Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sins of the Younger Sons ~ ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Promo & Review!

Genre: Literary Fiction / Romance / Spy / Thriller
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press 
Facebook   Instagram
Publication Date: February 28, 2018
Number of Pages: 296 pages

Sins of the Younger Sons has received the Jesse H. Jones Award for Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters! Luke Burgoa is an ex-Marine on a solitary covert mission to infiltrate the Basque separatist organization ETA in Spain and help bring down its military commander, Peru Madariaga. Luke hails from a Basque ancestry that came with the Spanish empire to Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, and, seventy-five years ago, to a Texas ranch. Neighbors consider the Burgoas Mexican immigrants and exiles of that nation’s revolution, but the matriarch of the family speaks the ancient language Euskera and honors traditions of the old country. Luke’s orders are to sell guns to the ETA and lure Peru into a trap. Instead he falls in love with Peru’s estranged wife, Ysolina, who lives in Paris and pursues a doctorate about an Inquisition-driven witchcraft frenzy in her native land. From the day they cross the border into the Basque Pyrenees, their love affair on the run conveys the beauty, sensuality, exoticism, and violence of an ancient homeland cut in two by Spain and France. Their trajectory puts Luke, Ysolina, and Peru on a collision course with each other and the famed American architect Frank Gehry, whose construction of a Guggenheim art museum seeks to transform the Basque city of Bilbao, a decrepit industrial backwater haunted by the Spanish Civil War—and a hotbed of ETA extremism. Ranging from the Amazon rain forest to a deadly prison in Madrid, Sins of the Younger Sons is a love story exposed to dire risk at every turn.

"Reid’s story is a fascinating blend of page-turning thriller and vivid tableau of Basque culture and the movement that battled the Spanish establishment for many decades. A reader can’t ask for more—a book that’s engaging, entertaining, educative, and unique.” 
—Thomas Zigal, author of Many Rivers to Cross and The White League

“What a fine book Jan Reid has written!  At once history—both cultural and political—and sensual love story, it reaches beyond genre to make for a magical and profound reading experience.  Don’t start reading it at night unless you want to stay up until dawn and then some.” —Beverly Lowry, author of Who Killed These Girls? and Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life

"Page by page, Sins of the Younger Sons invites the reader to dwell for a while within its unique world, to suffer and celebrate with its unforgettable characters. It’s a trip that, if taken, is well worth the effort.” —Ed Conroy, San Antonio Express-News

"Sins of the Younger Sons vividly takes us into a world few of us have seen and into a bitter conflict most of us have never considered nor understood.” —Si Dunn, Dallas Morning News


HALL WAYS REVIEW: Sins of the Younger Sons is a story about journeys. There are the literal journeys of place, as readers travel with characters from the Pyrenees to south Texas to Paris, Madrid, Bilbao, and plenty of places in between. But there are also the journeys traveled by the main characters as they try to escape their mistakes, right wrongs, and change paths and reinvent themselves; these are journeys of the characters’ emotions, and they punch the reader in the gut.  I was mentally exhausted by the time I finished reading.

“Andre’s hired wranglers wore stained shirts, farm hats, and sideburns, looks of day wages and weary patience.”

It took some adjustment for me to get used to author Jan Reid’s writing style, but once I found the cadence, I slipped into the flow of it. Reid writes descriptively, so readers can envision the scenes, like when he speaks of “yellow hummocks of gorse” brightening the Basque landscape. I appreciate that Reid trusts his readers to keep up, but I’ll admit that sometimes I found the terminology and highly detailed, thick-with-facts historical elements somewhat of a barrier to the enjoyment of the book. Sins of the Younger Sons covers a lot of ground, but the author has done his research and enthusiastically weaves it into the story. Often, the details enrich, but just as often, I was confused and had to re-read passages to understand what was happening. I am embarrassed to say that I had to look up referenced cities because I wasn’t sure in which country scenes were set. The plus side is that I learned new things and was reminded of events I had forgotten. This is Reid’s love affair with the Basque culture and history.

