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Friday, December 13, 2019

LSBBT REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: Santa Claus Bank Robbery by Tui Snider (Nonfiction/Texas History)


SANTA CLAUS BANK ROBBERY
A True-Crime Saga in Texas
by
TUI SNIDER
  
Genre: Nonfiction / Texana / Texas History
Publisher: Castle Azle Press
Date of Publication: December 8, 2019
Number of Pages: 146 pages + black & white photos



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When Marshall Ratliff dressed like Santa Claus to pull a Christmas-time heist, he thought it would be easy. Unfortunately for him, when the citizens of Cisco heard Santa was robbing a bank, they came running - with loaded guns in hand! But can you blame them? In 1927, the only way to earn the $5000 Dead Bank Robber Reward was to kill a bandit while the crime was in progress.

This bungled bank robbery led to a wild shootout and a getaway with two little girls as hostages. And that is only the beginning! Tui Snider’s true-crime tale reads like a comedy of errors as the consequences of the Santa Claus Bank Robber’s actions escalate to include a botched car-jacking, one of the biggest manhunts in Texas history, and a jailbreak leading to a deadly conclusion. Meanwhile, it’s up to readers to decide whether or not a mysterious blonde helped these gangsters escape. And if so, did she get away with murder?







I received a copy of this book for free. This is my honest and thoughtful review.

After having the opportunity to read and review Tui Snider's PARANORMAL TEXAS, I couldn't wait to start this one! As a fan of her casual writing style and the true crime genre, I was looking forward to finding out more about a rather obscure mystery featuring a robbery orchestrated by a man dressed as Santa Claus!

"As a writer, I'm always on the lookout for offbeat stories and overlooked places."

From the very beginning, the author draws you in with her masterful ability to spin an entertaining story. The author's discovery of this bank heist that led to the West Texas lynching of Santa Claus was by chance, but unraveling the truth behind such an absurd sounding event could only have been done within her deft storytelling hands. You'll not only learn about the key players of the heist and their motivations, but you'll learn more about life within Wild West Texas as well as receive a play by play account of the chaotic nature of the actual event and its aftermath. While this motley crew of thieves were more focused on their greed rather than on the potential for any tragic outcomes, readers will be haunted by the extraordinary lengths the ringleader, Marshall Ratliff, took to save his own life. If you've seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, let's just say that McMurphy has nothing on Ratliff!

"Keep this in mind as the tale unfolds."

I really enjoyed the author's side commentary on an earlier book about these events entitled THE SANTA CLAUS BANK ROBBERY by A.C. Greene. His account is considered the sole source about this infamous crime, but is in fact a fictionalized version, complete with invented conversations and fake names to "flesh out his narrative." Snider's record of events unfolds like a fascinating retelling of a tall tale among friends, but is backed up with every bit of evidence she could secure from courtroom testimony, newspaper archives, and eye-witness interviews. I love her spirited take on Greene's book, and readers should question how and why some versions become the definitive source. Just because it was written first doesn't mean it stands the test of time. This happens much more than we think within the true crime genre. Certain topics I have read every book on and watched every show that's been made, and no two analyses are ever alike. One adds a detail that you would think the others should have mentioned, so now you start to question the whole thing! Snider continues to search for more information because even she doesn't believe that the mystery is completely solved. And no true crime book by a travel author would be complete without a list of places of interest that you can visit that all relate to the bank robbery.

My only issue with the overall presentation of the story was having so many subheadings within chapters. This seems to definitely be a style choice in order to simplify the presentation of so much detailed information; however, sometimes I felt that they weren't even necessary and took me out of the building tension that was developing within the narrative. Personal preference aside, this is an engrossingly objective and enthusiastic investigation that will add something a little different to your holiday reading!





Tui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!” Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences, and bookstores.This fall, she will speak about the Great Airship Mystery of 1897 at this year’s UFO Congress and teach a course on Understanding Cemetery Symbols at Texas Christian University. She also shares weekly info-videos based on her research at her YouTube channel. Snider’s writing and photography have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including WFAA TV, Coast to Coast AM, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman Waking, Shades of Angels and many more. She has several more books in progress.


WEBSITE  ◆  FACEBOOK  ◆  TWITTER  ◆  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE
GOODREADS  ◆  INSTAGRAM  ◆   YOUTUBE



 GRAND PRIZE (US only) Signed Paperback +$10 Amazon Gift Card + Thank You Post Card
2ND PRIZE (US only)Signed Copy + Thank You Post Card
3RD PRIZE (International): Kindle eBook
  December 12-22, 2019


a Rafflecopter giveaway  Best of luck!

Many thanks to Lone Star Book Blog Tours and the author! It was a pleasure reading, reviewing, and hosting! And be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for more opinions and extras!

CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
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12/12/19
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12/13/19
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12/14/19
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12/14/19
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12/15/19
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12/16/19
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12/17/19
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12/18/19
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12/20/19
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12/20/19
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12/21/19
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12/21/19
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Thursday, December 12, 2019

GUEST POST + GIVEAWAY: Death on the Danube by Jennifer S. Alderson (Cozy Mystery)


DEATH ON THE DANUBE:  A New Year's Murder in Budapest
Travel Can Be Murder, #1
by
Jennifer S. Alderson
  
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Traveling Life Press
Date of Publication:  November 19, 2019
Number of Pages:  158





When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection.

When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection. Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica’s late husband’s twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who’s been dumped on Jessica’s doorstep by the child’s self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica’s elderly tenants.

Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things, and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.



Budapest as the Setting for a Cozy Mystery

Budapest is the vibrant capital of Hungary and the setting of my first cozy mystery, Death on the Danube. I enjoyed visiting this fascinating city so much, when I was trying to decide which cities my tour groups should visit, Budapest was the first that sprang to my mind!
When I first visited, I had visions of Soviet-era buildings, grey-clothed locals, and a depressing atmosphere. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is rightfully one of the most popular cities to visit in Europe these days. 
When I began writing this first mystery, I talked with friends who had also been to Budapest about the tourist attractions and monuments I was including in my book. To my great surprise, several places that I absolutely loved, they despised. And vice versa. I left our lunch feeling rattled and despondent.
I wanted to write about many travel destinations, yet in a way that wouldn’t turn off the majority of readers, but interest them in learning more. Yet how could I ensure that my descriptions would appeal to the ‘average’ reader? Why by reading online reviews, of course! 
While researching one of the locations in my cozy mystery, I stumbled upon a TripAdvisor page for the monument and saw there were thousands of reviews. When I started to read through them, I realized that the majority of those who left one-star reviews, complained about the same problem. And the majority of those who left five-star reviews cited the same reasons for doing so. 
In a strange way, those reviews helped solve a crucial problem with my descriptions of setting. Ultimately I discovered review sites for all of the places mentioned in my book. If a hundred people mentioned that they loved a certain aspect of a monument, I mentioned it in my book. If a hundred people said they hated a tourist attraction for a specific reason, that got a mention as well.
So where do my intrepid travelers visit in Budapest? I’ll let tour guide Lana Hansen share some of her impressions of Budapest with you. She also happens to be the lead character and amateur sleuth in my cozy mystery series, Travel Can Be Murder! 

Lana’s first impression of Budapest, as seen from the taxi taking her from the airport to her hotel:
“Lana had originally envisioned Budapest as a city full of grey, Communist-era buildings. But the photos in Dotty’s guidebooks were of beautifully maintained neoclassical, baroque, medieval, gothic, and rococo buildings. Driving through the heart of the city, Lana was glad to see Dotty’s books didn’t lie. The imposing statues, tiered-fountains, captivating monuments, delicate spires, and majestic buildings decorated with snow and sparkly lights made Lana feel as if they were driving through a postcard. Everything was so much bigger than she had imagined. Several buildings seemed to fill an entire city block and many monuments stretched high into the sky, often topped by a stately figure, angel, or knight.
As their shuttle bus rounded Szechenyi Square, Lana gasped in awe. A massive bridge built from stone arches and long bars of linked metal led across the Danube River. Two fierce stone lions gazed down onto the traffic, almost daring cars to cross it. That must be Chain Bridge, the first bridge built connecting Buda to Pest, Lana thought. She held her breath and gazed down into the Danube River as they crossed, humming the waltz of the same name softly to herself. The Pest side was relatively flat, but the Buda side seemed to be a series of hills and patches of forest.”

Because Wanderlust Tours are geared towards travelers long on money and short on time, they tend to be a bit more luxurious than the average tour. In Budapest, her group is treated to the opera Elektra, performed at the Hungarian national Opera House on New Year’s Eve. Here’s her first impression of the main auditorium: 
“’Holy cow,’ Lana muttered under her breath, completely taken aback by the beauty of it all. A massive chandelier hung in the center of the dome-like ceiling. Elegant frescos of angels playing musical instruments circled the lighting fixture. Three levels of seating were built into the sides of the horseshoe-shaped auditorium; the yellow stone glowed against the red walls, floors, and seats. The tourist guidebooks weren’t lying when they said this opera house was one of the most beautiful in the world.”

A winter trip to Budapest wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the world-famous Christmas markets! Here is Lana’s first impression of the Christmas market her group visits on Vorosmarty Sqaure: 
“They soon arrived at Vorosmarty Sqaure, their first stop in the heart of Budapest. It was the oldest, and many claimed, the most beautiful Christmas market in the city. Lana had never seen one before so she couldn’t judge for herself. Regardless, it was a delight for the senses – full of color, festive lights, music, and enticing aromas. A choir of young men sung traditional songs. Their cheery melody put a swing in Lana’s step as she gazed around in wonder. The smells of roasting nuts and sausages competed with the cinnamon and caramel wafting through the air. Strings of colorful lights were strung around the tree trunks and above the pathways winding through the many market stalls.”

