Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review: HAWKE'S PREY by Reavis Z. Wortham

I reviewed Hawke's Prey: A Sonny Hawke Thriller (Pinnacle Books) by Texas's Reavis Z. Wortham for Lone Star Literary Life. This is the first installment in a brand-new series by the author of the popular Red River Mystery series. While uneven, Hawke's Prey has definite promise and is a fun read.

Reavis Z. Wortham
Hawke’s Prey: A Sonny Hawke Thriller
Mass Market Paperback, 978-0-7860-4176-3, (also available as an e-book and on Audible), 320 pgs., $9.99
June 27, 2017

The Syrian students have been ostensibly studying literature, so the go-signal is, fittingly, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Namely, themselves.

Fictional Ballard, Texas (aka Marfa), in nonfictional Presidio County, is rapidly closing shop in the face of a freak blizzard. With the entire region paralyzed, no outside help is coming when an unholy alliance of “radical Muslims,” Mexican cartel members, and homegrown Texas secessionists (“fans of the original Red Dawn”) strikes the county courthouse.

Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke is in the courthouse when the attack begins. His schoolteacher wife (“who weighs a hundred pounds soaking wet and full of bananas”) and their children are taken hostage along with her students, county officials and employees, and random citizens. Ranger Hawke must channel his inner Bruce Willis and save the day, Die Hard–style.

Hawke’s Prey: A Sonny Hawke Thriller is the first in a new series from Texas’s Reavis Z. Wortham, author of the popular Red River Mystery series. Hawke’s Prey is an intuitive, creative synthesis of contemporary politics and policy into an original plot. Backed up by a solid, colorful cast of townspeople, leavening humor, and fast-paced action, it has definite promise.

Wortham writes excellent action sequences and knows how to ratchet tension. The fast-paced action takes off on page two and never stops. Aside from Ranger Hawke’s first-person account, the story unfolds in multiple third-person narratives. These alternating perspectives become unwieldy and intermittently confusing as the same action is relayed multiple times. Wortham’s plot is twisty and full of unexpected elements, and his subplots are expertly woven, a weird sexual proclivity of the attack’s mastermind notwithstanding—it’s merely strange, adding nothing to the story.

With pitch-perfect West-Texas flavor (“mean as a rattlesnake and twice as likely to strike”), Wortham paints a complex picture of Ballard, providing good backstories for his large cast of characters. We all know, and secretly love, the Mayo brothers of our hometowns. A disappointment in this roster is very few women in law enforcement, and we read as much about the physical attractiveness of the woman in the citizen-posse as we do her military experience.

Wortham’s details add dimension and personality: his mercenaries use code names from The Wizard of Oz; there’s a “covey of Red Hat women” in the hotel command post; the ranch hand who never learned to swear fluently in English; a terrorist mastermind with OCD. Wortham does a great job juxtaposing mundane details and the shock of an extraordinary intrusion: seconds before the attack begins, the sheriff is complaining about the snicker doodle-flavored coffee his receptionist is trying out in the office coffeepot.

As in any coalition, different factions have their own agendas, priorities, and prejudices. Wortham uses this to sly effect when a homegrown nut cradling his assault rifle notes, “All of those foreigners with automatic weapons [make me] nervous.” There are some odd word choices (men “squirting” out of a van), and Hawke’s folksy tone during a fight with an armed terrorist (“our little rasslin’ match”) is incongruous. However, the use of local superstition as a determining factor in a climactic scene is inspired.

This first installment of the Sonny Hawke series is uneven, but it is a fun read.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

THE ELDRIDGE CONSPIRACY BOOK 4: Don Winn's Inspiration Scrapbook & Giveaway

Sir Kaye the Boy Knight, Book 4
Don M. Winn

  Genre: Children’s Chapter Book / Adventure / Medieval
Publisher: Progressive Rising Phoenix Press
Date of Publication: June 16, 2017
Number of Pages: 166, B&W illustrations

Scroll down for Giveaway!