I love language and linguistics and enjoyed the inclusion of so many Basque words and phrases, which Reid either defined or used contextually. There was never confusion when Basque, Spanish, or French were used in the text. Seeing the similarities in the languages (like correr in Basque to courir in French) was interesting, and I enjoyed the fierce loyalty the characters have to their heritages and languages. Reid’s inclusion of them is a reminder that no matter the separation, language always connects, too. It is also a reminder that language is living and must be used because when it dies, so does a huge piece of a culture.

Readers never get to know the main characters very well, but then, the characters are living lives veiled in secrecy and lies – and they struggle in their own ways to find their identities. Still, I wanted more clues to defining Luke, Ysolina, and Peru. Their relationship is somewhat of a love triangle, but what drives the love is nearly as vague as the characters themselves. And though there is clearly passion as a driving force (and a couple of awkward scenes), again, I wanted something more solid.

At its core, I suppose Sins of the Younger Sons is about love, but it’s not Hallmark card love; it’s love that has warts. It’s love that is misplaced or misunderstood or misdirected. (Or maybe just missed.) It is about love of people and places and country and culture and how love can get corrupted. Reid knows how to tell a story, and readers will immerse themselves in this world that merges fact and fiction so well.  An additional pass by a proofreader would be helpful to clear up errors and confusion created by typos, unclear pronouns, misplaced modifiers, and missing commas.

I recommend Sins of the Younger Sons to readers who enjoy stories that make history vivid, but which also have elements of suspense and surprise to keep interest piqued. This book has all the elements to keep readers engaged. Thank you to TCU Press and Lone Star Book Blog Tours for providing me a print copy in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. 

Jan Reid’s highly praised books include his novel Comanche Sundown, his biography of Texas governor Ann Richards, Let the People In, his memoir of Mexico, The Bullet Meant for Me, and The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock. Making his home in Austin, Reid has been a leading contributor to Texas Monthly for over forty years. 

Website ║ Facebook  


Author Interview

   blog tour services provided by

What Lies Below ~ ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Promo, Book Trailer, & Giveaway!

Barbara Taylor Sissel 
Genre: Contemporary Mystery / Literary Suspense
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Date of Publication: May 15, 2018
Number of Pages: 334
Scroll down for the giveaway!

Gilly O’Connell’s nightmares aren’t just bad dreams; they’re glimpses of terrifying realities to come. Gilly has spent her entire life trying to suppress the foreboding visions. So when a dismissed premonition leads to her husband’s murder, she buries the guilt and pain of the unsolved crime in the only way she knows how—she runs from it.
Three years later, after overcoming a battle with addiction and starting over in a small Texas town, Gilly dares to believe the worst is over. That is, until another crime rips her heart open: the abduction of a three-year-old girl. Gilly knows more about it than anyone…
She’s dreaming again.
Gilly is convinced that if she tells the police she dreamed of the kidnapping before it happened, there’s no way they’ll believe her. But when she finally gets the courage to come forward with what she saw, people don’t see her as crazy—they see her as a suspect.
Now, in order to help a desperate single father save his child, Gilly must first clear her own name. But as the nightmares of the past catch up to her, Gilly’s only chance for salvation might be the dreams she’s spent so long trying to ignore.

“Infused with heart-stopping suspense, emotional resonance, and startling imagery, What Lies Below swept me along a river of urgency and dread. Barbara Taylor Sissel effortlessly weaves together prescience, regret, grief, love, and revenge—all wrapped in the mystery of a young girl’s abduction. Beneath the breathless immediacy of the story lie deeper questions: How do we forgive ourselves—and others—for remembered transgressions, and can we ever break free of the past?” —A. J. Banner, #1 Amazon and USA Today bestselling author of The Good Neighbor and The Twilight Wife

“Barbara Taylor Sissel’s What Lies Below is suspense at its finest—heartrending, compelling, and beautifully written. If you’re looking for your next up-all-night read, look no further.” —Jessica Strawser, author of Almost Missed You and Not That I Could Tell