I hope you have enjoyed learning more about Lana’s travels and the sights her tour group gets to visit along the way. Happy reading and travels!




Jennifer S. Alderson was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. After traveling extensively around Asia, Oceania, and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before settling in the Netherlands. Her background in journalism, multimedia development, and art history enriches her novels. When not writing, she can be found in a museum, biking around Amsterdam, or enjoying a coffee along the canal while planning her next research trip.
Jennifer’s love of travel, art, and culture inspires her award-winning mystery series—the Zelda Richardson Mysteries and Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mysteries—and standalone stories.
WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER  |  GOODREADS  |  BOOKBUB   |  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE



a Rafflecopter giveaway  Best of luck!

Many thanks to Great Escapes Book Tours and the author! It was a pleasure hosting! And be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for more opinions and extras!

TOUR PARTICIPANTS
November 29 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – GUEST POST
November 29 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author – SPOTLIGHT
November 30 – I Read What You Write – CHARACTER GUEST POST
December 1 – A Blue Million Books – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
December 2 – TBR Book Blog – REVIEW
December 2 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
December 3 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
December 3 – The Book Decoder – REVIEW
December 4 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW
December 4 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT
December 5 – View from the Birdhouse – REVIEW
December 5 – Here’s How It Happened – REVIEW
December 6 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
December 6 – Brooke Blogs – GUEST POST
December 7 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
December 7 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT
December 8 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW
December 9 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW
December 9 – This Is My Truth Now – SPOTLIGHT
December 10 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW  
December 10 – eBook addicts – REVIEW
December 11 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
December 11 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
December 12 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT
December 12 – That’s What She’s Reading – GUEST POST

Monday, December 9, 2019

LSBBT PROMO AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Why Stuff Matters by Jen Waldo (Literary Fiction/Humor)


WHY STUFF MATTERS
by
JEN WALDO
  
Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Humor
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: June 4, 2019 (US)
Number of Pages: 212







When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection.

When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection. Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica’s late husband’s twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who’s been dumped on Jessica’s doorstep by the child’s self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica’s elderly tenants.

Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things, and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.

CLICK TO PURCHASE!




What are some day jobs that you’ve held? Have they impacted your writing?
While being a housewife might be considered old-fashioned, being a housewife in foreign lands is a monumental challenge. Imagine trying to buy groceries in a country where no one speaks your language and there are no grocery stores. Impact my writing? Only in the sense that I became an expert at getting things done! 


Do you now or have you ever considered writing under a pen name? Why or why not?
I’m Jenny and I write as Jen. In the beginning my premise was that when someone addressed me as Jen I’d know that this person had to do with my profession and I’d respond accordingly. But these days so many people have read my books that I’m called Jen everywhere I go, so as a distinction it became moot. 


What projects are you working on at the present?
I’m finishing my fourth book of the Fran Furlow mystery series. Fran is outspoken, nosey, and self-righteous, but she’s also deeply human and loveable. It’s with a couple of publishers right now and I look forward to seeing her adventures in print. 


What does your perfect writing spot look like? Is that your actual writing spot?
Other than the keyboard, I work in an atmosphere of complete sense deprivation. No noise, no people, no music, no light other than the screen. This is perfect for me and easy to achieve at five o’clock in the morning. 


How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose names?
The population of the Texas panhandle is primarily composed of British, Irish, Scotts, German, and Latino heritage, so I try to reflect that. When I read a book I become irritated if too many names start with the same letter, which sounds trivial; but my goal is to create a clear and comfortable text, not make some poor soul flip back and forth to see which one’s Karen, Kathy, or Kay. 


If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Clear communication. In my life every time a plan goes awry or someone becomes impatient or angry, it’s due to poor communication. Two people absolutely never think alike, less so when more than two are involved. I’d like to be able to communicate clearly with others without hurting feelings or stirring up resentment. 


What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Justifying the plot. Who was after Roxy and why? Why did Jess help Roxy bury the dead instead of going to the police? Motives are always subjective and multi-layered and I wanted to present this subtly, leading the reader to believe, yet at the same time, ponder the motives, morality, and state of mind of the individuals involved.





Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind. 



CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
12/3/19
Guest Post
12/3/19
Excerpt
12/4/19
Review
12/5/19
Author Interview
12/5/19
BONUS Post
12/6/19
Review
12/6/19
Guest Post
12/7/19
Review
12/8/19
Guest Post
12/9/19
Review
12/9/19
Author Interview
12/10/19
Guest Post
12/11/19
Review
12/11/19
Guest Post
12/12/19
Review
12/12/19
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