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Bill Sarpalius, with foreword by Bill Hobby

The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch

Texas A&M University Press

Hardcover, 978-1-62349-657-9 (ebook also available), 336 pages, $34.95; April 2018


Under normal circumstances, it’s hard to get elected to the United States Congress.

Bill Sarpalius, who represented the Texas 13th Congressional District from 1989 to 1995, started out in life well behind almost all others who have served in the U.S. House. The tagline for Sarpalius’s new autobiography states simply: “From homeless to Congress....” Yet, as this ably written and informative book makes clear, his journey to Capitol Hill actually was long, convoluted, and tough.  >>READ MORE


Texas Reads

>> archive


Author Colleen Hoover does more than write books


In the past six years, Colleen Hoover has published fourteen novels in the young adult, new adult and romance genres, consistently ranking high on the New York Times best seller list.


But she does more than that. She also operates The Bookworm Box, which is both a monthly subscription service offering signed novels and novelty items to subscribers and a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Sulphur Springs. All the books are signed and donated by the authors, and all profits go to charity — more than $1 million so far. Read more at thebookwormbox.com or colleenhoover.com.


Meanwhile, Hoover continues producing novels that resonate with her growing legion of fans.


I’ve just read her two latest — All Your Perfects and Without Merit — and while they’re quite different types of stories, they’re both page-turners. I zipped through each one in a day or so.


All Your Perfects (Atria, $28 hardcover, $16 paperback) deals with a couple in their thirties struggling to save their marriage.


Told in Quinn’s voice, the chapters alternate between “then” and “now.” “Then” was when she and Graham were falling in love. “Now” is seven years into their marriage. They have not been able to have children, or adopt, and that is affecting their intimacy in every way. And they can’t seem to find ways to communicate what they’re feeling.

Quinn is distant, unhappy, probably depressed. Graham tries to remain upbeat. Or as Quinn puts it, “He fills the room with his presence. I fill it with my absence.”


Every twenty-eight days, Quinn is reminded of her inability to get pregnant, and it is devastating. Graham desires her as much as ever, but she’s not reciprocating.


Promises they made in the past — “then” — may be the only thing keeping them together “now” – but is it enough?


Without Merit (Atria, $25 hardcover, $16 paperback) is more of a young adult novel, I suppose, since the story’s narrator is seventeen. But adults can appreciate it as well.


The narrator is named Merit, and she has an identical twin sister named Honor. Merit collects trophies she hasn’t won, and she is attracted to Honor’s boyfriend, Sagan, who kisses Merit one day thinking he’s kissing Honor.


And that’s just the beginning of her odd family’s story.


They live in what used to be a church until their father, an atheist, bought it because the pastor’s dog was barking too loud. Their invalid mother, Victoria, who is divorced from their father, lives in the basement and never comes out. Their father and his current wife, also named Victoria, have a four-year-old son named Moby.


The family can never finish a meal without at least one member stomping off to their room and slamming the door. It is a house full of secrets, lies and misunderstandings until Merit one day exposes all the secrets, which threatens to tear apart the few remaining threads holding the strange family together.* * * * *


Glenn Dromgoole writes about Texas books and authors. Contact him at g.dromgoole@suddenlink.net.


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


4th Annual Permian Basin Writers’ Workshop set for Oct. 13-14


Now in its fourth year, the Permian Basin Writers’ Workshop annual event will feature writing coaches, agents, and publishers from around the country, October 13-14, 2018.


The two-day workshop event will be held in Midland, at the Marie Hall Academic Building at Midland College.


The workshop will feature ten speakers, including Margie Lawson, Christie Craig, Manning Wolfe, David Farland, Reavis Z. Wortham, Kristen Marten, Stephen Graham Jones, Donna M. Johnson, B. Alan Bourgeois and Arlene Gale>>READ MORE




Randy Kennedy

Presidio: A Novel


Hardcover, 978-1-5011-5386-0 (also available as an e-book and audio-book), 320 pgs., $26.00

August 21, 2018


“Later, in the glove box, the police found a folder of notes. It said: Notes for the police.”


