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Lone Star Reviews


Sara Russell

Racing Storms

North Loop Books

Paperback, 978-1-6350-5379-1; ebook also available, 2017


Austin-area writer Sara Russell’s self-described “first foray into fiction” is a smoothly written, nicely plotted romance novel that will entertain many readers who like books with contemporary Texas settings.


Racing Storms also is Book 1 in Russell’s planned “Chasing Desire” series. Dallas-area NASCAR races, booming thunderstorms, and tornadoes provide just some of the backdrops for the events that will heat up Decoursey Granger’s hopes and passions. But the late-twenties Dallas “new girl” at a marketing firm has to be very careful and make sure the storm chaser she has just met truly will be the one who’s right for her.


Decoursey already has had a bad marriage. And her abusive ex-husband, Rory, whom she left behind in North Carolina after he threatened to kill her, suddenly has arrived in the Dallas area, working in the pit crew for a NASCAR racer.  >>READ MORE


Texas Reads

>> archive


Wingate novel based on children’s home scandal


Lisa Wingate’s new mainstream novel, Before We Were Yours (Ballantine Books, $26 hardcover), is a troubling, powerful story that revolves around a children’s home in Tennessee that kidnapped poor children, abused them, and sold them to rich families for a huge profit.


The story is fiction, but the children’s home was not. Georgia Tann ran the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis from the 1920s until the scandal was fully investigated in the early 1950s. You can get more information about the home by Googling her name.


Two main characters narrate the novel, which alternates between present-day Aiken, S.C., and the Memphis children’s home in 1939. Avery Stafford, daughter of a U.S. senator, is considering running for her father’s Senate seat if he decides to retire or if his cancer gets worse. An assistant U.S. attorney, Avery has gone back to South Carolina to establish residency just in case. And to get better acquainted with the political landscape there.


On a meet-and-greet visit at a retirement home, Avery encounters a woman whose story will change everything. Avery wonders if the woman and her own ailing grandmother have some common bond, and that sets her on a quest to find out more about her own family. Meanwhile, the story jumps back to 1939 and a family of five children who are abducted from their riverboat shanty and taken to the Memphis orphanage where they are held captive in deplorable conditions.


The story shifts back and forth from Avery Stafford to twelve-year-old Rill Foss, who is trying to keep her siblings together in hopes that their father will rescue them.


I’ve read most of Lisa Wingate’s twenty-plus novels over the past fifteen years, and I think this is her best yet. She has received high praises from other reviewers as well:

  •  “Sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year” —Parade
  •  “One of the year’s best books” —The Huffington Post
  •  “This may be the best book of the year.” —Shreveport Times


Her new publisher, Ballantine Books, is part of the mega-publishing enterprise Penguin Random House, and she’s just completed a six-state book tour that included several stops in Texas as well as South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and California.


If you’ve thought of Wingate as a romance novelist, Before We Were Yours is certainly not that genre. While there is a romance element, it is secondary to the overriding story having to do with a family’s struggle to stay together under the most trying circumstances.


Wingate will be one of the featured authors at the West Texas Book Festival in Abilene this fall. She will talk about her latest book and will also conduct a workshop on “Writing Your Family Stories” on Friday afternoon, Sept. 22, at the downtown Abilene Public Library. Read more about the book festival at abilenetx.com/apl/friends.


* * * * *

Glenn Dromgoole’s latest book is West Texas Stories. Contact him at g.dromgoole@suddenlink.net.


>> Check out his previous Texas Reads columns in Lone Star Literary Life



Jeff Abbott

Blame: A Thriller

Grand Central Publishing

Hardcover, 978-1-4555-5843-8, (also available as an e-book, an audiobook, and on Audible), 384 pgs., $26.00; July 18, 2017


“When you lose your memory, it’s a chance for the people around you to rewrite history.”


When she was seventeen, Jane Norton drove a SUV off a twisty road in an affluent Austin suburb, killing her best friend and next-door neighbor, David Hall. Jane suffered a closed-head injury that put her in a coma for four days and erased her memory of the three years preceding the accident (“The old Jane died; every version of David died”). Two years later, nineteen-year-old Jane is homeless, friendless, and family-less: she cannot bear to live in the house next door to David’s parents, and her mother refuses to move; her former friends turned on her, blaming her for popular golden-boy David’s death; she flunked out of college, unable to cope with the stress.


On the second anniversary of David’s death, Jane wakes to a message on social media: “I know what you claim you don’t remember, Jane. I know what happened that night. And I’m going to tell. All will pay.” When David’s mother, Perri, arrives at his grave that morning, “All will pay” is scrawled across the granite in white chalk. These taunts set in motion a chain of events prodding Jane’s memory awake, an intolerable threat to those who never forgot. >>READ MORE


Mike Cox

Legends and Lore of the Texas Capitol (Landmarks)

The History Press

Paperback, 978-1-4671-3758-4, (also available as an e-book), 224 pgs., $21.99; June 26, 2017


Mike Cox gets the call in the early morning of February 6, 1983: the Texas capitol is on fire. Cox, a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, races to the scene. Governor Mark White is there, as are Austin mayor Carole Keeton and Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, in whose office the fire began. (Curiously, the current lieutenant governor continues to set things on fire.) From this dramatic beginning, Cox sorts history and myth related to Texas’s beloved sunset-red (it’s not pink) granite capitol.


Legends and Lore of the Texas Capitol isn’t an academic exercise for Cox—it’s personal. His great-grandfather helped build the current capitol during the 1880s, and his grandfather always wanted to write a book about the capitol. Cox’s first paid job was in the building; he worked in the Senate as an assistant sergeant-at-arms in 1965 and 1967. Cox has done prodigious research, building on his grandfather’s previous work. The project is well documented, footnoted, and appendicized, with a bibliography and an afterword appropriately titled “Sine Die.”  >>READ MORE

2017 Kids' Summer Reading: Check it out!

sponsored by Blue Wilow Bookshop


From read-to-me books to early readers, chapter books to middle readers to YA, you’ll find these terrific new titles at your neighborhood bookshop or online. >>READ MORE

LONE STAR LISTENS interviews   >> archive

7.23.2017  Austin mystery author Joan Hess takes on the Elizabeth Peters legacy in addition to her own popular series


Fans of the Amelia Peabody mystery serieswhich features a female Indiana Jones-type archeologist/adventurer — know that creator Elizabeth Peters pseudonym of Barbara Mertz) had started a final book, but had not completed the title, when she passed away almost four years ago. Longtime friend and Austin author Joan Hess, a leading mystery writer herself, completed this work to give fans one last shot at the characters they’ve loved through the decades. Hess talked with us via email yesterday to tell us about the new book.


LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: Joan, you are a mystery author, a member of Sisters in Crime, and a former president of the American Crime Writers League. You write two popular mystery series under your own name, and the Theo Bloomer mystery series under the pseudonym Joan Hadley. On top of all of that you’re a five-time Agatha nominee. When did you first want to be writer?


JOAN HESS: When I was in high school and college, I never wrote anything that wasn't “due on Monday.” In the mid-1980s, a friend urged me to write a romance novel, since the market was hot. I discovered that I really enjoyed writing prose, but all ten of my attempts to write romance novels were rejected: “great characters, snappy dialogue, smooth style, too much plot, not enough romance.” It seems I am not a romantic at heart.


What was your first break as an author?


I had decided to go back to school and get a PhD, despite the fact that my younger child was in half-day kindergarten. My third agent told me to write a mystery. I gave myself the spring semester to give it a try, and it was so much more fun. In my first mystery, Strangled Prose, I killed a successful romance writer. Ha! I promptly wrote another one, and both sold in April 1985. I've been killing people ever since. >>READ MORE


Texas's only statewide, weekly calendar of book events

Bookish Texas event highlights  7.23.2017
>> GO this week   Michelle Newby, Contributing Editor


SPECIAL EVENTS THIS WEEK: Kilgore, Nacogdoches, San Antonio, Dallas, Grapevine, Houston, Archer City
  • Texas Shakespeare Festival, Kilgore, June 29–July 30
  • The LaNana Creek Press Summer Letterpress and Book Art Intensive, Nacogdoches, July 8-August 5
  • Gemini Ink Writers Conference, San Antonio, July 21-23
  • Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, Grapevine, July 21-23
  • Literary Non-Fiction Workshop, Archer City, July 23-30
  • Texas Authors Marketing Event, Houston, July 28-30
  • 2nd Annual Dallas Public Library Local Authors Book Fair, July 29
  • Texas Latino Comic Con, Dallas, July 29
HOUSTON  Mon, July 24  Murder By the Book, David Bell will sign and discuss Bring Her Home, 6:30PMMurder By the Book, David Bell will sign and discuss Bring Her Home, 6:30PMAUSTIN  Tues., July 25  Malvern Books, Malvern’s Multi-Verse with ire’ne lara silva, 7PMMalvern Books, Malvern’s Multi-Verse with ire’ne lara silva, 7PMHOUSTON  Tues., July 25  Brazos Bookstore, "100 Black Men, 100 Black Books - Texas Stories: Part 1" featuring Holly Charles, author of VELVET; Stephen Moss, author of WE COULD NOT FAIL: THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE SPACE PROGRAM; and Tyina Steptoe, author of HOUSTON BOUND: COLOR AND CULTURE IN A JIM CROW CITY, 7PMDALLAS  Thurs., July 27  The Wild Detectives, Michael Merschel reads and signs Revenge of the Star Survivors, 7:30PMSOUTH PADRE ISLAND  Fri., July 28   Paragraphs on Padre, Meet the Author - Rickey Pittman, 1PMABILENE  Sat., July 29 Texas Star Trading Company, Al Pickett and Jimmie Keeling sign Mighty, Mighty Matadors, 1PMEL PASO  Sat., July 29  El Paso Public Library - Memorial Park, Tumblewords Project Workshop: "One Perverse Sidewalk" with Chauncey Lowe, 12:45PMAUSTIN  Sun., July 30  BookWoman, Charlotte Reagan reading and signing Just Juliet: A LGBTQ Love Story, 4PM

News Briefs 7.23.17

Dallas Public Library to hold 2nd annual Local Authors Book Fair July 29


DALLAS—On Sat., July 29, 2017, the Local Authors Book Fair will feature thirty-four Dallas-area authors from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Audelia Road Branch Library.