Kaye’s father is in danger! The young knight, Kaye, and his friends Reggie and Beau enter Eldridge in search of the only man who can save Kaye's father. During their journey, they encounter and make a powerful enemy of Baron Thomas—the self-proclaimed heir to the throne of Eldridge—who also has his sights set on ruling the country of Knox. Together, the boys dodge the baron’s henchmen and race against time to stop an assassination that would plunge the two kingdoms into war in this exciting conclusion to the series.

"This set of books just gets better and better. Yes, it’s a non-stop adventure, packed full of nasty barons and battling knights. But it’s also a story which is strongly-themed and where the bond between the characters is highly prized." —The Wishing Shelf Awards Book Review

“Books of adventure and challenge that still offer an emotional component are hard to come by for middle-grade readers—and even more so for middle-grade boys—yet Don M. Winn hits the mark dead center with The Eldridge Conspiracy.” —Patricia Reding, 5-Star Readers’ Favorite Book Review
“This is more than just a fictional story; it teaches children about life, about friendship, making decisions, and about not putting too much stock in pride all the time – sometimes pride gets in the way of making the right decision. Great story. I would recommend that the whole series be read in order to get the most out of it and I think all kids will enjoy this tale.” —Ann-Marie Reynolds, 5-Star Readers’ Favorite Book Review

“The Eldridge Conspiracy was a rewarding read due to a wonderful writing style of incorporating dynamic characters, humor, relevancy, and the thought that even without superpowers, children can be heroes.” —Stacey Waltzer, Urban Mommies 


Don M. Winn is a multiple award-winning children’s author of eleven picture books and four children's novels. His Sir Kaye the Boy Knight® series of novels for independent readers include The Knighting of Sir Kaye, The Lost Castle Treasure, Legend of the Forest Beast, and The Eldridge Conspiracy. Don's picture books include The Higgledy-Piggledy Pigeon; Superhero; Twitch the Squirrel and the Forbidden Bridge; Shelby the Cat; Space Cop Zack, Protector of the Galaxy; and many others. 

Don has been writing for over 20 years. After beginning with poetry, Winn moved on to writing children’s picture books. Almost immediately, his growing young readers begged for chapter books, which led to the creation of the Sir Kaye series. As a dyslexic, who well knows the challenge of learning to love to read, Winn's goal is to write books that are so engaging they will entice even the most reluctant or struggling reader. Winn lives in Round Rock, Texas.

Three Sir Kaye #4 ARCs + 1 Sir Kaye Series Study Guide!
June 14-June 28, 2017


Book Trailer
Guest Post 1
Author Interview
Scrapbook Page 1
Guest Post 2
Character Interview
Educators' Special
Scrapbook Page 2

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 6/26-7/2

Bookish events in Texas for the week of June 26-July 2, 2017: 

Special Events:
2017 National Federation of State Poetry Societies Convention, Fort Worth, June 29-July 2

Writers' League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference, Austin, June 30-July 2

Interabang Books opens, Dallas, July 1

Ongoing Exhibits:

Sandra Cisneros: A House of Her Own Exhibition, San Marcos, February 15-July 1

Of Texas Rivers and Texas Art, Austin, June 5-August 13

Print Houston 2017, June 5-July 3

Illustrator of the Century Garth Williams, Abilene, June 8-September 1

George Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio, San Antonio, June 23-September 4

Monday, June 26:
BookPeople, MEG GARDINER speaking & signing UNSUB, 7PM


B&N - Vanderbilt Square, Kimberla Lawson Roby signs Sin of a Woman, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Laura Lee Huttenbach discusses and signs RUNNING WITH RAVEN, 7PM

Lubbock Public Library - Groves, Bill Neeley will discuss and sign The Quest of Don Juan Sequin, 6:30PM

Tuesday, June 27:

