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

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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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VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
11/5/19
Author Video
11/5/19
BONUS Post
11/6/19
Review
11/7/19
Excerpt
11/8/19
Review
11/9/19
Notable Quotable
11/10/19
Guest Post
11/11/19
Review
11/12/19
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11/13/19
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11/14/19
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The Journey of the Pale Bear: Lone Star Book Blog Tour and Excerpt

JOURNEY OF
THE PALE BEAR
by
SUSAN FLETCHER
Middle Grade / Medieval Historical Fiction
(grades 3-7)
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Date of Publication: October 2, 2018
Paperback: October 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 302

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A runaway boy befriends a polar bear that’s being transported from Norway to London in this lyrical and timeless adventure story about freedom, captivity, and finding a family.
 

 

The polar bear is a royal bear, a gift from the King of Norway to the King of England. The first time Arthur encounters the bear, he is shoved in her cage as payback for stealing food. Restless and deadly, the bear terrifies him. Yet, strangely, she doesn’t harm him—though she has attacked anyone else who comes near. That makes Arthur valuable to the doctor in charge of getting the bear safely to London. So Arthur, who has run away from home, finds himself taking care of a polar bear on a ship to England.
Tasked with feeding and cleaning up after the bear, Arthur’s fears slowly lessen as he begins to feel a connection to this bear, who like him, has been cut off from her family. But the journey holds many dangers, and Arthur knows his own freedom—perhaps even his life—depends on keeping the bear from harm. When pirates attack and the ship founders, Arthur must make a choice—does he do everything he can to save himself, or does he help the bear to find freedom?
Based on the real story of a polar bear that lived in the Tower of London, this timeless adventure story is also a touching account of the bond between a boy and a bear.

 

 
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ACCOLADES AND PRAISE FOR
JOURNEY OF THE PALE BEAR:
Honor Book, Golden Kite Awards, 2019
Vermont’s 2019-2020 Dorothy Canfield Fisher list
2020 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award Children’s Masterlist
School Library Connection highly recommended book
Junior Library Guild Selection
50 Must-Read Historical Fiction Books for Kids, bookriot.com

“…a stupendous coming-of-age-tale stuffed with adventure and laced with deeper questions… A richly satisfying story saturated with color, adventure, and heart.” –Kirkus, starred review

“I simply adore this novel. It has it all: gorgeous prose, fascinating history, riveting adventure. But it’s the unlikely tender friendship between a lonely boy and a polar bear that makes this a story to cherish. A lovely little miracle of a book.”

–Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan“I loved every single thing about this large-hearted and riveting medieval adventure.” —William Alexander, National Book Award-winning author of Goblin Secrets

Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 30 of

Journey of the Pale Bear

By Susan Fletcher

(This is after Arthur and the bear have had a few adventures together.  They have been separated, and here they come together again.)

===

I whipped round…and saw a great white shape loping across the field toward us.

The bear.

She ran with an easy, galumphing grace, and I halfway wanted to follow the children into the berry bushes, and I halfway wanted to go to the bear and greet her, because she was the closest thing I had to a friend in this place.  She had left me unharmed in her cage.  She had borne me through the sea.  She had slept beside me and warmed me.  Still, a clamoring of inner voices said, She’s a bear!  Run!  Run!

But my stepfather had told me never to run from a bear, because you will look like prey.  And an ice bear can outrun you every time.  So I forced myself to be still, to root my feet to the ground.

She slowed as she approached me.  She made a little grunting sound, a sound like a welcome.  She stretched out her head toward me and shook it in a way that seemed almost playful.  She grunted again and then brushed past me, filling my nose with the scent of her.  She began sniffing along the edge of the brambles.

All the air whooshed out of me.  I hadn’t truly thought she would harm me, but still…

The bear was rummaging deep into the bramble patch, holding the branches with her paws and sweeping up ripe berries with her tongue.

All at once, her head whipped up.  She sniffed at the air, seeming puzzled.

Voices.  Deeper ones, this time.

Four or five men and boys appeared at a distance, beyond the brambles.  Some of them began to shout and wave their arms like henwives driving their birds.

The bear turned to me, as if to ask what I made of this strange behavior.

A stocky man with a bushy, russet-colored beard reached for something behind his back—and nocked an arrow in his bow.  An arrow arced high in the air…

The bear wheeled round and crashed through the bushes, toward me.  The man loosed three more arrows in quick succession; one zinged by me so close, I felt it sting my ear.

The bear hurtled past…and I took off running, too.

