Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review: GOOD AS GONE by Amy Gentry

I reviewed Good as Gone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Amy Gentry for Lone Star Literary Life! This is Austinite Gentry's debut novel which challenges the conventions of the thriller genre. From the review:
Anna, Tom, and Jane are sitting down to dinner one night when the doorbell rings. Anna answers the door. “The first thing I see is her pale hair,” thinks Anna, “then her face … there’s something familiar about her.” Julie Whitaker has been gone for eight years, kidnapped from her bedroom at thirteen, “and just like that, the worst unhappens. Julie is home.” As the family tries to move forward, treading lightly, fault lines are exposed. When Anna gets a phone call from a private detective, he adds fuel to her dawning suspicions, and she begins to question this Julie’s identity. Is she or isn’t she? 
Beginning with the exquisite tension of the prologue, Good as Gone, Austinite Amy Gentry’s debut novel, is by turns gripping, insightful, brutal, depressing, and hopeful. Gentry, a veteran of volunteer work helping victims of domestic and sexual violence, dives deep into murky psychological territory and sets up camp, empathically conveying the particular and disparate mindsets of small children, teenage girls, and grown women alike. Gentry’s portrait of contemporary American girlhood — attempting to grow up in a culture that pounds them about the head and shoulders with the message that their bodies are commodities (but don’t you dare presume the power to use it as such—this is reserved for men) — is devastating.
Click here to read the entire review. Thank you!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR August 22-28

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 22-28, 2016: 

Ongoing Exhibits:

San Antonio
The Korova, PuroSlam with DJ Donnie Dee, 10PM

Wednesday, August 24:

Murder By the Book, Andrew Gross will sign and discuss The One Man, 6:30PM

Thursday, August 25:
Houston
Poison Girl, Poison Pen Reading Series featuring Benjamin Rybek, Christopher Brean Murray, and Aliah Lavonne Tigh, 8:30PM

River Oaks Bookstore, David Lemaster reads and signs The Passers, 5PM

Friday, August 26:

Houston
Murder By the Book, Reading and signing with Elsa Hart and Julia Keller, 6:30PM

San Antonio
Austin

B&N - Preston/Royal, Beth Bowland signs Polaris, 2PM

El Paso
Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop with Sheela Wolford: "Living at the Treetop", 12:45PM

Frisco
B&N - Stonebriar, Coach G.A. Moore and Ed Housewright discuss and sign Beyond Just Win: A Profile of G.A. Moore, 4PM

Galveston
Galveston Bookshop, Maria Elena Sandovici signs Lost Path to Solitude, 3PM

Houston


Half Price Books - North Oaks, local author Vicky Dezine will sell and sign More Than a Woman, 1PM

Sunday, August 28:
Dallas

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, J. Ko discusses and signs Into Her World, 2PM


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review: A WIFE OF NOBLE CHARACTER by Yvonne Georgina Puig

I reviewed A Wife of Noble Character (Henry Holt) by Yvonne Georgina Puig for Lone Star Literary Life! This debut novel is an update of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, set among the oil-money elite of modern Houston. From the review:
Beautiful and pedigreed Vivienne Cally finds herself thirty years old, still living with her spiteful aunt, and working in a boutique for little more than minimum wage. Born to an oil fortune, Vivienne was orphaned as a very young child, and whatever money remains is controlled by her aunt, who has stipulated that Vivienne won’t see a dime unless she marries well. 
Future architect Preston Duffin is drawn to Vivienne, but has neither money nor pedigree. Preston, a scholarship student living in a garage apartment, hangs on the periphery of Vivienne’s privileged crowd, attempting to protect his ego by disdaining his friends’ values with lofty philosophy.
Vivienne makes a friend in Paris who tells her, “If you’re born into a world where you don’t belong, you don’t have a choice. You have to find a way out.” A Wife of Noble Character is the story of Vivienne finding her way out, and the serendipitous conclusion is surprisingly satisfying.
Click here to read the entire review. 


Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR August 15-21

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 15-21, 2016: 

Special Events:
Literary Libations Week (a LitCrawl fundraiser), Austin, Houston, & San Antonio, August 15-18

Writespace Writers Family Reunion, Houston, August 20

Ongoing Exhibits:
Austin
BookPeople, WRITERS' LEAGUE OF TEXAS Presents: BLACK LITERATURE MATTERS: A CONVERSATION ON WRITING AND RACE with Michael Hurd, Varian Johnson, Doyin Oyeniyi, and Jennifer M. Wilks, 7PM

Mr. Catfish & More, NeoSoul Poetry ATX, 8PM

Houston
Brazos Bookstore, Elizabeth Williams discusses and signs LIFT YOUR SPIRITS, 7PM

River Oaks Bookstore, S.R. Atkinson reads and signs Surface Tension (Siren Anthology Book Two), 5PM

Writespace, Spider Road Press Birthday Party & Flash Fiction Awards, 7PM

Friday, August 19:


San Antonio
Burnt Ends, Gemini Ink's Writers in Communities reading + BBQ, 6:30PM

The Twig Book Shop, Jayme Blaschke discusses and signs Inside The Texas Chicken Ranch, 6PM

Saturday, August 20:

Sunday, August 21:
Sugar Land
The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center, moderated panel discussion: THE WRITING PROCESS: FROM INCUBATION TO PUBLICATION with Bapsi Sidhwa, Rodney Walther, and Ann Weisgarber, + book signing, 2PM

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Review: THE FAR EMPTY by J. Todd Scott

I reviewed The Far Empty (G.P. Putnam's Sons) by veteran DEA agent J. Todd Scott for Lone Star Literary Life. I call this "border noir." From the review:
The Far Empty is a work of fiction, more or less.” 
Fictional Murfee, Texas, is the seat of fictional Big Bend County (“where there’s more blood in the ground than water”), situated on the very real border with Mexico, where desperation and ambition meet avarice, hubris, and drug-fueled insanity. Seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross desperately wants to escape no-account little Murfee, not least because he believes his father is responsible for his mother’s disappearance. Quiet and perceptive, Caleb feels guilty and cowardly because he hasn’t confronted his father, and he’s wound tight from living with a human rattlesnake. 
Caleb’s father is Sheriff Stanford “Judge” Ross, a hard, arrogant, murderous man who rules Big Bend County like a feudal estate. People in his orbit have a habit of disappearing and/or dying. Rookie deputy Chris Cherry is a former high school football star, reluctantly returned to Murfee after a devastating knee injury. When Chris discovers a body on a remote ranch, he and Caleb eventually join forces, and as the Sheriff’s secrets emerge, the whole Walking Tall scenario in Big Bend County begins to disintegrate.
Click here to read the entire review.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR August 8-14

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 8-14, 2016: 

Special Events:
2016 Author Roundup, Fort Worth, August 13

186TH ANNUAL 2ND TIME EVER CARNIVAL OF BOOKS!, Austin, August 13

Ongoing Exhibits:
Clear Lake
NOKturne, First Monday Reading Series hosted by Dustin Pickering, 8PM

Houston
Brazos Bookstore, Yvonne Georgina Puig reading and signing A WIFE OF NOBLE CHARACTER, 7PM

Tuesday, August 9:
The Korova, PuroSlam with DJ Donnie Dee, 10PM

Wednesday, August 10:
Dallas
Dallas Public Library - Lake Dallas Branch, Bailey and David R. Hardiman will sign Bailey’s Remarkable Plan, 11:45AM

Half Price Books Mothership, New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover will discuss and sign her new novel It Ends With Us, 7PM [PASS REQUIRED]

SMU Bookstore, Kia Carrington-Russell will sign The Three Immortal Blades series, 2PM

Houston

Malvern Books, Novel Night with Marcia Feldt & D. Ellis Phelps, 7PM

Mr. Catfish & More, NeoSoul Poetry ATX, 8PM

Dallas
Dallas Public Library - Central, Susan Wiggs will discuss and sign Family Tree, 6:15PM

Houston

Brazos Bookstore, Erika Jo Brown’s Inprint memoir class student reading, 7PM

North Richland Hills
North Richland Hills Library, Susan Wiggs will discuss and sign Family Tree, 12PM

Southlake
B&N - Town Square, Way of the Reaper: My Greatest Untold Missions and the Art of Being a Sniper book signing with Nicholas Irving, 7PM

Saturday, August 13:
Austin


Denton

El Paso
B&N - Fountains at Farah, Meet and Greet: graphic novelist and artist Raul Gonzalez, 2PM

Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop with Gene Keller: Waiting for a Blue Moon, 12:45PM

Galveston
Galveston Bookshop, E. Barry Gray will sign Greetings from Galveston, 2PM