Murder By the Book, Meg Gardiner will sign and discuss Unsub, 6:30PM

San Antonio
The Korova, PuroSlam!, 10PM

Wednesday, June 28:

Thursday, June 29:
BookPeople, JAMES POULOS speaking & signing The Art of Being Free, 7PM

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

Briscoe Western Art Museum, Helen Kleberg Groves signs her new book, Bob and Helen Kleberg of King Ranch, 5:30PM

B&N - Town Square, Midnight Jewel discussion and signing with Richelle Mead, 6PM

Sugar Land
B&N - First Colony, Storytime With Local Author Maria Ashworth, 10AM

Friday, June 30:

Murder By the Book, Christopher Farnsworth will sign Flashmob, 6:30PM
Saturday, July 1:

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre, Meet the Author Series: children's book author Patty York Raymond, 1PM

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: LAS NALGAS DE JLO by Bárbara Renaud González

'Daughter of a Mexican mother and a Tejano father, González “tried to share the conversations [her] community was having around the kitchen table.”'
I reviewed Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writing by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995–2005 (Aztlan Libre Press) by Bárbara Renaud González for Lone Star Literary Life

Bárbara Renaud González
Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writing by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995–2005
Aztlan Libre Press
Paperback, 978-0-9897-7823-7, 290 pgs., $24.00
March 1, 2017

Bárbara Renaud González writes deep and wide: politics from the city council to the United Nations; culture and the appropriation thereof; the links between poor education and an ever-increasing prison population; the deference afforded to, and the outsized power of, big business; climate change, feminism, gender, sexuality, immigration, art, religion, identity—you know, everything. But above all and always, class in our supposedly classless society.

Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writing by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995–2005 is the first collection of González’s writing. It includes columns, essays, poems, speeches, reviews, articles, and commentary from such outlets as the San Antonio Express-News, the Los Angeles Times, the Texas Observer, Z Magazine, the Dallas Morning News, Ms. Magazine, and NPR. Daughter of a Mexican mother and a Tejano father, González “tried to share the conversations [her] community was having around the kitchen table.”

González calls out the malicious: “If you’re poor, Black or Latino in this state, our racist history seasoned with our hang-em-high frontier, laced with an eye-for-an-eye Christianity has created a lethal stew of punishment and cruelty.” She’s acerbic with the nonsensical: “it’s ugly to be born brown, but it’s a status thing if you are able to return the color of iced-tea from a visit to Cancún … Brown depends.”

She’s relentless with the hypocritical: “For a man who hung out with lepers, [and] cripples, … Jesus [is] … now real close and personal with senators and governors … Jesus didn’t die … for school vouchers as an answer to unequal public schools … If he were here today, he … wouldn’t live very long before getting shot or going to jail.” González educates the oblivious: “We acquire the trappings of the ethnic—the spiritual retablos and saints, and turquoise drops, the Spanish red roofs. We visit the Paseo of the Arboretum, the suburbs of Las Colinas, the fiestas of summer … But as we continue to acquire, to feast and market a culture, we deny the existence of the culture’s guardians—those Mexican people who have become aliens on their own … we must examine and not just acquire the cultural effects that divide us … our culture [must not be] for consumption only.”

Sometimes González’s writing is unexpectedly lyrical. The frijoles negros in Guatemala are like “a chocolate breeze, a palmful of caviar, the flametip of cognac all at once.” Barbacoa is “silky and juicy and ay, how good it tastes, how the kids are laughing and the grease delicious, like memories slipping from the mouth to the chin to the table. Staining us with the past.”

