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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

MY HUSBAND WRITES A BOOK REVIEW: The British Are Coming by Rick Atkinson (Nonfiction)

Greetings Friends!

There's been a trend on YouTube for awhile of people having their significant others pick their TBRs, do their makeup, or buy their outfits. Since my husband is an avid history reader and finished this new book about the America Revolution that recently came out, I thought it would be a great opportunity for him to collaborate with me in order to post something from a genre that typically doesn't make it on here very often. Hopefully you enjoy this segment and we'll see more from him!
“Wait? You want me to write a review of a book for you? Why would I do that? You’re the blogger! I’m just the long-suffering husband of a librarian.” – My husband, Matt, shortly before writing the review. 

The British Are Coming
Rick Atkinson
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher:  Henry Holt
Date of Publication:  May 14, 2019
Number of Pages:  782

From the bestselling author of the Liberation Trilogy comes the extraordinary first volume of his new trilogy about the American Revolution. Rick Atkinson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning An Army at Dawn and two other superb books about World War II, has long been admired for his deeply researched, stunningly vivid narrative histories. Now he turns his attention to a new war, and in the initial volume of the Revolution Trilogy he recounts the first twenty-one months of America’s violent war for independence. From the battles at Lexington and Concord in spring 1775 to those at Trenton and Princeton in winter 1777, American militiamen and then the ragged Continental Army take on the world’s most formidable fighting force. It is a gripping saga alive with astonishing characters: Henry Knox, the former bookseller with an uncanny understanding of artillery; Nathanael Greene, the blue-eyed bumpkin who becomes a brilliant battle captain; Benjamin Franklin, the self-made man who proves to be the wiliest of diplomats; George Washington, the commander in chief who learns the difficult art of leadership when the war seems all but lost. The story is also told from the British perspective, making the mortal conflict between the redcoats and the rebels all the more compelling. Full of riveting details and untold stories, The British Are Coming is a tale of heroes and knaves, of sacrifice and blunder, of redemption and profound suffering. Rick Atkinson has given stirring new life to the first act of our country’s creation drama.

**Note. Even after 17 years I still do things to make her happy, thus this review was written. Even if it’s not written for her usual audience. **

I am well versed in history and enjoy reading about it. History is laced with human ambition and tragedy that is hard to compare to in a fictional setting. Yet I had found myself wanting more in terms of knowledge about the creation of the country I have served for nearly 21 years as both an enlisted man and now as a Major of Artillery. With the release of Rick Atkinson’s, The British Are Coming, I decided to remedy that problem. 
This book, the first in a trilogy, covers the American Revolution from Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777. As a fan of Atkinson’s books, I found this to be better written than his WWII series. Still at 594 pages (before bibliography), this large format hardbound book is a weighty tome to work through! 
Like all of Atkinson’s works, the book at times meanders and it is wordy. That said, he weaves first and third hand accounts brilliantly within the narrative to inform us of the momentous events of the revolution via story. The political, social, ethical, and military’s problems with the Revolution are woven together to inform the reader why certain decisions were made and how it affected the greater “story.”  Interlaced in the tapestry of the story is the very human foibles and ambitions of the US founding fathers, such as their look on slavery as well as the radical idea (for the time) of establishing a republic 
Like so often when picking up a new book, I was looking for something both entertaining and informative and The British Are Coming delivered on both accounts. This will make a great addition to your history collection if you are looking to expand your knowledge of the US Revolution or just simply deciding to get into historical nonfiction.

Rick Atkinson is the bestselling author of six works of narrative military history, including The Guns at Last Light, The Day of Battle, An Army at Dawn, The Long Gray Line, In the Company of Soldiers, and Crusade. He also was the lead essayist in Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery, published by National Geographic. He was a reporter, foreign correspondent, war correspondent, and senior editor at The Washington Post for more than twenty years. His many awards include Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and history, the George Polk Award, and the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. He lives in Washington, D.C.

For more information, please visit https://revolutiontrilogy.com/.

Many thanks to my husband for writing a review and humoring me in my bookish journey! Hopefully, he'll be back soon with more reviews to create a more well-rounded reading experience for everyone!

Friday, June 21, 2019

GUEST POST + GIVEAWAY: Death by Dissertation by Kelly Brakenhoff (Cozy Mystery)

Death by Dissertation
Kelly Brakenhoff
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Emerald Prairie Press
Date of Publication:  April 17, 2019
Number of Pages:  355

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Ambitious Cassandra Sato traded her life in Hawai’i for a dream position as Student Affairs VP at Morton College in tiny Carson, Nebraska. She expected the Midwestern church casseroles, land-locked cornfields, and face-freezing winters would be her biggest challenges, but it’s her job that’s rapidly becoming a nightmare. A deaf student is dead and the investigation reveals a complicated trail of connections between campus food service, a local farmer’s beef, and the science lab’s cancer research. Together with her few allies, Cassandra must protect the students caught up in the entanglement. Dealing with homesickness, vandalism, and a stalker, Cassandra is trapped in a public relations disaster that could cost her job, or more. No one said college was easy.

Is anyone else having a hard time keeping up with all the ways writers convey dialogue in their books? If two people are in the same room having a conversation in person, we have quotation marks and “he said” or “she said” tags to help us follow along. But what if one of those people is on their phone and texting another person at the same time? Then a phone rings and a separate conversation starts from there. . .
Since Death by Dissertation was my first book, I faced this problem in early drafts. Not only are people speaking in person, on the phone, by text and email, there are also deaf characters in the book who use American Sign Language.
To make it even more complicated, sometimes there’s an interpreter speaking the ASL into English for the people in the room who don’t understand sign language. If we were all watching a movie, that could be handled by using subtitles, but I struggled to make that all clear without confusing or irritating readers.
I haven’t even mentioned social media posts or emails. Or what if someone is SHOUTING? Or a word needs emphasis?
I remember reading books where the story unfolded as letters or emails back and forth over years of a relationship. It was beautiful and seems old-fashioned now.
How does a writer show all these different types of communication without making readers’ eyes cross? We need to understand how the dialogue is happening but do we want ten different fonts, bold, italics and indents to indicate what type of message is being delivered?
If a writer gets it wrong, readers at best are scratching our heads trying to guess who said what to whom and how. At worst, we get annoyed by all the different typefaces and put the book down.
In an early draft, I used
indented type to show a text message.
I used italics to show when someone was using ASL. But when Cassandra Sato, my main character had a thought in her head, I also used italics to show those moments.
It was a hot mess. And a kindly early reader pointed out to me that in the end, it’s all dialogue. My solution was to treat everything someone said as dialogue with quotation marks. Then I went through the entire manuscript and made sure I identified what type of communication the person used before the quotation marks.
Like this for a text:
Meg’s text pinging on her phone served as Cassandra’s Sunday morning alarm: “Your place @6:30 tonight before the memorial service?”
Cassandra fluffed her pillow and replied: “Did you just invite yourself over for dinner?”
Meg quickly responded: “Too obvious?”
This is what it looks like when a deaf character signs:
There was a pause while Lance looked around in bewilderment. When he signed, the interpreter spoke his signs in English. “He was asleep in his bed when I went down to eat breakfast. When I came back to the room, he was gone.”
I did keep the italics for times when Cassandra is thinking to herself or wanted to emphasize a word.
Cassandra tried to read his expression for clues. He’s taking a long time to answer.
When Meg signs ASL and speaks English at the same time, it looks like this:
Meg interjected, signing while she spoke. “That’s her job, Deputy Kobza.”

I’m curious to know what others think about showing dialogue. Have you ever stopped reading a book because the type formatting was too confusing? How do you prefer to read different types of communication when you’re reading a novel.

Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. As an American Sign Language Interpreter with more than twenty years of experience, Kelly’s worked in college classrooms for fifteen different majors. From traipsing across muddy farm fields to stomach-churning medical procedures, and stage interpreting for famous figures, Kelly’s community interpreting interactions number in the thousands. Unfortunately, once she’s stepped away from the job, she usually forgets 90% of what happened. Which helps her keep confidential information safe, but also makes it really hard to grocery shop for more than 5 items without a written list.
Kelly wants to live in a world filled with peace, love, and joy, where people who can hear learn enough sign language to include deaf people in everyday conversations and work. Where every deaf child has early access to language and books with characters like them, and dark chocolate is cheap and plentiful.

When she’s not interpreting or writing, you can find Kelly cheering for her favorite Husker teams or training for half-marathons because she really likes dessert.



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Many thanks the author and Great Escapes Book Tours! It was a pleasure hosting!

And be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for opinions and author extras!

June 17 – The Layaway Dragon – REVIEW
June 17 – Only By Grace Reviews – REVIEW
June 18 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT, RECIPE
June 18 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT
June 19 – Island Confidential – REVIEW
June 20 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
June 20 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW
June 21 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW  
June 21 – That’s What She’s Reading – GUEST POST
June 22 – Mallory Heart’s Cozies – REVIEW
June 22 – MJB Reviewers – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
June 23 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
June 24 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
June 24 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
June 25 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – REVIEW
June 25 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
June 26 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
June 26 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT
June 27 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW  
June 27 – I’m All About Books – GUEST POST
June 28 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW
June 29 – The Ninja Librarian – REVIEW, GUEST POST
June 30 – Cozy Up With Kathy – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis (Historical Fiction)

Genre: Historical / Biographical / Sports Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow 
Date of Publication: October 2, 2018
Number of Pages: 240

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A cross between Friday Night Lights and The Atomic City Girls, When The Men Were Gone is a debut historical novel based on the true story of Tylene Wilson, a woman in 1940s Texas who, in spite of extreme opposition, became a female football coach in order to keep her students from heading off to war. Football is the heartbeat of Brownwood, Texas. Every Friday night for as long as assistant principal Tylene Wilson can remember, the entire town has gathered in the stands, cheering their boys on. Each September brings with it the hope of a good season and a sense of unity and optimism. Now, the war has changed everything. Most of the Brownwood men over eighteen and under forty-five are off fighting, and in a small town the possibilities are limited. Could this mean a season without football? But no one counted on Tylene, who learned the game at her daddy’s knee. She knows more about it than most men, so she does the unthinkable, convincing the school to let her take on the job of coach. Faced with extreme opposition by the press, the community, rival coaches, and referees -- and even the players themselves -- Tylene remains resolute. And when her boys rally around her, she leads the team -- and the town -- to a Friday night and a subsequent season they will never forget.

Based on a true story, When the Men Were Gone is a powerful and vibrant novel of perseverance and personal courage.


"Sublimely ties together the drama of high school football, gender politics, and the impact of war on a small town in Texas.” – Best of Books, 2018, Sports Illustrated

“A beautiful story that stays in your heart long after you finish reading.” - Jodi Thomas, New York Times bestselling author

“Based on a true story that most people probably don’t know, readers will find plenty to love in Herrera Lewis’ debut.” -- Kirkus Review

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.

As someone not immediately drawn to stories featuring sports, the synopsis drew me in with its hints at Tylene's tenacity and the sacrifices of a small town during a world conflict. Ultimately, this timeless story is about so much more than football with its heartfelt and inspiring message of perseverance in the face of extreme adversity.

"There's something special about Texas football. I can't tell you how many times I've looked at a Texas sunset only to see a goalpost cut through the yellow and red splashed across the sky. Can't say that I figured I'd coach it someday, but I promise you boys, I'll give you all I've got."

Tylene's character was brought to life in such powerful way that spoke volumes on how much ahead of her time she truly was, exhibiting the heroic qualities of bravery, strength, vulnerability, and selflessness. Sharing a love of football with a town whose identity is deeply rooted in the game, Tylene is devastated by the possibility that the season may be cancelled because there isn't an able-bodied man available to assume the coaching position. Tylene volunteers to become the leader the boys need; however, the community's obsession isn't strong enough to rally behind the idea of a female coach no matter how capable, dedicated, and qualified she may be. Her commitment to the town as a lifelong citizen, the respect she has garnered through her life's work as an educational professional, as well as her love of the game is not enough to shield her from the divisiveness and outrage that arises even as she attempts to shield the boys from the unfortunate fate of war, something that everyone in Brownwood has become all too familiar with. This spirited account of one woman's determination to see the boys play football is a captivating way of connecting personal loss with the grave losses felt within the community. You don't have to know anything about football to appreciate the story's ability to make connections across themes on family, history, and legacy.

"You have to do things when you have the chance, Jimmy, and not everyone gets a chance. When you do, you can't throw it away. You just can't."

At a little over 200 pages, this book packs an incredible punch for such a small package! The author's journalism background shines, cutting through the filler and making each word count. The straightforward and simplistic prose deftly expresses exactly what the reader needs to know, making this an excellent selection for a one sitting read or sharing with those reluctant readers of any age in our lives. 

Sports have a way of bringing us all together to bridge social dynamics in ways that create lasting impressions, and this book is a profound exploration of this ideal. This slice of life moment is emotionally compelling and riveting from its sentimental opening through its gripping conclusion. Tylene sets a powerful and graceful example of what it takes to combat prejudice and sexism to shatter those glass ceilings, and we all benefit greatly when stories like hers are recognized.

Marjorie Herrera Lewis is an award-winning sportswriter, named the first female Dallas Cowboys beat writer when she was with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She later joined the SportsDay staff of The Dallas Morning News, where she continued to cover the NFL and professional tennis. She is currently a contributing sportswriter for PressBoxDFW.com. 

While writing When the Men Were Gone, she became inspired to try her hand at coaching football herself and was added to the Texas Wesleyan University football coaching staff in December 2016. Marjorie has degrees from Arizona State University, The University of Texas in Arlington, Southern New Hampshire University, and certificates from Southern Methodist University, and Cornell University. She is married and has two grown daughters and one son-in-law.


June 18-28, 2019

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

Author Video
Notable Quotable
Author Interview
Scrapbook Page
Playlist & BONUS Review
Guest Post

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