First Herd to Abilene: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review & Giveaway

FIRST HERD TO ABILENE

An H. H. Lomax Western, #5
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Historical Fiction / Western / Humor
Publisher: Wolfpack Publishing
Date of Publication: February 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 449

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HISTORICALLY SOUND AND HILARIOUSLY FUNNY! H.H. Lomax meets Wild Bill Hickok in Springfield, Missouri, and is responsible for Hickok’s legendary gunfight with Davis Tutt. Fearing Hickok will hold a grudge, Lomax escapes Springfield and agrees to promote Joseph G. McCoy’s dream of building Abilene, Kansas, into a cattle town, ultimately leading the first herd to Abilene from Texas.

Along the way, he encounters Indians, rabid skunks, flash floods, a stampede, and the animosities of some fellow cowboys trying to steal profits from the drive. Lomax is saved by the timely arrival of now U.S. Marshal Hickok, but Lomax uses counterfeit wanted posters to convince Hickok his assailants are wanted felons with rewards on their heads.

Lomax and Wild Bill go their separate ways until they run into each other a decade later in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, where Hickok vows to kill Lomax for getting him fired.

First Herd to Abilene is an entertaining mix of historical and hysterical fiction.

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Review

Four Stars

First Herd to Abilene is the fifth book in this series featuring the hilarious exploits of H.H. (Henry Harrison) Lomax, one of the most colorful characters to ever grace the pages of a western novel. If you’ve never read any of the previous entries into the outrageous circumstances and succession of adventures that puts H.H. at the confluence of every major event to ever be recorded about the Old West, don’t worry. Author Preston Lewis revisits those earlier escapades in Chapter One, while at the same time laying the groundwork for what is yet to come.

Lewis contends that he came across Lomax’s memoirs while conducting research at Texas Tech University, and though he “can’t vouch for their veracity,” these tales of encounters with the likes of Billy the Kid, Jessie James, Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody, and George Armstrong Custer (to name just a few) are told with such insightful historical detail as well as wit and humor that readers will find themselves totally engaged. “While some may question his credentials as a credible chronicler of the occurrences Lomax claims to have witnessed, no one can doubt his abilities as a humorous story-teller of the first rank.”

First Herd to Abilene takes Henry Harrison Lomax from the end of the Civil War to three years past the turn of the century and, as in the earlier volumes, allows Lomax to weave another yarn about his encounters with some of the most memorable characters in the history of the Old West, folks such as James Butler ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok, Calamity Jane, Jessie Chisolm and Joseph G. McCoy.”

It begins with Lomax grousing about his disdain for all Texans, “a breed whose stupidity, greed, and depravity was exceeded only by that of politicians and lawyers.” His bitterness is really the result of a later tragedy, but at the outset of the book he begrudges Texans for making a fortune in the cattle industry while he “received nary a cent for all the hard work I put in and all risks I took to chart the course to Kansas.” Additionally,  Lomax feels slighted by Joseph G. McCoy, the entrepreneur who had the vision of transporting cattle by rail to Easterners starving for beef, but fails to give Lomax recognition and historical credit for being the first to blaze a trail from Texas to the stockyards and railheads in Abilene. That credit went to Jessie Chisolm, “an old coot who never traversed the route from Kansas to South Texas and back.”

It’s this bitterness that sets the tone for probably the most serious storyline of all the books in the series, with much of its 449 pages describing what it was like to be a part of the great cattle drives that defined this era in history. The arduous challenge of herding longhorn cattle over 700 miles from Texas to Kansas required months of backbreaking monotonous work that pitted cattlemen against the elements, disease, wild animals, hostile terrain, Indian attacks, and rustlers. It meant months of breathing in trail dust as well as the foul odors of the livestock, going without much sleep, eating the same food day-in day-out, no gambling or drinking, and very little human contact except between fellow trail riders… all of which grated on nerves and frequently resulted in the deaths of both man and beast. Preston Lewis certainly intersperses Lomax’s typical humor into this portrayal of a cowhand’s life, but he does so in a manner that doesn’t negate or gloss over the difficulties faced along the way.

