Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Exciting news for all of you who loved the review of THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D. by Nichole Bernier! Crown/Random House has generously provided a copy of this book for a giveaway contest. So here are the criteria to enter the contest:

1. Be a follower of Texas Book Lover. If you're not already a follower sign up - it's easy!
2. Leave a comment about the contest at
3. Share this giveaway on FaceBook.

The winner will be drawn randomly. The contest starts NOW and ends on July 3rd.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

By Nichole Bernier
Crown/Random House, 309 pgs
Submitted by Random House
Rating: 5

"Kate lowered her nose to Emily's head and breathed in Johnson's baby shampoo, a hormonal cocktail that among women who have children not long out of diapers drew the Pavlovian, Another." There, there. Is that not the most beautiful sentence you have ever read? If not then please leave me a comment with your contender because I have to read that book now. I read this sentence, page 9, and swooned. I knew then that Elizabeth D. would be a 5.

I proceeded to lose myself in questions of marriage, motherhood, profession, individuality and identity.The classic and ever-present question: Can you ever really know another person?

The aforementioned Elizabeth died in a plane crash, leaving a husband and 3 small children. She has been keeping a journal faithfully since she was a child and all of these journals are locked in a trunk. In her will Elizabeth left her journals to her best friend Kate, also married with 2 small children, with the express wish that Kate read them. Summer vacation is coming up, a few weeks in a rented bungalow on Great Rock Island, so Kate brings the trunk with her and begins with the oldest journal.

Kate had thought she knew Elizabeth to be the consumate mother and mate, blessed by the goddess with innate talent for homemaking and compassion for family, a born nurturer, satisfied. But this is not the Elizabeth portrayed in the journals. That Elizabeth kept secrets: she had had a younger sister; she had attended the fine arts program in painting at NYU; she spent a year in Florence as a student; she had had a miscarriage before the birth of her son; she had loved her job in advertising; she suffered with post-partum depression. In the months before her death Elizabeth had met a man named Michael and she was going to meet him in California when she died. But that fact is not as it seems either.

Page 188: "Why is it so hard for me? I'm always tripped up by what I think is expected of me, trying to act the right way. This should not be brain surgery. Feed child, dress child, cook food, pay bills, and don't let in utter strangers when you're home alone." This poor woman, oh Elizabeth! You tried so hard, didn't you? Domesticity didn't come as naturally to you as you assumed it would; as you assumed it did for the other mothers in the play group.  

Page 200: "I cried on the train, face turned to the window. Who am I kidding? You can do all your gymnastics to try and fool Mother Nature, use all your fancy gadgets and pills and pumps and sitters, but biology always wins in the end."

Page 131: "I knew then that it's not true anymore that my choices are open. Unless you want to breach every expectation, live life with no boundaries or limitations. There are repercussions..." I read this and remember how I always thought I wanted to live that way, question everything, ask "Why?" But I no longer have the courage for that sort of thing. Or is it "courage" to accept the strictures? Is the better part of valor to assume the mantle of self-discipline, expectation and tradition? Or maybe not. Two of my three children don't want to marry or have children and I can't help but wonder what bearing my choices have had on them. How can you know?

Page 200: "Standing there with the AAA guy I saw my life as an endless loop of the same scene. No matter how many times I imagined driving away or how many times I packed a bag and really did it, I would never reach the FDR." I recognize this scene. I still get the same urge when I find myself west bound on I-20 late in the afternoon or evening. I have managed to stave off departure to date.

And then this on page 123: "I watched him walk away toward the corner with a rolling gait that bounces on the balls of his feet, solid and heavy like a draft horse, but light like a very contented one. He looks as if he could carry you a thousand miles if he had to." I knew a man years ago who walked like that. And he could have. He chose to carry someone else, alas. The ability to string the perfect words into the perfect order that evokes a memory such as this is rare. And Nichole Bernier is a rare talent. This is her first novel and I can hardly wait, anticipating the delights to come. Write faster Nichole! Write faster!

For more about the author:

The author is also a founder of the literary website

For more about the publisher:

Monday, June 18, 2012


Q&A with Sheila Allee
Writers’ League of Texas Interim Executive Director

Q: What is the Writers’ League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference?
A: The conference offers writers – whether they are published or just starting out – the chance to meet with agents and editors who are looking for great books and new voices.

Q: Who should attend the conference?
A: Writers and aspiring writers, published and unpublished. This conference is not just for people who are already writing a book. If you’ve ever thought about writing a book and are interested in learning about the publishing industry, this is a good place to gather information.

Q: What are the benefits to attending?
A: We will have 13 agents, four editors, three experts in book publishing and film production, seven
marketing/publicity professionals, and over a dozen distinguished authors on our faculty. You will have opportunities to hear them share their tips about writing and the industry, as well as chat with them informally. You will also have the opportunity to network with other writers and form alliances that will help you in your future writing endeavors.

Q: Who will be speaking at this year’s conference?
A: Our keynote speaker is Alan Rinzler, an editor who has worked with Hunter S. Thompson, Toni Morrison, Clive Cussler, Tom Robbins and Robert Ludlum, among others. His speech will be about “Why This is the Best Time Ever to be an Author.”

Q: Who are some of the agents and editors represented at this year’s conference?
A: We have 13 agents who specialize in a wide variety of markets. Some of the agencies represented are Full Circle Literary, Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Pippin Properties, Folio Literary Management, Wendy Sherman Associates, Dystel and Goderich Literary Management, and Serendipity Literary.

Q: What types of panels will be featured?
A: We have a range of panels for people at any stage of a writing career. Some sessions are craft workshops and are designed to help develop voice, write a memoir, or bring out the writer in you. Other sessions educate attendees on the business end of writing, with panels on how to impress an agent, how to market your projects, and the different avenues of self-publishing.

Q: As a writer, what should I prepare or bring to this year’s conference?
A: If you have a book project and would like to talk with an agent about it, have your “elevator” pitch ready. It’s not necessary to bring your manuscript. If an agent wants to see it, he/she will ask.

Q: How long has this conference been going on?
A: The first conference was held in 1994 and it has been hosted annually since then.

Q: Do writers ever receive book deals while at this conference?
A: Writers very often sign with agents because of the conference and those agents secure book deals. A number of success stories from previous conferences are posted on our website.

Q: How should attendees prepare for their agent one-on-one meeting?
A: If you have a book to pitch to an agent, be sure to have your “pitch” ready when you have your agent consultation. A two to three-minute speech about your project’s basic plot, its genre/market, and what makes it unique is all that is necessary. This is an opportunity to get feedback from an industry professional, so they should also come prepared with any burning questions about publishing or how to make their manuscript more salable. For a separate fee, we are offering a pre-conference workshop on how to perfect your pitch. It is scheduled the afternoon of Friday, June 22.

Q: What advice do you have for writers attending this year’s conference?
A: Come ready to learn about the ever-changing world of publishing and to network with other writers. Even if you don’t have a book that you are working on, you may have one in mind and the knowledge you gain and the connections you make at the conference will be very helpful when you sit down to write.

Q: What’s the difference between the agents conference general ticket and the agents conference YA A to Z ticket?
A: The conference offers two workshop tracks – the general track and the Young Adult track. Attendees who sign up for the general track will be able to attend workshops and panels on a broad range of topics relating to writing, publishing and marketing many book genres. The YA track is for writers who are writing young adult fiction.
Registrants can also purchase a combined ticket and attend any of the sessions.

Q: What are the event dates?
A: June 22-24

Q: What is the cost to attend the conference?
A: If you are a member of the Writers’ League, the cost is $399. For nonmembers, the fee is $459. If you want to attend the Young Adult track only, the fee is $299 for members and $359 for nonmembers. Attendees wanting to attend both the general and Young Adult tracks will be charged $434, with nonmembers paying $494.
We will accept walk-ins, but the registration fee will be higher. A full listing of costs is located on our website

Q: Where is this year’s conference?
A: Austin’s Hyatt Regency Hotel

611 S. Congress Ave. Suite 505, Austin TX 78704 • Phone: 512-499-8914 • Fax: 512-499-0441 •

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


By Steve Sherwood
Texas Review Press, 214 pgs
Submitted by TCU Press
Rating: 3.75

Hardwater has so much going on it can be difficult to keep track. In this case, that's not a bad thing. Peter Hoback is a newspaper editor in Hardwater, Wyoming, a small town that has seen better times, before the uranium mines closed. Pete fled Denver for Hardwater with his son Bart following the violent death of his wife at the hands of a psychopath. And wouldn't you know it: up pops another psychopath.