Troy Alan Falconer hasn’t been home to the fictional Texas Panhandle town of New Cona in six years. Despite his trepidation, Troy returns, answering a summons from his younger brother, Harlan, whose wife, Bettie, has absconded with all the money he had in the world. The two set out to find Bettie, but the task veers awry when Troy steals a station wagon from a Tahoka grocery-store parking lot. Unbeknownst to the brothers, an eleven-year-old Mennonite girl named Martha is hiding in the back. When they discover her the next morning, Martha has an agenda of her own, demanding the brothers return her to her father in Juárez. An inadvertent kidnapping being degrees of magnitude worse than advertent grand theft auto, the three head for México by way of Presidio.


Presidio: A Novel is debut fiction from Randy Kennedy, who grew up in Plains on the Llano Estacado. Kennedy decamped for New York City, where he wrote for the New York Times for twenty-five years, first as a city reporter and then covering the art world. Kennedy’s prose about the large hold of small places, the people as weather-beaten as the landscape, grabs you and refuses to relinquish its grip. Original and enthralling, Presidio is American realism in the vein of John Steinbeck and Stephen Crane.  >> READ MORE



Mary H. K. Choi

Emergency Contact

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Hardcover, 978-1-5344-0896-8 (also available as an e-book and audio-book), 400 pgs., $17.99

March 27, 2018


Penny is eighteen, beginning her freshman year at UT Austin. She’s funny, smart, and curious (in both senses of that word). She’s an anxious introvert who “would rather eat a pound of hair than reveal her true emotions,” highly organized, and a bit of a germaphobe. Penny, “living in books until the exciting part of her life could begin,” can’t wait to get away from her mother and her hometown boyfriend and begin her life as a science-fiction writer.


Sam is twenty-one with “irresponsible hair,” managing the Coffee House where he’s famous for his mad baking skills. He wants to be a documentary filmmaker but had to drop out of college because he couldn’t afford it. A bit adrift, Sam is lonely, lives on a mattress upstairs at the coffee shop, trying to remain sober in the face of despair and “gutted” by a broken heart. Penny discovers Sam as he’s in the middle of a panic attack on 6th Street (“a Disneyland Main Street for day drinkers”), and they exchange phone numbers in case of emergency.  >>READ MORE



Twig’s Top Ten Bestsellers

July 2018

What are Texans reading these days, you ask? Lone Star Lit’s newest regular feature is a monthly list of trending titles at the Twig Book Shop, a leading independent bookseller in San Antonio. Click on any title for the Buy link. And we'll also include a hotlink to related content in Lone Star Literary Life.


1  Claudia Guerra & Char Miller, 300 Years of San Antonio & Bexar County, 978-1-595348494

2  Michael Cirlos, Humans of San Antonio, 978-1-595347930

3 David Sedaris, Calypso, 978-0-316392389

4  HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself, 978-1-422157992

5  HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Mental Toughness, 978-1633694361

6  Min Jin Lee, Pachinko, 978-1-455563920

7  Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow, 978-0-670026197

8  Andy Weir, Artemis, 978-0-553448146

9  Robert Wright, Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment, 978-1-439195468

10  Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing, 978-1-501126079






6.3.18  The 2018 Julia Darling Memorial Poetry Prize

A prize of $750.00 and publication in The Ocotillo Review Winter 2019 will be awarded for a poem of up to 65 lines. Carrie Fountain will judge. Revenue generated will be donated to cancer research. Details: www.kallistogaiapress.org


6.3.18  The 2018 Chester B. Himes Memorial Short Fiction Prize

A prize of $750.00 and publication in The Ocotillo Review Winter 2019 will be awarded for a short story up to 4,200 words. Antonio Ruiz-Camacho will judge. Revenue generated will be donated to Parkinson’s research. Details: www.kallistogaiapress.org





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THAT ONE MOMENT by Patty Wiseman
Visit with Patty August 14–23, 2018

8/14/18 Book Trailer Texas Book Lover

8/14/18 Excerpt The Clueless Gent

8/15/18 Review Reading by Moonlight

8/16/18 Character Interview The Page Unbound

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JUSTICE BETRAYED by Patricia Bradley
Visit with Patricia August 15–24, 2018

8/15/18 Excerpt Part 1 Missus Gonzo

8/15/18 BONUS post Hall Ways Blog

8/16/18 Excerpt Part 2 Forgotten Winds

8/17/18 Review Dressed to Read

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8/23/18 Excerpt Part 4 Book Fidelity

8/24/18 Review That's What She's Reading



The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker



The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch by Bill Sarpalius, August 21–30

The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck, August 22–31


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2018 Kids' Summer Reading  NEW BOOKS ADDED!