Besides Lomax and the iconic historical figures mentioned above, Lewis creates a cast of characters that brings these hardships to life. Madlyn Dillon, an artist who has been spoiled and pampered her entire life, but the first Texan, male or female, to take an interest in Lomax and Joseph G. McCoy’s vision. Colonel Saul Dillon, her father. The Texas cattleman puts his trust in Lomax to get his cattle to Kansas and save his ranch. Ruth, orphaned by the Comanche but taken in and employed by Colonel Dillon. She falls in love with Lomax in an ill-fated relationship. Sainty Spencer, the ranch foreman who is sweet on Madlyn, and as trail boss is trusted to bring back the cash from the sale of the cattle in Abilene. Charlie Bitters, the cook, second in importance only to the trail boss, but whose cooking for the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War is said to have led to its defeat. Jose Munoz and Pedro Ramirez, Mexican hands that will tend to the remuda during the trail drive. Martin Michaels, a sketch artist on the side and the first cowhand hired, and Tom Errun, an Englishman with no experience pared up with Michaels to lead the herd. Silas Banty, a former slave, who looks to the future with optimism and learns to read from Lomax. Toad Beeline, little understood by his fellow trailhands because he tends to mumble when he speaks. He and Silas are assigned to ride flank. Trent Parsons, a former Confederate soldier wounded at Shiloh who spends his spare time with the Good Book, and Jurdon Mark, an affable sort who excels at the game of marbles, will ride swing. Lastly, Harry Dire, a skilled roper but a malcontent, Chuck Muscher, a Yankee troublemaker, and Bartholomew Henry O’Henry, another former slave angry about his past with a mean streak in him, will all be assigned to ride drag which only adds to their alienation and seditious attitudes. Their actions bode ill for the success of the cattle drive.

Bookending this description of the cattle drive and the fate of these characters is the story of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane told as only H.H. Lomax can, again putting himself right smack dab in the middle of the action over a span of years that begins in Springfield, Missouri and ends on that fateful day in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. But what does a “Rattle Jar,” head lice, an illicit game of poker at the library,  a stolen gold Waltham watch, cherry pie, an impromptu lynching, counterfeit wanted posters, and the “romance” between Wild Bill and Miss Martha Jane Canary and their final resting place  have to do with that narrative? For those insights, you really do need to read the book. In fact, once you do, I highly recommend that you go back and read the entire series. You won’t be disappointed!

Finally, to give a complete review of First Herd to Abilene, I need to mention errors in editing that I had not encountered in Lewis’ previous books. I seldom comment on SPAGs, but readers will undoubtedly come across them in the course of reading the novel. Preston Lewis is a great storyteller and a deserving winner of the Spur Award for western literature, but this book would have benefitted from a final edit before publication.

That said, as someone who once wrote that the “western genre no longer holds the public’s attention as it once did in cinema and published media,” I can definitely say that Preston Lewis’ books are the exception, helping keep western literature alive, vibrant, relevant and entertaining.

I received a free copy of First Herd to Abilene in exchange for my honest review.

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series, The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

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For Spacious Skies: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Guest Post

FOR SPACIOUS SKIES
KATHERINE LEE BATES AND THE INSPIRATION FOR “AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL”
by
Nancy Churnin
illustrated by Olga Baumert

Picture Book Biography / Women’s Suffrage / Woman Poet
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Date of Publication: April 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 32

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As a little girl growing up during the Civil War, Katharine Lee Bates grew up to become a poet, professor, and social activist. She not only wrote “America the Beautiful” but gave this anthem to America as a gift. A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and a suffragist who stood up for a woman’s right to vote and lived to cast her ballot in presidential elections, Katharine believed in the power of words to make a difference. In “America the Beautiful,” her vision of the nation as a great family, united from sea to shining sea, continues to uplift and inspire us all.




