Black Overalls by Tom Donaldson is an all-American tale of home-grown heroism, set in the struggling farms of Texas during the 1960’s. We follow Roy, failed football prospect turned journalist, as he digs into the history of his football idols – and discovers the tale of an unexpected hero. The story takes us from backwater Texas counties, to the State championships, to the horrors of Vietnam, and beyond. We find two seemingly separate lives are more intertwined than we think, and that there’s not much a small town with a big heart can’t do.
The comeback story has a universal appeal – you don’t have to know much about the game in question to appreciate the little guy standing up to the big team. And that’s exactly what this book is: a classic underdog story.
Black Overalls oozes with heart. Tom Donaldson clearly cares deeply about his subject, about the setting, about old-fashioned American values. The book touches on era-appropriate controversies, particularly around race, which culminates in war-torn Vietnam. I have to admit, it’s not where I expected the book to go. But it gives the story a touchingly human element and a feel-good ending. It’s nice to read a book where there’s no shocking twist, no depressing revelation; just a happy ever after. Occasionally that’s to a fault – scenes can lack conflict sometimes – but you certainly come out of it feeling okay about the human race.
This book is obviously a passion project for the author, but it struggles with a lack of proper grammar and punctuation. The pacing is sometimes confusing. The mixed perspective can occasionally jump between past and present without warning or context. And some chapters are often just technical descriptions of matches, venues, plays and lists of scores more comparable to Match of the Day.
Despite the flaws, a need for an editor, and dry sports commentary, I enjoyed Black Overalls immensely. If you’re a football fan or just looking for a short, light read then I think you might just enjoy it too.
Pages: 145 | ASIN: B01BNR347O
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Miss Sally by Robert Joe Stout is a portrait of a young girl growing up in Texas in the 1930’s. Through trial and error 13-year-old Sally Halm finds out about sex, relationships, and what it means to engage in this behavior without love. She painfully learns what it’s like to be a woman in rural Texas during the great depression and how the church expects women to behave. After patterns of abuse, devastating discoveries, and misguided adventures she learns what it means to be saved and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
My initial reaction when I began reading this book was one of excitement. I love history, and the 1930’s are one of my favorite eras because of how much was going on across the country. The Great Depression left a tremendous impact on the families affected. After getting a few pages in, however, it was difficult for me to place myself in the characters shoes.
This story gets better as it progresses and when I was further in I was unable to put it down. The writing style while not my favorite was engaging as the characters started to come to life. I especially enjoyed how Mr. Stout wrote Sally’s relationship with her mother. The relationship felt realistic to me because of my own experiences as a 13-year-old and how my mom and I got along.
Sally is a simple minded girl, she is not beautiful, and her family treats her this way. While her sisters, Judy and Hill’ry are thought to be beautiful. As a result of the treatment, she receives Sally has a low self-esteem and her sisters, lovers, and her imagination can quickly persuade her into things she doesn’t want to do. Through all of this, I noted that Sally still seeks the approval of her family and loves them very much.
Sally eventually becomes more curious and finds herself in trouble. After being landing in a church revival, one woman’s story sticks out to her in a way so profound she doesn’t feel she has done wrong enough to be saved by the Lord. She paints her own picture of this woman and believes she has to be like her to be truly saved. This event along with her sister’s encouragement lead to Sally’s dark fate. After what seems like years of abuse and bad decisions Miss Sally goes with her mother to be saved but is once again given the short end of the stick.
Sex and coming of age are two major themes in this story, and Mr. Stout’s rural writing style helps with the setting. Had this story been written any differently the plot wouldn’t have made sense. It was compelling and painted a strong picture of life for a young girl at that time.
Pages: 291 | ASIN: B071HL6YMJ
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Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged tells the story of Patterson and his wife, Alice, driving from the Mexican border to Atlanta, Georgia, with their two cats, Munchie and Tuffy. What was the inspiration that made you want to write such a heartwarming book?
This book was a love letter to Alice that wouldn’t stop flowing until it was a book – actually two books. Shortly after returning from our journey which actually was six weeks driving from Austin, Texas, to the Blue Ridge Mountains and back I took note of how much fonder I was of both our cats Tuffy and Munchie. Intrigued by this new found affection for Alice’s little prima donnas I decided to put in narrative all that I remembered about the trip. Funny thing was no sooner had I begun to write than the story took shape around Alice and how much she had meant to me for all these years. So I began to write about the very things Alice loves best after me – her cats. Only now, after our trip, I could feel they were our cats and that’s when I at last realized what Alice had been trying to help me understand all these years – that when you love another with an all-consuming passion you will love the things they love as well.
As the couple travel the country the tone is kept lite and is easy to read. What were the themes you were trying to capture as you wrote this story?