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

8.12.2018   Mimi Swartz talks Ticker, Texas women, and Houston’s surfeit of great stories


Mimi Swartz, author of the just-released Ticker: The Quest for an Artifical Heart, and the author, with Sherron Watkins, of Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron, is an executive editor of Texas Monthly. Previously, she was a staff writer at Talk, from April 1999 to April 2001, and a staff writer at the New Yorker from 1997 to 2001. Prior to joining the New Yorker, she worked at Texas Monthly for thirteen years. In 1996 Swartz was a finalist for two National Magazine Awards and won in the public interest category for “Not What the Doctor Ordered.” She was also a National Magazine Award finalist for her November 2005 issue story on tort reform, titled “Hurt? Injured? Need a Lawyer? Too Bad!” and won the 2006 John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest, Magazine Journalism, for the same story. In 2013 she won her second National Magazine Award (again in the category of public interest), for “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives,” a compelling look at the state of women’s health care in Texas.


Over the years, Swartz’s work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Esquire, Slate, National Geographic, and the New York Times’ op-ed page and Sunday magazine. It has also been collected in Best American Political Writing 2006 and Best American Sportswriting 2007. She has been a member of the Texas Institute of Letters since 1994. Swartz grew up in San Antonio and graduated from Hampshire College, in Amherst, Massachusetts. She now lives in Houston with her husband, John Wilburn, and son, Sam.


LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: Ms. Swartz, how did you begin writing? Is writing something you always knew you wanted to do?


MIMI SWARTZ: I started writing in high school. I had amazing English teachers in my public school who challenged and inspired me. Sometimes I am amazed at the quality of the education I got back in the day.


You grew up in San Antonio, attended college in Amherst, Massachusetts, and now call Houston home. Why Houston, and what’s it like to live in the midst of such an outstanding writing community? Does that community influence your choice to make your home in Houston?


You know, it's funny. When I moved to Houston in 1976 there wasn’t really much of a writers’ community. That’s grown up along with the city, and, in particular, the University of Houston writing program. Now, yes, it’s great to have so many supportive friends. What really keeps me in Houston, though, are the fascinating people in general from all over the world. And as my husband says, you can’t walk out your front door without stumbling over a great story.


Your first book, written with former Enron executive turned whistleblower Sherron Watkins, is Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron (Doubleday, 2003). Is Enron the quintessential Houston story?


To me, the greatest Houston story is Blood and Money, written by Tommy Thompson in the 1970s. The book is by a terrific writer who knew exactly what to do with every bit of information he had: oil, wealth, crazy doctors, murder, passion, and more. >>READ MORE


Texas's only statewide, weekly calendar of book events
Bookish Texas event highlights  8.12.2018
>> GO this week   Michelle Newby, Contributing Editor



  • 3rd Annual Literary Libations Week: a Lit Crawl Austin fundraiser, Austin, August 12-15


Ongoing Exhibits

  • Oliver Jeffers: 15 Years of Picturing Books, Abilene, June 7-September 30


AUSTIN  Sun., Aug. 12 BookPeople, A Science Party for Kids with Lindsay Patterson and Marshall Escamilla, hosts of the "Tumble Science Podcast for Kids," 2PM


HOUSTON  Sun., Aug. 12  Murder By the Book, Lisa Scottoline will sign and discuss Feared, the newest book in the Rosato and Associates Series, and Sandra Brown will sign and discuss Tailspin, 4PM