PRAISE for For Spacious Skies: 
“Churnin tells that story in a spare and lively text beautifully complemented by double-page spreads highlighting Baumert’s gorgeous panoramic illustrations . . . A handsome volume befitting its subject.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“The story ends on a high note in 1920, with Bates casting her ballot after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted voting rights to women . . . The richly colored, nicely composed artwork will help children visualize the period setting while enjoying the portrayals of Bates and beautiful landscapes. A picture-book biography of a notable American.”—Booklist
 
“Nancy Churnin has written a delightful book that helps children understand the many dimensions of my great-aunt Katharine Lee Bates. This book does an excellent job conveying her ardent passion for equal rights and for her country. She was a poet, a professor, and a world traveler, but she was first and foremost a citizen who loved America, in all its beauty and diversity.”—Katharine Lee Holland

 

 

Guest Post by Nancy Churnin

There’s so much confusion and conflict about what patriotism is. One reason I wanted to write about Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote one of our most patriotic songs, “America the Beautiful,” is that she goes to the heart of what patriotism truly is. Her scrupulously sculpted words are not just about how beautiful America is, but how beautiful America can be if we crown our good “with brotherhood / From sea to shining sea.” To me, that is true patriotism—not just loving your country, but helping your country live up to her ideals of equality and kindness. Katharine was a little girl during the Civil War, when Americans hated and hurt each other during conflict and for years afterward.

A minister’s daughter and fierce advocate for help and support for the poor as well as equal rights for women, she gave the song to America for free, as a gift, hoping to inspire fellow Americans to see themselves as part of one inclusive family. Most people don’t know the name Katharine Lee Bates, and I wanted kids to know the name of this extraordinary woman who refused to accept the limitations that women were given in her time and went on to get an education, become a poet and professor, live an independent life in a world of women, and leave the world a better place.

I am also thrilled to pay tribute to her this year, the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote. People have many ways of standing up for equal rights, and those different ways deserve to be acknowledged and honored. Katharine Lee Bates spoke up, but she also relied, more than anything, on the power of her pen.

Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of eight picture book biographies with a ninth due in 2021. 
 
Beautiful Shades of Brown, The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring is A Mighty Girl pick that will be featured at the 2020 Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee in May. The William Hoy Story, a Texas 2X2 pick, has been on multiple state reading lists. Manjhi Moves a Mountain is the winner of the 2018 South Asia Book Award and a Junior Library Guild selection. Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank is on the 2020 Notable Book for a Global Society list from the International Literacy Association. Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing is a 2019 Sydney Taylor and National Council for the Social Studies Notable. 
 
Nancy graduated cum laude from Harvard, has a master’s from Columbia, and lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry, their dog named Dog, and two cantankerous cats. 

Website ║  Blog ║ Facebook  ║ Twitter ║ Instagram

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Rio Ruidoso: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Excerpt

RIO RUIDOSO
Three Rivers Trilogy, 1
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Historical Western
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Date of Publication: February 19, 2020
Number of Pages: 299

2017 Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association:
Best Creative Work on West Texas

 

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Rio Ruidoso offers a gripping blend of history and story as two-time Spur Award-winner Preston Lewis explores the violent years before the famed Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory. Seamlessly weaving fact with fiction, the author details the county’s corruption, racism, and violence through the eyes of protagonist Wes Bracken, newly arrived in the region to start a horse ranch with his alcoholic brother.

 

Bracken’s dreams for the Mirror B Ranch are threatened by his brother’s drunkenness, the corruption of economic kingpin Lawrence G. Murphy, and the murderous rampages of the racist Horrell Brothers. To bring tranquility to Lincoln County, Bracken must defeat those threats and stand his ground against the ever-changing alliances that complicate life and prosperity in multi-racial Lincoln County.