 

Although Susan loves to write about long-ago and faraway places, she can’t bring those worlds to life without grounding them in the details of this one. To that end, she has explored lava tubes and sea caves; spent the night in a lighthouse; traveled along the Silk Road in Iran; ridden in a glider, on a camel, and on a donkey; and cut up (already dead!) baby chicks and mice for a gyrfalcon’s dinner. To research Journey of the Pale Bear, she explored the grounds of the Tower of London and went backstage at the Oregon Zoo, where, standing breathtakingly near, she watched polar bears Tasul and Conrad lip grapes from their keepers’ open palms.Journey of the Pale Bear is Susan’s 12th book, including the Dragon Chronicles series, Shadow Spinner, and Alphabet of Dreams. Collectively, her books have been translated into nine languages; accolades include a Golden Kite Honor Book, the American Library Association’s Notable Books and Best Books for Young Adults, BCCB Blue Ribbon Books, and School Library Journal’s Best Books.

Susan has an M.A. in English from the University of Michigan and taught for many years in the M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College. She lives in Bryan, Texas with her husband, historian R.J.Q. Adams, and their dog, Neville.

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The Gryphon Heist: Lone Star Book Blog Tour and Review

THE GRYPHON HEIST
(Talia Inger, Book One)
by
JAMES R. HANNIBAL
  
Genre: Contemporary Christian / Thriller / Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: September 3, 2019
Number of Pages: 400

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Talia Inger is a rookie CIA case officer assigned not to the Moscow desk as she had hoped but to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe–a department only known as “Other.” When she is tasked with helping a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology, she figures she’ll be back in DC within a few days. But that’s before she knows where the designs are stored–and who’s after them.

With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where criminal minds and unlikely strategies compete for access to the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault that hovers in the mesosphere. But is Tyler actually helping her? Or is he using her for his own dark purposes?

PRAISE FOR THE GRYPHON HEIST
“A movie-worthy tale of espionage and intrigue. Hannibal has done it again.”–Steven James, national bestselling author of Every Wicked Man


“James Hannibal has crafted a story slam full of mystery, danger, twists, and turns. I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough–or bother to stop to breathe. You don’t want to miss this one!”–Lynette Eason, bestselling, award-winning author of the Blue Justice series

The Gryphon Heist plunges readers into a world where no one can be trusted, nothing is as it seems, and choosing the wrong side could be catastrophic.”–Lynn H. Blackburn, award-winning and bestselling author of the Dive Team Investigations series

“Leap on board The Gryphon Heist and ride the whirlwind of suspense. Don’t let go!”–DiAnn Mills, bestselling author of Burden of Proof

5128f-review

Five-Stars

“WE’RE TALKING THE MOTHER of all heists.”

James R. Hannibal welcomes readers to the world of espionage in Book One of the Talia Inger series, The Gryphon Heist, where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted.

Talia has just failed a practical exercise to test whether she should become a CIA case officer, yet in spite of this she isn’t dismissed from the Agency but placed in an obscure Eastern European department known only as “Other,” and given what appears to be a routine, boring assignment. It is far more than that involving the theft of revolutionary defense technology and a race against time to stop an attack on Washington, D.C. Did her handlers deliberately mislead her? Is this somehow a con within a con? Hannibal drives the action and excitement with interesting characters, edge of your seat as well as humorous situations, and a plot that will keep the reader guessing right along with Talia.

Two men vie for Talia’s loyalty. Adam Tyler is a former CIA operative with a secret past tied to the death of Talia’s father in an automobile accident. Pavel Ivanov is the dashing director of Avantec, a Moldovan Aerospace Corporation. Either may be the infamous Lukon, a former MI-6 assassin now in business for himself in the regional arms trade and known for pulling off high-level heists. Who should Talia trust? If she makes the wrong assessment it could cost her her life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians living in the nation’s capital.

Reminiscent of Mission Impossible, a team of specialists is put together to go after the Gryphon, a mesospheric airship with an impregnable vault where the stolen data is stored. Eddie Gupta is a technology whiz capable of hacking into any platform. Michael Finn is an Australian high-flying cat burglar internationally famous for his daredevil stunts. Valkyrie is a grifter with connections to the Italian Mafia and a gift for reading people. Macauley Plucket is a former RAF pilot and EU astronaut candidate able to drive or fly any kind of vehicle or airframe; he’s also a Scottish brute whose loyalty can be bought if the price is right. And, Darcy Emile is a French demolitions expert who prides herself in the art of precise explosions.

There are plot twists and surprises galore as this odd assortment of con artists, thieves, hackers, current and former CIA operatives bond as a team and jet set across Europe to find real answers to the identity of Lukon and stop him from carrying out his plans.