AUSTIN  Mon., Aug. 13 BookPeople, BREE BARTON speaking & signing Heart of Thorns, KAYLA OLSON speaking & signing The Sandcastle Empire, and CORY PUTMAN OAKES speaking & signingWitchtown (moderated by Samantha M. Clark), 7PM


DALLAS  Tues., Aug. 14  Half Price Books Mother Ship, New York Times bestselling romantic-suspense author Sandra Brown will discuss and sign her new novel, Tailspin, 7PM


HOUSTON  Tues., August 14  Brazos Bookstore, Robert Wagner discussing and signing MOBY DICK AND THE MYTHOLOGY OF OIL, 7PM


EL PASO  Wed., August 15 UTEP's Centennial Museum, Rubí Orozco Santos debuts her collection of poetry, Inventos Mios, 5:30PM


DALLAS  Thurs., August 16  The Wild Detectives, Kasey & Joe R. Lansdale will be presenting their new book, Terror is Our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors, 7:30PM

ALSO READING IN PORT NECHES  Sat., August 18  Fleur Fine Books, 2PM


SAN ANTONIO  Thurs., August 16  Culture Commons Gallery, Thirty Poems for the Tricentennial, A Poetic Legacy Exhibit, 6PM


AUSTIN  Fri., August 17 Monkeywrench Books, benefit party to keep the doors open for MWB, 6PM


FORT WORTH  Sat., August 18  Monkey & Dog Books, George Goldthwaite will read from and sign Survival on Mystery Mesa, as well as reveal the cover art for his next book, 1PM


FORT WORTH  Sat., August 18  Fleur Fine Books, Kasey & Joe R. Lansdale will be presenting their new book, Terror is Our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors, 2PM


SULPHUR SPRINGS  Sat., August 18 The Bookworm Box, 5 Author Signing: Colleen Hoover, Abbi Glines, Daryl Banner, Tammara Webber, and Fisher Amelie, 1PM


News Briefs 8.12.18

TBF’s Literary Libations celebration begins this Tuesday, August 12


The Texas Book Festival’s (TBF) Literary Libations celebration, an annual event benefiting Lit Crawl Austin, will be held August 12–15, 2018. TBF and its partners plan three art and culture events around Austin. This year’s partners are the Austin Film Society, American Short Fiction, and Chicon Street Poets. >>READ MORE


Fort Worth BookFest features Latinx authors and books, spoken word events in 2nd year

FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth BookFest’s stated goal is “to raise awareness of the transformative power of literacy.” In its sophomore year, the BookFest will expand its offerings in an effort to embrace differences and celebrate diversity.


One of the new features for the 2018event announced this week is “Nuestros Cuentos/Our Stories & Lucha Libro.” An author panel with Juan Perez, Ofelia Faz-Garza, Virginia Alanis, Sylvana Avila Alonzo, and Maribel Rubio, moderated by Richard J. Gonzales (Raza Rising: Chicanos in North Texas), will explore the Latinx experience. The panel will spotlight culturally contemporary Latinx authors and poets, descendants of the Indigenous Peoples of the pre-Columbus Americas. Authors will read from their published works and participate in a Q&A with the audience. For younger readers there will be Lucha Libro, an initiative to encourage kids to read more. Created especially for Fort Worth BookFest, these luchadores (wrestlers) fight for literacy.  >>READ MORE


Dallas’s Arts & Letters Live announces fall 2018 lineup


DALLAS — In its 27th season, Arts & Letters Live has announced tits fall 2018 author lineup. As always, the list is an impressive lineup of award winners and best sellers, including Sarah Bird (Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, September 20), Doris Kearns Goodwin (Leadership in Turbulent Times, September 26), Andre Dubus III (Gone So Long, October 7), and Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing, November 1).


Arts & Letters Live is a literary and performing arts series produced by the Dallas Museum of Art that features award-winning authors and performers of regional, national, and international acclaim. The series is recognized for its creative multidisciplinary programming — combining literature with visual arts, music, and film — and for commissioning new work inspired by works of art in the museum's collection and special exhibitions.  >>READ MORE


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

Lone Star Listens compilation available summer 2018, 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 Summer 2018

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.


  • Examination and review copies will be available fall 2017 in watermarked pdf format.



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