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Excerpt

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE OF

RIO RUIDOSO

BY PRESTON LEWIS

As he neared the bend in the stream, a woman’s screams and sobs grew discernible and louder. Then Wes heard the mocking laugh of amused men. Rounding the bend, Wes saw a small adobe dwelling with a small cultivated field between it and the Ruidoso. And in front of the house, he spied a circle of four men around a Hispanic woman. A fifth man sat horseback, holding the others’ mounts. All five were hurrahing the woman and someone else within their circle.

Wes held the stallion back while he studied the five men, all so intent on their mischief that not one had noticed their visitor less than a hundred yards away. Wes knew neither the dispute nor its cause, but he could see the odds were less than fair. He levered a cartridge into the Winchester, then shook the reins. The sorrel stepped forward, the gap between Wes and the men narrowing to eighty yards, sixty yards, then forty yards. Still the men remained oblivious to all but the prey within their small circle.

Wes watched a frail man stand up among them, only to be shoved back to the ground by a bigger assailant. The woman screamed and tried to help the victim, but another attacker grabbed her arm and jerked her away. She fell to the ground, then clambered toward the frail man. Everyone laughed, except Wes! He had seen enough.

“Get up, greaser, so I can plant you in the ground again,” taunted one attacker.

At twenty yards, Wes eased back on the sorrel’s reins. Swinging the barrel of his carbine toward the assailants, he shouted, “Afternoon.”

Five men flinched at the greeting, then stiffened. They slowly turned around, facing Wes, their hands frozen near the revolvers at their sides.

“What seems to be the trouble?” Wes called out.

The woman burst through the circle of men and rushed toward Wes. “Gracias, señor, muy gracias!

Her cry and the flash of her skirt spooked Charlie. The sorrel nervously backtracked a half-dozen steps. One man reached toward his pistol, his hand wrapping around the gun butt.

The Hispanic woman stopped dead still.

Wes jerked the carbine to his shoulder and fired over the foolhardy man. The fellow’s fingers widened and his arm went limp, releasing the pistol that slid back into its holster. His companions raised their hands away from their own sidearms.

The young woman’s hand flew to her throat. “Please, señor, stop them from hurting us.”

Wes nodded. “What’s the trouble?”

One troublemaker stepped ahead of the others. He had a stiff neck, his whole body turning with his head. “No trouble. Until you showed up, fellow!”

“The young lady wouldn’t agree, now would she?”

“She’s Mexican. What’s she know?”

“Enough to expect decent treatment from folks.”

Stiff neck turned his whole body toward the others. “He damn sure ain’t from Texas, now is he?” As they laughed, stiff neck twisted back to face Wes. “Hell, fellow, you remember the Alamo? This greaser’s kin likely killed good white folks there. We’re just paying them back.”

Wes shrugged. “That was near forty years ago, and this isn’t Texas. You best forget the Alamo, ride on and leave these folks alone.”

Raising his fist, stiff neck advanced a step. “Fellow, I don’t know who you are, but you got no business interfering in what my bunch does. The name’s Horrell, I’m Mart, and these are my brothers Tom, Merritt, Ben, and Sam. We’ll ride out, but you remember the Horrell name if you’re planning on staying in Lincoln County because we’ll meet again when we ain’t in such a good mood.” 

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

 


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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
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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
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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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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
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11/5/19
BONUS Post
11/6/19
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11/7/19
Excerpt
11/8/19
Review
11/9/19
Notable Quotable
11/10/19
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11/11/19
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11/13/19
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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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10/10/19
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10/10/19
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10/11/19
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10/12/19
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10/12/19
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10/14/19
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10/15/19
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10/15/19
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10/16/19
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10/18/19
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10/19/19
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10/19/19
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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.

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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
BONUS Post
9/27/19
Review
9/28/19
Author Interview
9/29/19
Review
9/30/19
Excerpt
10/1/19
Review
10/2/19
Top Ten List
10/3/19
Author Interview
10/4/19
Review
10/5/19
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