Houston
Murder By the Book, Diane Vallere will sign and discuss Silk Stalkings, 4:30PM
Writespace, Workshop: Outlining: Simple Plans for Great Stories with Kyle Russell, 1PM

Round Rock
B&N - La Cantera, Pablo De Leon signing Limitless, 1PM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre, Meet the Author - Patty York Raymond: It's Too Windy!, 1PM

Waco
Enrichment Training & Counseling Solutions, Gritos: On Finding the Sources of Our Voices writing workshop led by ire'ne lara silva, 3PM

Rufi's Cocina, Waco Poets Society presents a reading by ire'ne lara silva, 7PM

Sunday, August 14:

Dallas
Houston


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Review: THE HOPEFULS by Jennifer Close

I reviewed The Hopefuls (Alfred A. Knopf) by Jennifer Close for Lone Star Literary Life! This is a sophisticated, acutely perceptive exploration of the corrosive effects of ambition and jealousy on individuals, a friendship, and two marriages. From the review:
“Never say never. Weird things happen in Texas.” —Colleen
Matt and Beth Kelly are a young married couple in Washington, D.C. Matt, who dressed up as Ronald Reagan as a child and has always known he wanted to run for office, is an ambitious lawyer in the Obama White House, but he’s frustrated that his career isn’t progressing as quickly as he’d like. Beth, a former editorial assistant for Vanity Fair, is a writer for a local website devoted to the trivial and scandalous social lives of the politicos, who feels profoundly dislocated in DC’s “hierarchy of jealousy,” invisible because she doesn’t work in politics. 
Jimmy and Ashleigh Dillon are a young married couple from Texas rising fast through DC’s political ranks. Jimmy is young and charismatic; he golfs with the president, and perks, power, and plums fall into his lap. Ashleigh is a Southern belle whose outgoing personality and beauty-pageant looks are Jimmy’s perfect complement. When the Dillons return to Texas, Jimmy is recruited to run for the Railroad Commission, and he summons Matt to manage his campaign. The Kellys decamp for Sugar Land (“where life is sweet”) to help Jimmy turn Texas blue. 
Close’s simple plot moves steadily, only bogging down briefly during the second third of the book, though this slowing ironically evokes the peripatetic monotony of the campaign. Close’s cast are generally sympathetic, authentically flawed characters, and Beth is a reliable, though disturbingly passive, narrator. Close examines the dynamics of couples and the corruptions of jealousy, as Beth observes Matt’s “Single-White-Female attitude toward Jimmy” and how Ashleigh is subtly different at home in Sugar Land. “I began to think of her as Texas Ash,” Beth says, “sort of like Malibu Barbie—basically the same, but with a few tweaks and extra accessories.”
Go here to read the entire review. Thank you!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR August 1-7

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 1-7, 2016: 

Special Events:
Summer Book Arts Studio, Houston, August 2-5

Friends of the Plano Library Book Sale, August 5-7

The Writer's Garret 21st Birthday Celebration, Dallas, August 5-7

2016 Texas Christian Writers' Conference, Houston, August 6

Ongoing Exhibits:
Austin
Malvern Books, Poetry Karaoke, 7PM

Clear Lake
NOKturne, First Monday Reading Series hosted by Dustin Pickering, 8PM

Houston
University of Houston, Houston Public Library Quarterly Author Series: Meet Elizabeth Nunez, author of Even in Paradise, 6:30PM

Tuesday, August 2:
Angleton
Brazoria County Historical Museum, Roger Wood discusses and signs Texas Zydeco, 6:30PM

Austin
Mr. Catfish & More, NeoSoul Poetry ATX, 8PM

Dallas
The Wild Detectives, Amy Gentry reads and signs Good as Gone (with Merritt Tierce), 7:30PM

Friendswood
Friendswood Public Library‎, Off the Page Poetry presents Anis Shivani and Jonathan Moody, 7PM

Houston
Super Happy Fun Land, Featured poets followed by Odd Thursdays Open Mic hosted by Kyle Blue, 9PM

Friday, August 5:
Amarillo
Chalice Abbey Center for Spirituality and the Arts, Epiphany: What Light Does on Egde poetry reading with Paul Bowers, Steven Schroeder, and Chera Hammons, 6PM

Austin
B&N - Preston/Royal, Skip Hollandsworth signs The Midnight Assassin, 1PM

Deep Vellum Books, Sahr Sankoh reads and signs The Cotton Tree, 1PM

El Paso
Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop with Celia Aguilar: Musings from La Frontera, 12:45PM

Houston

Houston Public Library - Johnson Branch, Public Poetry reading series features Chris Brunt, Adam Holt, Octavio Quintanilla, and Analicia Sotelo, 2PM


Writespace, Workshop: It's More Than a Place: Crafting Settings That Matter with Joy Preble, 1PM


Recycled Reads, Open Mic Poetry, 3:30PM

Dallas
The Wild Detectives, Beyond Your Backyard Story Night, 7PM

Houston

Friday, July 29, 2016

Review: THE SEASON by Jonah Lisa Dyer & Stephen Dyer

I reviewed The Season (Viking) by Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer for Lone Star Literary Life! Imagine the result if Jane Austen were writing in Dallas in 2016. This is my pick, so far, as the best beach read of this summer. The Season is exactly what you expect it to be - and so much more. From the review:
Spunky Megan McKnight is a twenty-year-old soccer player at Southern Methodist University with dreams of making the Olympic team. The Bluebonnet Club Debutante Season is the very last thing on her mind. Then a story (“an announcement for a virgin auction”) appears in the local paper declaring that Megan and her twin sister Julia are debuting this season, complete with photographs (Megan thinks she looks “like a hick who’d lucked into a makeover coupon”), and Megan realizes that her mother has pulled a fast one. When Megan confronts her mother (“Clearly decades of coloring your hair and chugging SlimFast have taken a toll”), she learns that there is more to her mother’s madness than she knows and she agrees to debut as a favor to her father. 
The Season, the first novel from screenwriters Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer, is a romantic comedy, a modern YA riff on Jane Austen that is my pick, so far, for best beach read this summer. In fact, I didn’t want to put it down and read it in one sitting. The Season is fun, easy reading but it’s not all sweetness and light. The plot is carefully crafted and weaves together several well-developed subplots, including violence against women, financial disaster, and environmental catastrophe. 
Megan’s first-person narrative is breezy and irreverent. When she rips her dress riding a bicycle to debutante orientation, she uses the receptionist’s stapler to close the gap. She frets that her cleavage has been “stunted” by years of sports bras. Megan attends the first party sporting a black eye, courtesy of an opposing goalie, and there meets Hank and Andrew. Is Hank as good as he seems? Is Andrew the total jerk he appears to be?
Go here to read the entire review. Thank you!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Excerpt and Giveaway: THE LARK by Dana Glossbrenner




THE LARK
by
Dana Glossbrenner

Genre: Humorous Literary Fiction
Publisher: Boldface Books
Date of Publication: June 7, 2016
Number of Pages: 270

Scroll down for Giveaway!


You’re never too old to learn—or too young

Good-looking, good-hearted Charley Bristow’s the most sought-after hair stylist in five West Texas counties. He’s an expert on the dance floor and sharp at the pool tables, too—but when it comes to pick­ing cars, dogs, and women, luck hasn’t quite gone his way lately. And there’s the ever-present worry over his mother, whose own trailer-park plight he’d just as soon steer clear of. 

Just when he’s sworn off temptation of the female sort, an evening at the local honky-tonk drives two prime targets right into his path. Weighing the sudden wealth of options in his love life, while also searching for the right choice of wheels to suit his needs, Charley stumbles upon a long-hidden secret and an unforeseen road to re­demption. 

The colorful denizens of the Wild Hare Salon, Jarod’s Automotive, and Hopper’s nightclub, along with those of the Briargrove First Methodist Church and the Sulfur Gap Centennial Celebration, will two-step their way right into your heart, to music as familiar as Willie Nelson and Charley Pride. And you just might start to fall in love with an old Johnny Mercer tune, too, as Charley Bristow faces his past and embraces the challenge of his future.

Praise for The Lark

"Good-time Charley" Bristow is a popular twenty-something West Texas hairstylist who's already dodged two bullets with two failed marriages (the second time, literally). . . . The Lark invites us to join Charley's friends, the rural cosmopolitans of Sulfur Gap, and ride shotgun alongside this rogue with an honest heart . . . on a journey into his past.  Dana Glossbrenner has crafted a totally engaging quest for happiness, set it in a totally genuine contemporary Texas, and delivered up great characters for a great read.