R. Gaines Baty’s Champion of the Barrio (Texas A&M University Press), was ranked #1 in “Amazon Top New Releases” in its category, was named a Top 10 non-fiction Texas book for 2015, was featured in the Texas Book Festival, and has maintained a top 10% ranking in sales for Amazon books. Endorsers include numerous hall of fame writers and coaches/athletes.


Caren Bright lives a missionary life in Dallas, and is the mother of three children. She is the founder of Pamper Lake Highlands ministry, a non-profit aimed at empowering women and children to overcome poverty and oppression. >>READ MORE


Frisco library’s 2nd annual Grow-a-Reader Workshop slated for August 12

Free day of training for parents and teachers of young children


FRISCO—The Frisco Public Library’s second annual Grow-a-Reader Day will help participants learn how to plant the seeds of successful early literacy education. The event, on Sat., Aug. 12 from 9 am–5 pm offers participants the chance to earn up to six hours of Continuing Professional Education Credit (CPE) at no charge.


A panel of experts will lead seminars on important subjects that today’s parents and educators deal with daily:

  • Methods to prepare kids for kindergarten
  • Tools to help children who have sensory issues
  • Resources and connections for young children who have special needs
  • Ways to promote conscious discipline in schools
  • Approaches to link literacy to science


Parents, caregivers, and early learning professionals will gain tools and techniques to help their children and students sprout into kids who are ready to thrive and succeed. >>READ MORE


Johnston named director of Michener Center


AUSTIN—Author Bret Anthony Johnston assumes the directorship of the Michener Center for Writers, in Austin, in July 2017.  He succeeds longtime director James Magnuson, who is retiring. Johnston has directed the creative writing program at Harvard University for the past twelve years.  >>READ MORE


West Texas Book Festival scheduled for Sept. 21–23 in Abilene

17th year for event, presented by Friends of the Library


ABILENE—The 17th annual West Texas Book Festival, presented by Friends of the Abilene Public Library, will celebrate reading and writing with three full days of activities, Sept. 21–23, 2017.  Fourteen authors will be featured in presentations, panels, and workshops free to the public on Friday and Saturday.  >>READ MORE


 ——­——— A D V E R T I S E M E N T —————

Lone Star Listens compilation available Aug. 15, for readers, fans, and writers everywhere


The present generation of Texas authors is the most diverse ever in gender, age, and ethnicity, and in subject matter as well.


Week in, week out, Lone Star Literary has interviewed a range of Texas-related authors with a cross-section of genre and geography. To capture this era in Texas letters, we're pleased to bring you


Lone Star Listens:

Texas Authors on Writing and Publishing

edited by Kay Ellington and Barbara Brannon; introduction by

Clay Reynolds

Available in trade paper, library hardcover, and ebook Fall 2017

360 pages, with b/w illustrations and index


Featuring novelists, poets, memoirists, editors, and publishers, including:

Rachel  Caine • Chris  Cander • Katherine  Center • Chad S. Conine • Sarah  Cortez • Elizabeth  Crook • Nan  Cuba • Carol  Dawson • Patrick  Dearen • Jim Donovan • Mac Engel • Sanderia  Faye • Carlos Nicolás Flores • Ben Fountain • Jeff  Guinn • Stephen  Harrigan • Cliff  Hudder • Stephen Graham Jones • Kathleen Kent • Joe R. Lansdale • Melissa Lenhardt • Attica Locke • Nikki  Loftin • Thomas  McNeely • Leila  Meacham • John  Pipkin • Joyce Gibson Roach • Antonio  Ruiz-Camacho • Lisa  Sandlin • Donna  Snyder • Mary Helen Specht • Jodi  Thomas • Amanda Eyre Ward • Ann  Weisgarber • Donald Mace Williams


As a collection of insights into the writing and publishing life, the book will be useful in creative writing classes (not just in Texas alone) and other teaching settings, as well as for solo reading and study—and a great Texas reference volume.


  • Lone Star Listens will be available for preorder May 31 and will ship around Aug. 1.
  • Examination and review copies will be available May 31 in watermarked pdf format.






7.16.17  PEN Texas invites all writers in the Southwestern states to participate in the 2017 contest for excellence in writing in the categories of Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-fiction, and Literary Translation. The winner in each category will receive a $500 prize, co-sponsored by PEN Center USA and PEN Texas. >>READ MORE




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Comfort Plans by Kimberly Fish Visit with Kimberly July 31–August 14, 2017

7/31 Watch for blog tour schedule



A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren


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