James R. Hannibal transcends the typical spy novel writing not only a fast-paced, exciting and entertaining story, but one that looks into deeper underlying questions of faith and redemption, “the greater good,” and the moral ambiguities of covert operations.

“Sometimes the moral ambiguities of covert work are hard. We do the job with the legal blessing of one government, acting against the laws of another…. Don’t focus on the greater good. Focus on a higher power — the higher power [God]. That’s how we put what we do to a moral test.”

Hannibal’s book ends with a sneak peek into the continuing story. Chasing the White Lion is due out in the spring of 2020. If it’s anything like Book One, it will have readers anxiously awaiting its release!

Former stealth pilot James R. Hannibal is a two-time Silver Falchion Award winner for his Section 13 mysteries for kids and a Thriller Award nominee for his Nick Baron covert ops series for adults. James is a rare multi-sense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells and hears flashes of light. He lives in Houston, Texas.

 Website ⬥ Facebook
Twitter  ⬥ Instagram
Goodreads ⬥ Amazon Author Page 

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September 26-October 6, 2019
VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

9/26/19
Notable Quotable
9/26/19
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9/27/19
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9/28/19
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9/29/19
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10/1/19
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10/3/19
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COMING MARCH, 2020!

 

Iberian Ties: Lone Star Book Blog Tour Guest Post

IBERIAN TIES
by
Quintin Vargas


Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery / Suspense
International Thriller 

Publisher: Vanguard Publishers
Date of Publication: May 13, 2019
Number of Pages: 405
Scroll down for giveaway!

Without a motive, how do you catch a killer? A gripping thriller in the vein of Harlan Coben, Paula Hawkins, and Lee Child.

A rising star psychiatrist, American Nate Shelley is in Spain’s Canary Islands, making his world debut at a convention. But after delivering his keynote address, he and his fiancée Miro are arrested for murder.

Nate knows he’s not guilty, but is his future wife involved in some way in the crime? Miro’s directly implicated when the murder victim is identified as her stalker.

Is Nate’s career ruined? Is he facing life imprisonment? Does the American couple stand a chance of convincing the Spanish authorities—and Interpol—that they’re innocent? Not in a post-Brexit, anti-Trump European environment.

Racing to clear their names, Nate and Miro will soon be embroiled in sham investigations, powerful cartels, and family secrets finally coming to light.

Full of intrigue, this gritty international crime novel is a thrilling ride.

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PRAISE FOR IBERIAN TIES:
“Brilliant thriller! I totally loved and enjoyed this book!! Interesting twists and turns, well-developed characters and suspense all along the way. Definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. Can’t wait for the next book!” –Gaby M., Goodreads Review
“This was an education about cultures and history as well as an unpredictable mystery.” –Robert R., Amazon Review

GuestPost

The Personal Connections in Iberian Ties

Guest Post

By Quintin Vargas

My first international thriller, IBERIAN TIES, has several personal elements interspersed throughout. When I set out to write this book, I definitely conducted additional research on the Canary Islands, the main setting for the book, although I knew the archipelago from my travels and visits there. I also researched police practices and the Spanish legal system. I examined the inner workings of cartels, with attention paid to international crime. (However, I’ve not visited Lisbon and Marrakesh, which also play into the plot.)

There are several names throughout the book with personal significance as well. While I was developing one of the book’s early chapters, one of our grandchildren was born, and he was named “Scheffler,” a name which made it into the book. Although early on in my drafts of the manuscript, numerous characters were named after friends and family, most of those were eliminated for fear that some unintended associations would be made concerning the characters’ moral failings or misdeeds. However, the name of one of my best friends remained and is attached to a main character, although the name has been slightly veiled and translated into English. Another interesting tidbit is that I could not refrain from using my birth place to name my main heroine’s birthplace. However, to avoid complications, I kept all the letters of the original name and changed it to Dearlo Heights.

Author PicIberian Ties is the first work of fiction published by Quintin Vargas. In addition to being an author, he combined a career as professor and dean in various American universities with becoming owner of a firm that prepared new immigrants to enter the marketplace and international workforce. His work impacted leadership development for various domestic and international private industries, non-profit organizations, and higher education.

As an academic, he served as dean and provost at various universities, including DePaul University in Chicago, the University of Texas, San Antonio, and St. Edward’s University. His academic writings have been highlighted in various publications, including the Journal of Research and Development in Education, the National Commission on Testing and Public Policy, and the Journal of Thought.

He and his wife, Marty, have five children and thirteen grandchildren. They reside in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

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7/24/19
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7/26/19
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