“I cannot emphasize this enough: you must read What Lies Below. Barbara Taylor Sissel manages to combine an unreliable narrator, twisting plot, and well imagined characters to create a world where nothing is as it seems and secrets abound. I had intended to savor the novel’s lovely prose but wound up devouring the book in a day. Simply fantastic.” —Karen McQuestion, bestselling author of Hello Love

 │ Amazon  │  Barnes and Noble │


Barbara Taylor Sissel writes issue oriented, upmarket women's fiction that is threaded with elements of suspense and defined by its particular emphasis on how crime affects the family. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, she was raised in various locations across the US and once lived with her family on the grounds of a first offender prison facility. The experience, interacting with the inmates and staff, provided a unique insight into the inmate's lives, the circumstances behind the crimes they committed, and the impact on the families that were affected. The bestselling author of nine novels, her stories focus on the family at the heart of the crime. An avid gardener and the mother of two grown sons, Barbara lives in the Texas Hill Country. She’s represented by Barbara Poelle at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.
 ║Website ║ Facebook BookBub
Amazon Author Page 
║ Twitter  Goodreads

1st PRIZE:
2nd PRIZE: 
MAY 15-24, 2018
Bonus Post
Author Interview
Notable Quotable/Bonus Review
Notable Quotable
Guest Post Part 1
Guest Post Part 2

   blog tour services provided by

Monday, May 14, 2018

Muriel Avenue Sluts ~ ~ Audio Book Blog Tour, Review, & Giveaway!

by Maggie Hasbrouck
Narrator: Julia Farmer
Length: 10 hours 23 minutes
Publisher: No Bones Studio
Released: Mar. 16, 2018
Genre: Suspense

Smart, surprising, and laced with a distinctly dark edge, Muriel Avenue Sluts is a provocative and ambitious story of suspense, revenge, love, and family ties - all in the most unexpected of places.

Seventeen-year-old Julia Turnbow’s mother gets paid to have sex; that’s just how it is. When Jules turns 18, she plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps and join the exclusive world of Philadelphia’s infamous Muriel Avenue Sluts. But before all that happens, she has just one wish - to fall in love.

Just when things seem to be going her way, Jules' world is knocked off its bearings. Her best friend, Anna, reveals that she’s being abused by one of Muriel Avenue’s gentleman clients. After a routine haircut and shave, Anna’s abuser falls to his death from a second-story balcony - and Jules is just one of two people who knows exactly what happened.

To complicate matters, Jules dives head first into a friendship with the daughter of the dead man. Greta’s a train wreck: She’s charming, unpredictable, and has one too many questions about Muriel Avenue. Then, Jules puts all of Muriel Avenue at risk with an ill-timed slip of the tongue, and she finds herself wanted by the FBI. Running from everything she’s ever cared about, all Jules wants is to get back to the people she loves.

HALL WAYS REVIEW: Audio book review. * Note: I have avoided using the title and instead identify it as MAS because many of the vendors who sell this book won’t post my review if I use any NAUGHTY words! Ha! That’s a blog post of its own, isn’t it? *

I admit that I chose to read (with my ears) MAS based 90% on the title and 10% on the sleek cover and description. What a unique premise! I knew the book would likely be sexual in nature – edgy even – but with seventeen-year-old Jules as the main character, I assumed it was geared for a young adult audience (warning: it isn’t). In typical fashion, I plowed right in without being fully prepared, which was probably best. Had I known much more, I would likely have passed on reading it, but I am glad I didn’t. Though MAS struggles with defining its audience, it’s a well-done, intriguing story that I listened through in a day.   

"If sex was better than love,
we wouldn't be in business, would we?"

The name of the game on Muriel Avenue is sex, and the message is sex equals power. Though the deed itself is mostly kept behind closed doors, readers need to prepare themselves for some blunt talk about it. (The magic crisper drawer? Did we have to go there?) Sex is a commodity that’s not only endorsed/embraced by the community but protected, informally, by law enforcement. Everyone seems okay with it, and honestly, to live and work on Muriel Avenue seems appealing. This is a tight-knit, loving, supportive community of women who have it figured out. There is a hierarchy, there are rules, there are standards. The women and their children live well and have nice things. It would almost seem like an attractive lifestyle if it weren’t for the inevitable violence and abuse associated with sex for sale.

