Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review: PRESIDIO by Randy Kennedy

I reviewed Presidio: A Novel (Touchstone) by Texas Panhandle native Randy Kennedy for Lone Star Literary Life. This one got the nod from Larry McMurtry, a thing rarely seen.

Randy Kennedy
Presidio: A Novel
Hardcover, 978-1-5011-5386-0 (also available as an e-book and audio-book), 320 pgs., $26.00
August 21, 2018
“Later, in the glove box, the police found a folder of notes. It said: Notes for the police.”
Troy Alan Falconer hasn’t been home to the fictional Texas Panhandle town of New Cona in six years. Despite his trepidation, Troy returns, answering a summons from his younger brother, Harlan, whose wife, Bettie, has absconded with all the money he had in the world. The two set out to find Bettie, but the task veers awry when Troy steals a station wagon from a Tahoka grocery-store parking lot. Unbeknownst to the brothers, an eleven-year-old Mennonite girl named Martha is hiding in the back. When they discover her the next morning, Martha has an agenda of her own, demanding the brothers return her to her father in Juárez. An inadvertent kidnapping being degrees of magnitude worse than advertent grand theft auto, the three head for México by way of Presidio.

Presidio: A Novel is debut fiction from Randy Kennedy, who grew up in Plains on the Llano Estacado. Kennedy decamped for New York City, where he wrote for the New York Times for twenty-five years, first as a city reporter and then covering the art world. Kennedy’s prose about the large hold of small places, the people as weather-beaten as the landscape, grabs you and refuses to relinquish its grip. Original and enthralling, Presidio is American realism in the vein of John Steinbeck and Stephen Crane.

The first thing I saw when I unwrapped my copy of Presidio was a blurb by Larry McMurtry, sitting at the top of the cover like a crown. McMurtry frequently obliges his tetchy reputation. During a speech at a Fort Worth museum in 1981, in the first-person testimony of then–book editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Larry Swindell, McMurtry “categorically put down Texas writing and Texas writers, dismissing them individually and collectively as having produced no literature of lasting value.” McMurtry charges sentimentality regarding myths of ourselves. We generally plead guilty, which is what makes his blurb of Kennedy’s first novel a surprise. So, expectations raised.

Troy, emotionally fragile, is a wild thing, all eyes and ears and reflexes. He woke one morning, a switch in his head having flipped sometime in the night, and decided to check out of conventional society, to embark on “the careful and highly precarious maintenance of a life almost completely purified of personal property,” never feeling better than when he’s on the move. The notes he left in the last stolen car list some of his favorites things, including stealing cars, a task in which “habit was [his] chief accomplice,” his “only adversaries dogs and insomniacs,” and motel rooms during hot afternoons smelling of “freon and anonymity.”

Troy’s narrative alternates between third person and those first-person notes, as well as back and forth in time, from formative vignettes to the current aborted search for Bettie turned run for the border. Troy’s dry humor and weary, paranoid voice claims stealing cars a way of life, “a calling that felt almost religious … I would have been its reverend, preaching my message of freedom through loss from my pulpit behind the dashboard.” This is when I had a conversion experience.

Rendering a sparse land in rich detail, Kennedy writes West Texas as James Lee Burke writes New Iberia. I live in the part of Texas Kennedy writes about, so I step out my front door into Kennedy’s landscape and it is spot-on, the land acting as a fourth main character.

Precise, economical word choices pack an emotional punch out of proportion to their brevity. When Troy visits his family’s cemetery plot he thinks that “all he ever felt in a cemetery was a sense of looking for something in the wrong place,” the dash after a birth date on a gravestone for a man not yet passed is a “cruel piece of punctuation standing in for a man’s whole life.”

Expectations met. Presidio is a modern tale of the Old West, of life on the shifting margins with grifters and drifters, a peculiarly American restlessness.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Book trailer & giveaway: THAT ONE MOMENT by Patty Wiseman


  Genre: Fiction / Romantic Suspense
Date of Publication: May 8, 2017
Number of Pages: 258

Scroll down for Giveaway!