González insists that we look and that we see. It can be disheartening and infuriating to read the dates on these pieces (“Blaming the Immigrant,” 1996) and realize how much remains the same: “there is here … yesterday has begun again.” Las Nalgas de JLo is an important collection, a gift, not only for Texas, but especially for Texas.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 6/19-25

Bookish events in Texas for the week of June 19-25, 2017: 

Special Events:
11th Annual African American Book Festival, Austin, June 24

Dallas Author Expo, The Colony, June 24

Ongoing Exhibits:

Sandra Cisneros: A House of Her Own Exhibition, San Marcos, February 15-July 1

Of Texas Rivers and Texas Art, Austin, June 5-August 13

Print Houston 2017, June 5-July 3

Illustrator of the Century Garth Williams, Abilene, June 8-September 1

Monday, June 19:
BookPeople, AMELIA GRAY speaking & signing Isadora (in conversation with Susan Quesal), 7PM

Dozen Street, Chicon Street Poets featuring Donna Hilbert (plus Haiku challenge and open mic), 7PM

Murder By the Book, Mike Maden will sign Tom Clancy Point of Contact, 6:30PM

Tuesday, June 20:

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Fort Worth Poetry Slam and open mic!, 8PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Carolyn Parkhurst will discuss and sign her novel HARMONY, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Jennifer Latson discusses and signs THE BOY WHO LOVED TOO MUCH, 7PM

Architecture Center Houston (ArCH), AIA Houston, ArCH, and the Houston Public Library present Authors in Architecture: Pino Shah and Stephen Fox discuss and sign Architecture of The Lower Rio Grande Valley: An Introduction, 5:30PM

Four Leaf Towers, World Affairs Council of Greater Houston hosts retired CIA operations officer Charles Goslin discussing and signing Understanding Personal Security and Risk: A Guide for Business Travelers, 6:30PM

McGovern Centennial Gardens at Hermann Park, Doug Hoerr will discuss and sign Movement and Meaning, which features the McGovern Centennial Park, plus a tour of the gardens, 5PM

Moody Center for the Arts, Celebrate the release of Gulf Coast Journal Issue 29.2, 7PM

Air Race Classic, Sarah Byrn Rickman will be signing Finding Dorothy Scott: Letters of a WASP Pilot, 11AM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Edie Jarolim discusses and signs Getting Naked For Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All, 5PM

Sugar Land
B&N - First Colony, Storytime With Local Author Maria Ashworth, 10AM

Friday, June 23:

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Will Jensen reads and signs Cities of Men, 5PM

Saturday, June 24:


Deep Vellum Books, Dark Moon Poetry reading series, 7PM

El Paso
El Paso Public Library - Memorial Park, Tumblewords Project workshop: "Catharsis: A Workshop on Emotional Literature" with Evan Taylor, 12:45PM

Fort Worth
B&N - Hulen Center, Urban Cowgirl: Decadently Southern, Outrageously Texan, Food, Family Traditions, and Style for Modern Life book signing with Sarah Penrod, 2PM

Galveston Bookshop, N. E. Brown signs The Altercation, the 6th installment of the Galveston Indignities series, 11AM

Galveston Bookshop, Birney T. “Chick” Havey signs his WWII memoir, Never Left the Battlefields, 2PM

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

Half Price Books - Kirkwood, Local Author Saturdays: Meet local Indie author Sarafia Jones–Hall and pick up her latest release, while supplies last

Houston Public Library - Young Branch, Author ALOUD with romance author Cydney Rax, 2PM

Murder By the Book, Haylen Beck (Stuart Neville) will sign and discuss Here and Gone, 4:30PM
B&N - La Cantera, Guest author Aurora Dawning book signing, 1PM

Ruiz-Healy Art, Helen Kleberg Groves will read and sign copies of her new book, Bob and Helen Kleberg of King Ranch, 2PM

The Twig Book Shop, Eric Sirotkin signs Witness: A Lawyer's Journey from Litigation to Liberation, 2PM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre, Reflejos de Estrella: Cuentos que sanan el alma (Star Reflexes: Stories That Heal the Soul) discussion, reception, and signing with author Blanca Dominguez, 1PM

B&N - Town Square, Paige Bowers signing The General's Niece, 1PM

Sunday, June 25: