving widow who has inherited the antique mall when her mother died. Her passing is only a small part of her grief. Parents most certainly die eventually, but the sudden death of her husband and children in an automobile accident has left her with emotions that alter her sense of normalcy and cause her to be complicit in the questionable and criminal activity of her tenants. She is no longer the caring wife, mother, or school teacher that she was before the tragedy. That person is buried underneath overwhelming grief leaving her to normalize immorality. She goes about the day to day requirements of running the business and arbitrating the grievances of her vendors with a detached, no nonsense, matter of fact impatience, yet not only overlooks drug sales and other unscrupulous activities that she’s aware of, but helps dispose of two bodies that the pink-haired, gun-toting Roxie has dispatched over a collection of baseball cards. She’s numb to the murders and lies to the authorities with incredulous yet somehow plausible reasons for their disappearance. She’s lost everything that she’s ever loved and is indifferent to life itself. Can Jessica ever care for anyone or anything ever again? She’s about to find out when her husband’s ex-wife unceremoniously dumps her twelve year old daughter on Jessica’s doorstep.
     Lizzie is the last thing Jessica needs at the moment. She’s been abandoned by a self-absorbed mother, leaving her to fend for herself at a time when she desperately needs a mother’s love and attention. After all, it was her father that also died in that crash. Lizzie needs parental guidance; the one thing that Jessica is unwilling to offer. To compensate, Lizzie begins accumulating stuff of her own. If it isn’t gifted by the vendors, she steals what she wants. She learns about sex by reading lusty pirate and cowboy romances, and takes ridiculous risks to her person by sifting through debris to see if there’s anything of value under the piles of rubble. She deludes herself that her mother is coming back to get her, while Jessica is left to house, clothe, feed and protect her with nothing more than a written consent to get medical treatment in an emergency. Lizzie is a manipulative screwed up teenager who is crying out for inclusion and belonging. She latches onto to Joe, a would be suitor to Jessica and the policeman investigating the missing persons. She also comes to Jessica’s aid when a threat endangers them both. Is there a permanent bond between these three that is in the offing? There’s certainly an evolution to their relationships, but don’t expect any definitive resolution in the end. I got the sense that everything will work out, but fittingly, the author leaves it up to each reader to decide.
     Jen Waldo juxtaposes tragedy and comedy with aplomb. She writes with a wit that captures life’s absurdities and creates locales and characters that will remind you of other small towns and individuals you’ve known. Some scenes will cause readers to suspend disbelief, some will cause them to laugh, some to question why people do what they do. All will leave them thinking about the vagaries of life and what they might do under similar circumstances.
     I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind. 

◆  WEBSITE◆  TWITTER
◆  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE  ◆  
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Execution In E: Cover Reveal

Lone Star Literary Life EXCLUSIVE!
Lone Star Literary Life is honored to present the cover
of the fifth book in the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries
by Alexia Gordon & Henery Press.
To be released March, 2020


PRESENTING . . .

ABOUT THE BOOK:   Romance is in the air. Or on the ‘gram, anyway.When an influencer-turned-bridezilla shows up at the lighthouse to capture Insta-perfect wedding photos designed to entice sponsors to fund her lavish wedding, Gethsemane has her hands full trying to keep Eamon from blasting the entire wedding party over the edge of the cliff.

Wedding bells become funeral bells when members of the bride’s entourage start turning up dead. Frankie’s girlfriend, Verna, is pegged as maid-of-honor on the suspect list when the Garda discover the not-so-dearly departed groom was her ex and Gethsemane catches her standing over a body.

Gethsemane uncovers devilish dealings as she fights to clear Verna, for Frankie’s sake. Will she find the killer in time to save Frankie from another heartbreak? Or will the photos in her social media feed be post-mortem?

 
EXECUTION IN E
TO BE FEATURED ON
LONE STAR BOOK BLOG TOURS
MARCH, 2020
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A writer since childhood, Alexia Gordon won her first writing prize in the 6th grade. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. She established her medical career then returned to writing fiction. Raised in the southeast, schooled in the northeast, she relocated to the west where she completed Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path program. She admits Texas brisket is as good as Carolina pulled pork. She practices medicine in North Chicago, IL. She enjoys the symphony, art collecting, embroidery, and ghost stories.
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Tarnished Brass: Giveaway

Giveaway Tarnished BrassToday is the final day of the Giveaway. If you haven’t yet registered at Rafflecopter for a signed copy of Tarnished Brass and a $25.00 Amazon gift card, be sure to do so by midnight CDT. You could be the winner!