Ricki Sheridan traveled a long way to seek refuge at Wolf Den's Lodge high in the mountains after a devastating betrayal. Heartbroken, she signed up for a survivalist backpacking trip to live off the land and forget.

An injury on the first day puts her in the capable hands of the handsome trail boss, Kory Littleton. The attraction is instant, mutual, and terrifying. She trusted her emotions once and vowed never to make the same mistake again.

Kory's heart, trampled and bruised, is unprepared to ever love again, until his unexpected reaction to Ricki reveals some things are worth taking a chance on.

When evil finds its way back into Ricki's world, their fragile bond is tested, forcing them to face their greatest fear: can a wounded heart ever trust anew?

Betrayal. Desire. Revenge. Which one prevails?

Praise for That One Moment:
Patty Wiseman, as well as anyone and better than most, sure knows how to write the three basic ingredients of a page-turning and unforgettable novel: mystery, suspense, and romance. 
-- Caleb & Linda Pirtle ~ Here Comes a Mystery

"It was pure perfection!" -- Jessa, Amazon Reviewer

"Author Patty Wiseman does a good job of injecting so much action into just the first two pages that I had high expectations for this story. And That One Moment does not disappoint." 
-- Natasha Jackson for Readers' Favorite

Award Winning Author Patty Wiseman is a native of the Seattle, Washington area and attended The Wesleyan College in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Northeast Texas is home now, along with her husband Ron.  She is the president of East Texas Writer’s Association, a Lifetime Member of the Worldwide Who’s Who for Professional Women (and named VIP for 2013), and a member of the Northeast Texas Writer’s Organization, East Texas Writer’s Guild, and Texas Association of Authors.
August 14-23, 2018

Book Trailer
Character Interview
Author Interview
BONUS Review
Author Interview
Scrapbook Page
Character Interview

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday Roundup: TEXAS BOOKISH CALENDAR August 13-19, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of August 13-19, 2018: 

Special Events:
3rd Annual Literary Libations Week: a Lit Crawl Austin fundraiser, Austin, August 12-15

Ongoing Exhibits:
Interabang Books, Mimi Swartz discussing and signing Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Robert Wagner discussing and signing MOBY DICK AND THE MYTHOLOGY OF OIL, 7PM

Murder By the Book, Gina Wohlsdorf will sign and discuss Blood Highway, 6:30PM

Warehouse Live, The Moth StorySLAM: Collaboration, 7:30PM

San Antonio
The Mix, PuroSlam Summer Fest Part I, 9:30PM

Wednesday, August 15:
Avant Garden, Write About Now Poetry Open Mic featuring Alex Tha Great, 7:30PM

Thursday, August 16:

The Heritage Society, Noon Lecture Series: The Chicken Ranch with author Jayme Lynn Blaschke, 12PM

George W. Bush Childhood Home, Third Thursday Reading Program: Laura Bush Literacy Event, 4:30PM

San Antonio
Culture Commons Gallery, Thirty Poems for the Tricentennial, A Poetic Legacy Exhibit, 6PM

Sugar Land

Friday, August 17:


San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Vincent Di Blasi reading and signing Creating Cassandra, 5PM

Saturday, August 18:
Austin History Center, Chuck Parsons discussing and signing Ben Thompson: Portrait of a Gunfighter, 2PM

Interabang Books, Suzanne Crowley reading and signing FINDING ESME, 1PM

El Paso
Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop: "The Radical Amazement of Rumi IV" with Robin Scofield, 12:45PM

Fort Worth
Funky Town Festival, Panther City Review 2018 launch, 4PM

Monkey & Dog Books, George Goldthwaite will read from and sign Survival on Mystery Mesa, as well as reveal the cover art for his next book, 1PM 

Brazos Bookstore, Special story time with Jason Gallaher reading Whobert Whover, 10:30AM

Half Price Books - Clear Lake, Local Author Saturdays: Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

Katy Budget Books, StoryCulture Awards Ceremony: Winners of the StoryCulture Short Story Contest will be announced and presented with a bound copy of the collection of selected short stories, 4PM