Hardwater begins as Pete gets an anonymous tip about a multiple murder. He arrives at the site, a vacation cabin in the mountains, and finds 3 bodies arranged in a triangle: scalped, throats cut, clutching a sage branch in one hand and barley in the other, their mouths wedged open with quartz crystals. The torsos have been slit open and sewn shut again. At autopsy the bodies are found to have yellow cake uranium packed into the cavities.

Meanwhile, back at the reservation, the Supreme Court has handed down a decision in favor of upholding water rights of the Shoshone tribe. There are threats and accusations flying as the Anglo ranchers form a posse. Yep, posse. It's not long before blood is shed, irrigation shut off, roads blocked and say howdy to the Wyoming National Guard.

Pete Hoback is friends with the tribal authorities and does his best to remain a neutral reporter while documenting both stories for his newspaper. Then he gets another tip and finds a poem written by the psycho that points to more bodies. Pete puts the clues together and finds three more victims, identical to the first three. Then the killer threatens Bart and the chase is on.

This book reminds me of James Lee Burke and as regular followers of Texas Book Lover know, that is some of the highest praise I can give. Just as JLB evokes southern Louisiana to perfection, Steve Sherwood has brought us Wyoming. I also want to commend Mr. Sherwood on the ending. The story is not tied up with ribbon and bow. The author allows the ending to be messy. I would love to read more from this writer. He has the potential to be great. Steve Sherwood is an instructor at Texas Christian University and director of the William L. Adams Center for Writing. He won the George Garrett Fiction Prize, awarded by the Texas Review Press in 2003.

For more on the author:

For more on the Texas Review Press:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Grievers

By Marc Schuster
The Permanent Press, 176 pgs
Submitted by The Permanent Press
Rating: 3.5

The Grievers by Marc Schuster is a short novel about how a group of friends responds to the suicide of one of their own. And it's much funnier than it sounds. Our protagonist is Charley Schwartz, one of a group of men who attended the same exclusive private high school in Philadelphia. They are a diverse lot. Charley has a master's in English but currently impersonates a dollar sign on a sidewalk fronting a bank. Neil is a lawyer and Charley's best friend and surrogate parental figure. Greg lives with his mother, trolls for women online and is insane. Dwayne is a cop. Sean is a social worker who sells Volkswagens on weekends. Anthony is a producer and director of improbable musicals (Hogan's Heroes.) Billy Chin was a pharmacist and then he jumped off a bridge.

The group gets together and decides to make a donation to their old school's scholarship fund in Billy's name. This is a fantastic idea, yes? Then the marketing department at the school hijacks the idea and turns Billy's death into an excuse to put together a Billy Chin Festival, masquerading as a memorial service.

The Grievers follows Charley as he attempts to come to terms with Billy's suicide and the spectacle of fundraising it has inspired, as well as the questions it poses for Charley's future. He knows it's past time to grow up, to drop the cynical facade, square his shoulders, and take the risks necessary to build a satisfying adult life. This is my favorite line: "Because living and dying walk hand in hand, and the alternative to both is neither - cold as a stone, unchanging and lifeless."

Is it too late for redemption?

For more of Marc Schuster:

For the publisher:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Shop Your Texas Indie Bookstores!

Hello book lovers! I wanted to let y'all know that I have added a stand-alone page to Texas Book Lover. It is a list of Texas independent bookstores. The list is, I am sure, far from complete and this is where y'all come in. Please take a few minutes to review the list (click on the link at the top of this page) and then send me a comment with any independent bookstores you'd like to see added to the list. Thanks so much!