I also recommend that you check out Lone Star Literary Life, the go-to website for all things “bookish” in the State of Texas. Sign up for free to receive the latest literary news. You’ll be introduced to a range of Texas authors and their works, and you’re sure to find your next great read.

Finally, in support of my book or any book that you’ve read and enjoyed, write a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are the lifeblood that affect not just book sales, but the craft of writing. Feedback is essential in honing craftsmanship for future projects and authors welcome your comments. I know I do!

 

Tarnished Brass: Giveaway

Giveaway Tarnished BrassYou have one more day to register at Rafflecopter for the Tarnished Brass Giveaway. The sign-up period closes tomorrow at midnight CDT, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to win a signed copy of the novella and a $25.00 Amazon gift card!

Looking to find out more about the book? For reviews and special features check out the link at Lone Star Literary Life, and while you’re at it subscribe to LSLL for all the literary happenings in the State of Texas. It’s free!

Finally, I’ve been posting the LSBBT reviews in their entirety. Here is the review from Ruthie Jones:

Four Stars

Tarnished Brass by Max L. Knight is a quick novella about the war in El Salvador during the 1980s and early 1990s; however, the bloodshed and brutality continue, even with the Chapultepec Peace Accords in 1992. Through his extensive research and personal experience in this country during such a volatile time, Max Knight has crafted a unique story that reads more like an informative documentary than a work of fiction. Real-life events and people form a solid foundation for Tarnished Brass, causing readers to either reflect back on their own memories of this time in history or search the internet for more information, including about the scandalous Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan Administration.

In Tarnished Brass, fictional retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Moynihan remembers his time as a US Army Major during the civil war in El Salvador. Everything is different now, yet nothing has changed. Gang violence is still prevalent, and the poor and displaced are still struggling to find a voice and the means and will to survive.

While Tarnished Brass has several fictional characters, the primary focus  is more about the cause and effects of the twelve-year war in El Salvador and its continuing aftermath. Even though these events are delegated to the past, this story is timely in the current political and societal landscape in both Central America and the United States. In only about 100 pages, Max Knight does one amazing job outlining the advent of MS-13 and other gangs during the 1980s and the frightening rise in violence, murder, and civil unrest in El Salvador. For a work of fiction, Tarnished Brass is light on dialogue, but the storytelling is compact, illuminating, and provocative.

Thank you, Max Knight, for shedding some valuable light on a past event that should not be forgotten, ignored, or glossed over. This short work of fiction offers valuable insights on the human condition, the heavy price of greed and power, the disparity and inequality in a beautiful country ravaged by constant war, and the gangs and violence that continue to transition and flourish to this day.

Lone Star Book Blog Tour: The Other Half of Happy – Excerpt

THE OTHER HALF
OF HAPPY
by
Rebecca Balcárcel

 

Contemporary / Middle Grade / Multi-cultural Family
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date of Publication: August 20, 2019
Number of Pages: 332

Scroll down for giveaway!
Quijana is a girl in pieces. 
 
One-half Guatemalan, one-half American: When Quijana’s Guatemalan cousins move to town, her dad seems ashamed that she doesn’t know more about her family’s heritage. 
 
One-half crush, one-half buddy: When Quijana meets Zuri and Jayden, she knows she’s found true friends. But she can’t help the growing feelings she has for Jayden. 
 
One-half kid, one-half grown-up: Quijana spends her nights Skyping with her ailing grandma and trying to figure out what’s going on with her increasingly hard-to-reach brother. 
 
In the course of this immersive and beautifully written novel, Quijana must figure out which parts of herself are most important, and which pieces come together to make her whole. 
 
This lyrical debut from Rebecca Balcárcel is a heartfelt poetic portrayal of a girl growing up, fitting in, and learning what it means to belong.
PRAISE FOR THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY:
 
“Seriously, I have never felt so seen in a book.” —Sophia Jimenez of @LatinxinPub
 

“Balcárcel’s well-rounded characters, complex friendships, and nuanced family dynamics will resonate with many readers. This is a title that will remain relevant long past its publication date. A must-have for all library collections.” — School Library Journal starred review

“With poetic, flowing prose that sometimes feels more like a song and characters so convincing that they seem real, Balcárcel’s stunning debut depicts the struggles of being raised with two cultures and the challenges of not being “authentic” enough—in this case, “not Guatemalan enough” or “not American enough.” A lovely, moving, and realistic view of the struggles and insecurities—as well as the beauty—that comes from being bicultural.” — Booklist starred review

“One of the best and most compassionate depictions of autism I have ever read in fiction.” — Latinas Leyendo