Murder By the Book, William Dylan Powell will sign and discuss 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die, 2nd Edition, 4:30PM

Dead Tree Books, Shawn Settle signing Trust Me, 1PM

The Twig Book Shop, Hector Pacheco signing Canary Islanders of San Antonio, 11AM

Sulphur Springs
The Bookworm Box, 5 Author Signing: Colleen Hoover, Abbi Glines, Daryl Banner, Tammara Webber, and Fisher Amelie, 1PM

B&N, John L. Lansdale signing Long Walk Home, 12PM

Sunday, August 19:
Katy Budget Books, Author Signing: Lily Blackwood (The Warrior of Clan Kincaid), Shana Galen (An Affair with a Spare), and Sophie Jordan (The Duke Buys a Bride), 3PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, H. Rick Goff signing A Line in the Water, 12PM

Monday, August 6, 2018

Monday Roundup: TEXAS BOOKISH EVENTS for August 6-12, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of August 6-12, 2018: 

Special Events:
Harry Potter LeakyCon, Dallas, August 10-12

Texas Sports Hall of Fame 2nd Annual Book Festival, Waco, August 11

3rd Annual Literary Libations Week: a Lit Crawl Austin fundraiser, Austin, August 12-15

Ongoing Exhibits:
Oliver Jeffers: 15 Years of Picturing Books, Abilene, June 7-September 30

Monday, August 6:
Brazos Bookstore, Michael Arceneaux - I CAN’T DATE JESUS, 7PM

Tuesday, August 7:
Houston Public Library, Mimi Swartz discussing her latest book, Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart (in conversation with Maggie Galehouse), 6:30PM

San Antonio

Avant Garden, Write About Now National Slam Team Send Off Show & Open Mic, 7:30PM

Thursday, August 9:
The Wild Detectives, Antonia Williams-Gary discussing and signing her memoir, Reclaimed, 7:30PM

Sterling Events Austin, NeoSoul Poetry Slam ft Atmosphere the Poet, 6PM

Fort Worth


Katy Budget Books, BookCulture: Syria, 1PM

B&N - San Pedro, Samuel G. May signing From the Pastor's Pen, 2PM


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Review: EMERGENCY CONTACT by Mary H.K. Choi

I reviewed Emergency Contact (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) by Mary H.K. Choi for Lone Star Literary Life. This YA novel is a compulsively readable debut—tender and awkward, sweet and sad, and lol funny.

Mary H. K. Choi
Emergency Contact
Hardcover, 978-1-5344-0896-8 (also available as an e-book and audio-book), 400 pgs., $17.99
March 27, 2018

Penny is eighteen, beginning her freshman year at UT Austin. She’s funny, smart, and curious (in both senses of that word). She’s an anxious introvert who “would rather eat a pound of hair than reveal her true emotions,” highly organized, and a bit of a germaphobe. Penny, “living in books until the exciting part of her life could begin,” can’t wait to get away from her mother and her hometown boyfriend and begin her life as a science-fiction writer.

Sam is twenty-one with “irresponsible hair,” managing the Coffee House where he’s famous for his mad baking skills. He wants to be a documentary filmmaker but had to drop out of college because he couldn’t afford it. A bit adrift, Sam is lonely, lives on a mattress upstairs at the coffee shop, trying to remain sober in the face of despair and “gutted” by a broken heart. Penny discovers Sam as he’s in the middle of a panic attack on 6th Street (“a Disneyland Main Street for day drinkers”), and they exchange phone numbers in case of emergency.

Emergency Contact is the first novel from Mary H. K. Choi, who grew up in Hong Kong and Texas. Choi writes for the New York Times, GQ, Wired, and Atlantic. She has also written comics for DC and Marvel and published a collection of essays called Oh, Never Mind. Choi hosts the “Hey, Cool Job!” podcast and is a correspondent for HBO’s “VICE News Tonight.” Emergency Contact is a compulsively readable debut—tender and awkward, sweet and sad, and lol funny.