"... making Orange Zinger and contemplating love
and sex and a tray of freshly baked chocolate chunk muffins." 

Main character Jules’s voice is 100% teen, as are many of her impulses and decisions. She’s smart and necessarily street smart, but she's also naive and at times she’s maddeningly immature in her very mature world. (Again, realistic teen.) MAS reads like young adult, and then WHAM, it doesn’t. This may frustrate adult readers who crave different angles and want more from some of the adult characters (there is great potential for spin-off novellas). Adult readers have that life experience under their belts that requires more realistic emotional responses and see the cracks in the pavement.

The short chapters keep the interest level high, and the pace and action in MAS move quickly. Since I read with my ears, I cannot speak to the SPAG, but author Maggie Hasbrouk’s sentences flow nicely. How Jules thinks and the dialogue between the well-written characters is natural. Especially good is the relationship between Jules and her best friend, Anna, but it’s clear that Jules is the only one comfortable telling all in that friendship. This relationship provides some of the lightest and darkest moments in the story. Readers will be amused that Anna has to spell-out for Jules that Jules is bisexual – it hadn’t occurred to Jules, apparently, that not just getting turned-on but having make-out sessions with both males and females might be a pretty good indicator of that.

A word about the narration: EXCELLENT. (I listened at 1.25X). Julia Farmer is a gifted narrator. There is a huge cast of characters in MAS, and she voices teens and adults, male and female, gruff and soft-spoken, sassy and serious, northern and southern. Her characterization makes each person memorable and distinct from the others.

Concept aside, the language is rough, so if you blanch at the use of the F-bomb, be prepared for facial freeze. Despite the age of the main character and many of the supporting characters, I think it crosses the line for what I would recommend to young adult readers – not teenagers, anyhow. It has solidly new adult/adult content, and the book’s dark and disturbing subject matter provides lots of potential triggers for readers of any age who've suffered sexual abuse.  I recommend this for mature readers who enjoy young adult characters but want to take it up a notch and experience a full range of reactions. You’ll be horrified, you’ll be heartbroken, but there are also moments of levity and hopefulness that round out MAS, making it a satisfying, engaging, and unique book. SO book club worthy.

Thank you to Audiobookworm Productions and the author for providing me an audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

Transplanted southerner Maggie Hasbrouck is an artist, an author, and a lover of Ferris wheels. She believes that much of our lives are spent trying to figure out the impossible riddles of love and sex. What better place to bring those issues to the surface than a brothel? Her novel, Muriel Avenue Sluts, is an edgy, coming-of-age story about a seventeen-year-old girl whose mother is a prostitute. 

Hasbrouck's large-scale paintings are represented in over 200 public and private collections throughout the world, including those of Sir Elton John, Dennis Quaid, Faith Hill, Courtney Cox, and Jon Bon Jovi.


Narrator Bio
JULIA FARMER is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA.

Clients include Kmart, Jack’s Pizza, Miller Lite, Eone Time, IRI, NOVA Southeastern University, and Jerdon.

Provided the voice of Sarita in The Walking Dead: Season 2 video game by Telltale Games.

Audiobook narrator with over twenty titles available via Audible.

Voice over training at Act One Studios and Acting Studio Chicago.

Improv and acting training at The Second City and iO, Chicago.


Runs May 10th-17th⎮Open internationally

Muriel Avenue Sluts Giveaway: $50 Amazon Gift Card

May 10th:
Happily Ever BookWorm
Lynn's Romance Enthusiasm

May 11th:
The Bookworm Lodge

May 12th:
T's Stuff

May 13th:
The Dragon Slayer

May 14th:
Hall Ways Blog
Wall-to-Wall Books

May 15th:
Lilly's Book World
Jazzy Book Reviews

May 16th:
The Book Addict's Reviews

➜Sign up as a host here