-- Cliff Hudder, author of Splinterville and Pretty Enough for You


Charley Bristow takes some things seriously--work, dancing, pool-playing, and women, but maybe not in that order. He finds the true importance of friends and family.

-- Rick Smith, San Angelo Standard Times






THE LARK: Excerpt from Chapter 1, “Burned and Burning”

As soon as they stepped inside the club, Charley saw Dick Raney wave Wayne over to the bar for a neighborly chat. Charley headed for his favorite table. No stranger at the nightclub, he nodded to the guys at the pool tables. He saw the familiar look on their faces as they concentrated on their games, their body language telling him they weren’t in the mood to take a trouncing from him. He smiled as he remembered the old regulars who’d taught him to play at Hopper’s and the VFW. 

Mitch Teague, still haunting the tables, sat on a bar stool in a corner, arms crossed, watching a game. He lifted a hand to Charley. With a big, brushy mustache and bristly whiskers under a crooked nose that had been broken a few times, he looked rough. The scar over his left eyebrow hadn’t faded over the years, either. A smashed-up straw western hat he seldom removed, broken-down western boots, raggedy jeans, and a leather vest over his T-shirt of the day completed his ensemble. Since the age of twelve, Charley had considered Mitch a mentor in the game of pool—and of life. 

He nodded to his role model. 

“How’s yer mom these days?” Mitch asked. 

“Hard to tell. You know she’s not a big talker.”

 “I remember she used to be. Friendliest waitress in three counties.” 

“Yeah, she got lots of practice between working here and the VFW.” 

“She don’t get out much now, does she?” 

“Nope. Health issues, I guess.” Falling back on the mention of a woman’s physical condition tended to divert further questions. 

“Well, I’m glad you still come around.” 

“It’s good to see you, too, Mitch,” Charley said, clapping him on the back. It was a good thing people had never been too rule-conscious in Sulfur Gap, so that even when he was under age, Charley had been able to go with his mother for her daytime shifts and hang around afterwards while she caught up on her own drinking. Charley had better-quality supervision at the bars, playing pool with guys like Mitch, than he would’ve had staying home with his mother’s boyfriend of the moment. 

As he turned to walk away, one of the younger pool-playing regulars—Wes Farley, sharpening his skills at being a jerk—picked the moment to be a smartass. Overhearing Charley’s conversation with Mitch, he picked at a sensitive topic. “Last time I seen yer ma, she was drivin’ through the Party Warehouse gettin’ that van loaded with booze. I wonder how she affords that on her disability check?” 

Conscious of the audience of pool players, who had frozen in disbelief at the sniping remark, Charley took a deep breath and turned slowly to stare unblinking at his tormentor. “Well, Wes, not that it’s any of your business, but everyone’s different on how they field life’s curve balls.” 

Farley backpedaled. “Now, Charley, I didn’t mean nothin’ by that. I was just curious.” 

Charley gazed at him for a few seconds while the shorter man squirmed. “Forget it, Wes. Just give some thought before you talk about people’s mothers.”




Dana Glossbrenner's debut novel, The Lark, features Charley Bristow, a successful young hair stylist in a small West Texas town. His misadventures provide humor, intrigue, and catharsis, as he discovers a lost family history. Women Behind Stained Glass: West Texas Pioneers, a historical work, recounts the lives of women who helped settle the area around San Angelo, Texas.

Glossbrenner taught high school and university English classes and worked as a guidance counselor. She grew up in Snyder, Texas, earned degrees from Texas Tech, Angelo State University, and Texas State University. She now lives in San Angelo, Texas.

She cites Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, and Elmer Kelton as major inspirations for writing about Texas.

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July 25 - August 8, 2016







CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

7/25 StoreyBook Reviews– Review
7/26 The Librarian Talks – Author Interview #1
7/27 Texas Book Lover – Excerpt #1
7/28 Reading By Moonlight -- Review
7/29 It's a Jenn World – Author Interview #2
7/30 Country Girl Bookaholic – Review
7/31 The Crazy Booksellers -- Promo
8/1 Missus Gonzo – Guest Post
8/2 Byers Editing Reviews & Blog – Excerpt #2
8/3 Kara The Redhead -- Review
8/4 The Page Unbound – Author Interview #3
8/5 Margie's Must Reads -- Review
8/6 Books and Broomsticks -- Promo
8/7 Forgotten Winds – Excerpt #3

8/8 My Book Fix Blog – Review 


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