This fast-paced story is told through the alternating third-person narrations of Penny and Sam, two compelling, complex, flawed characters with satisfyingly detailed backstories. Choi employs an evocative economy of words. She dives into devices and social media, arguing that the generation coming of age now is not emotionally stunted, even if they do use emojis—emotional shorthand. Penny and Sam are sharing themselves in what they consider to be a safe space, even if that space is an iPhone. “They could get to know each other completely and get comfortable,” Penny thinks, “before they had to do anything unnecessarily overwhelming like look at each other’s eyeballs with their eyeballs.” The dialogue flows smoothly, even when things are, like, so awk.
“I ask you about a personal trauma and you tell me about the catering?”
Penny nodded.
“You’re bad at this.”
Penny nodded again.
“You need therapy.”
Penny nodded a third time.
“Are you sad?”
She was.
“You know you can tell me anything,” said Jude.
Penny regarded her roommate’s big sorrowful eyes and knew it to be true.
“I’m going to hug you now,” Jude warned.
I spent a good deal of time lying about and smiling while reading Emergency Contact, forgetting to take notes. Penny and Sam are workshopping life, and I’ve become so fond of them that I wish I could check in on them to see how they’re doing. They tug at our heartstrings, unravel them, then tie the loose ends into knots. The untangling is fraught, delicate work. Choi pulls no punches and her topics include but are not limited to: absent fathers; disappointing, damaged, single mothers; sexual assault; unintended pregnancy; substance addiction; depression; and the slow suicide by poison that happens when anger is nurtured.

Emergency Contact is beautiful inside and out, all pink and black and rose gold. Penny and Sam inspire and comfort each other, feeling their way to a rapprochement with adulting one mistake at a time, in search of their person and their tribe.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR July 30-August 5, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of July 30-August 5, 2018: 

Special Events:
Texas Writers' League Summer Writing Retreat, Nacogdoches July 29-August 3

40th Annual Armadillo Con, Austin, August 3-5

26th Annual Texas Christian Writers' Conference, Houston, August 4

Ongoing Exhibits:

Half Price Books - Clear Lake, IT'S A HARRY POTTER BIRTHDAY PARTY! Grab your wand, put on your robe, hop on your Nimbus 2000. Dress in your best wizarding attire and enjoy treats, coloring, puzzles and games with prizes, plus readings from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 2PM

Murder By the Book, Edgar Cantero will sign and discuss This Body's Not Big Enough for Both of Us, 6:30PM

San Antonio
Thursday, August 2:
Interabang Books, Brooke McAlary discussing and signing SLOW: SIMPLE LIVING FOR A FRANTIC WORLD, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, J. Patrick Rick discussing and signing EXPUNGED, 7PM

Contemporary Arts Museum, Words & Art Ekphrastic Poetry & Prose Reading, 6:30PM

San Antonio
Igo Library, Frank Faulkner discussing Historic Photos of San Antonio, 2PM

Sugar Land

Fort Worth
B&N - Hulen Center, The Gutfeld Monologues: Classic Rants from the Five book signing with Greg Gutfeld, 12PM

Half Price Books - North Oaks, Local Author Saturdays: Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

Stimley Blue Ridge Neighborhood Library, Public Poetry Monthly Reading Series featuring Sean Johnson, Savanah Burns, Rai Crawford, and Elena Gonzales Melinger, 2PM

Writespace, Workshop: "How to Write Great Dialogue" with KJ Russell, 9:30AM

Writespace, Workshop: "Jump Start Your Writing with Travel" with Dr. Cynthia Childress, 1PM

Port Aransas
Port Aransas Community Center, Seasons at Selah, the Legacy of Bamberger Ranch Preserve with discussion & book signing by David K Langford, 11AM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre, Writers Workshop, 2PM

San Antonio

Red Cat & Co., Michael Cirlos will be signing Humans of San Antonio, 10:30AM

The Twig Book Shop, Sara Mitchell signing Love Love Bakery: A Wild Home For All, 11AM


River Oaks Bookstore, Mike Damante discussing and signing Punk Rock and UFOs: Cryptozoology Meets Anarchy, 3PM