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Excerpt

Chapter One of The Other Half of Happy

by Rebecca Balcárcel

 I live in a tilted house. A bowling ball on our living room floor would roll past the couch, past the dining table, all the way to the kitchen sink. And if the sink wasn’t there and the wall wasn’t there and the bathroom behind that wasn’t there, the ball would roll all the way to my room at the end of the house. That’s what it’s like being twelve. Everything roll- ing toward you.
“Quijana?” Mom’s voice thuds against my door.
“M’ija,” Dad calls.
It’s not really our house. We rent. But even if the doors hang crooked and won’t close, and even if Mom never comes home till bedtime anymore, and Dad looks tired when he cleans up after supper, I like this tilted house. I get my own room, and there’s a backyard swing. There’s even a stove with two ovens, the upper one like a dresser drawer. We can bake peach cobbler and cheesy nachos at the same time. Like we might today if we weren’t destroying the living room, pulling everything off the walls.
“Quijana, we need another pair of hands, here.”
“Is she outside?”
I wish I were. I’d jump on the swing, pump my legs, climb high, and whoosh through the air. Then I’d sing. It’s my secret favorite thing, even better than peach cobbler. When I sing out there, something rises up my spine and tingles the top of my head. The notes lift me up until I weigh nothing. I could almost let go and sail over the treetops.
Which is another good thing about this tilted house. We can sing in it. Back at the apartment, way back when my little brother was born, Dad would strum his guitar, and we’d sing ballads in English, boleros in Spanish. Then a neighbor would pound on the wall. Or the ceiling. Apartment walls are noth- ing but panels of saltine crackers.
“I’ll check the backyard.”
No one can tell me why this house tilts. The landlady tried. “That ol’ Texas sun turns dirt to dust. Can’t build noth- ing on dust.” Mom says it’s the clay soil that’s under the house that slickens in the rain. Dad tells me the builders tried to stairstep a hill, putting each house on a bulldozed shelf. “But no one cheats Mother Earth. She’s remaking her hill, filling in the shelves to make a slope again.” Mostly I don’t notice the tilt. But sometimes, like now, the walk from my room to the kitchen seems steep.
“Quijana.” Dad’s face appears at my bedroom door.
Of course I should be helping. I hang my head. The thing is, those boleros we sing in Spanish? I’ve memorized the sounds. But I don’t know what they mean. And now Mom and Dad are Spanish-izing the whole house.
Dad looks toward the ceiling as if he’ll find a power-up of patience there. Ever since Tío Pancho called and said, “Adiós, Chicago. I got a job in Dallas!” Dad’s been different. He’s play- ing more marimba music on his phone. He talked me into tak- ing Spanish instead of Mandarin in school.
Last night, Dad went over to help unload the moving van. We’re all going to visit when they get settled. Then I’ll meet the whole family: Tío Pancho, Tía Lencha, and three cousins. They’ve lived in the States for a while now, but we’ve never been able to visit them in Chicago.
The door flies all the way open, and Memito tumbles in. He thrusts a book in my face and climbs on my lap. He thinks my body is a big chair, just for him.
“He wants to read,” I say to Dad. I’d much rather read. A knot kinks in my chest when I think of taking down pictures of me and putting up paintings of Guatemala, the place where Dad was born but I’ve never been. “Can’t we read first?”
“Read afterward,” Dad says.
I start seventh grade in forty-eight hours, so I also want to load my backpack. My folders and notebook paper are still slouching in Kroger bags. They’ll have to wait. I stand up slowly, tipping Memito onto his feet. “I guess we better.”
Dad leaves, but Memito’s bottom lip pooches out. “I know.”
He waves the book again and stomps his foot.
“It wasn’t my idea.”
His face starts to crumple into a cry. “Ride?” I say. He drops the book as I lift him up.
I hear Mom ask, “You didn’t tell her, did you?”
Tell me what?
He’s almost too heavy, but I hoist Memito over my head onto my shoulders. We march toward weavings and clay pots and volcano pictures—all pretty, but not home. We march up, up, up. Up the hill of this tilted house.

 

 
 

Rebecca is a bi-cultural Latina who loves her autistic sons, her kitty, and serving the students of Tarrant County College as Associate Professor of English. She holds an MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars, where she was awarded the Jane Kenton Poetry Prize. THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY is her debut novel.

 
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GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
THREE WINNERS EACH RECEIVE:
SIGNED COPY OF THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY 
BOOKMARK & STICKER!
NOVEMBER 5-15, 2019
(U.S. Only)

 

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11/6/19
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