I attempted to tell through story a truth that life’s greatest joys can often be discovered and experienced by tuning in to the everyday things we often overlook. Sharing a meal in a crowded room or wincing when a cats claws catch your toes can be the occasion and should be the occasion for rekindling our love and feelings for one another. Celebratory moments are awaiting in almost every moment of the day if we only stop and feel the excitement of being alive.
It seems like you had a lot of fun writing this book. What was your favorite scene to write and why?
Actually writing about the manner in which Alice and I first met and how her spy almost cost us a life together was the most intoxicating scene for me as I penned the scenes. Alice only read the book after its conclusion and this part of the story was her favorite as well.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book is a sequel – Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Rising. It is the story of our journey on from Atlanta into the Blue Ridge Mountains. In this one the reader is afforded
an in depth view to Alice’s intensity for living on life’s edge and how.
Dining and Driving With Cats – Alice Unplugged is a heartwarming and beguiling adventure of a couple who shares a love that most of us only imagine. Pat Patterson is a born storyteller and makes readers feel as if they are part of the road trip. This book is as much a story of sweet devotion as it is an exquisite example of discovering life’s hidden joys in the smallest of everyday experiences. Not since Michael Ondaatje’s hypnotic voice in The English Patient has a book spoken with such an allure for the reader. You might even spot a bit of Irish in the author and his spouse’s detailed arguments comparing a dish from one restaurant to the same of another restaurant.
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Angie Brown, A Jim Crow Romance was originally written by Lillian Jones Horace 68 years ago. What inspiration did you find in this book that made you want to publish an annotated scholarly edition?
I am certain that most of my admiration stems from my appreciation for Horace, the African American southern woman writer, who remained true to her commitment to write “creatively but constructively.” Before I began conducting research on Horace and her writings, she and the archival material treating her life and works were largely overlooked by scholars.
The protagonists she created all exemplify the kind of determination that Horace herself demonstrated throughout her life.
I wanted to create an annotated scholarly edition to help Angie Brown find its way into the literary canon, where students and scholars of African American literature could weigh in on its value.
Angie Brown is a strong women that is finding her path through troubled times. What are some things you admire about her character?
I admire Angie’s determination, practicality, openness to learning, friendly nature, and commitment to progress.
What kind of research did you do for this novel and Lillian Jones Horace?
I conducted extensive archival research to better understand Horace and the characters she created. A comprehensive list of the repositories I visited appears in my first book-length publication on Horace titled, Recovering Five Generations Hence: The Life and Writing of Lillian Jones Horace (2013). I have been researching and writing about Horace since 2003. Her papers are held in the Fort Worth Public Library, Fort Worth, TX.
I understand you contacted some of the Horace family for this book. What were their reactions to you pursuing this 100 year old story?
I contacted her niece and two of her great nieces. Her great niece, who remembered her well, knew that Lillian Horace was a respected educator, but she had no idea that Horace had written two historic novels. Most of what I shared with her and other family members about Lillian Horace was new to them.
Do you have any other books in the works?
Yes. I am working on an edited version of Lillian Horace’s diary, and a book project comparing and contracting the trajectory of Horace’s life and works to those of her younger and more popular southern African American contemporary, Zora Neale Hurston.
“Angie Brown is a romance migration novel set in the Jim Crow era. Angie, the protagonist, determines to embrace all life has to offer despite the social restrictions facing young black southern women like her. Angie holds fast to her desire to find financial success, personal fulfillment, and true love, but she does not achieve her dreams alone, nor do they unfold in the same place. From Belle, her confidant; to Betty Yates, the teacher; to Chester, the pool hall owner; women and men from various social stations in life and different places share nuggets of wisdom with Angie. With their love and support, she overcomes tragedy, welcomes fresh possibilities, climbs the social ladder, and opens her heart to love. Angie’s progressive journey reflects the migratory trek of many African American Southerners of the Jim Crow era, who left the South for greater educational and economic opportunity. Her quest leads her from a small segregated community to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and eventually to the Midwest, including St. Louis, Missouri, Chicago, and Southern Illinois. As Angie travels from place to place, she gradually comes into her own and learns key life lessons. Angie learns that struggle is universal. While doing domestic work, she discovers that whites, who live on “The Other Side,” also experience pain, suffering, and grave disappointment. Love eludes white women, too, and they, too, face gender discrimination. Having overcome her fair share of personal losses, Angie reaches across racial lines to console Gloria, a member of the Parker family, for whom Angie does domestic work. Her experience with the Parker’s is juxtaposed to her dealings with the Mungers, a rich, Northern white family she meets. Although the Mungers are kind to Angie, she learns that life beyond the South is not perfect. Yes, she and other blacks face less virulent forms of racism outside the South, but economic stability and educational opportunity are not easily achieved.”
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Proud American is a biography about your journey through life in South Texas; from migrant worker to US solider and then US Border Patrol agent. What was the inspiration behind creating such a thoughtful memoir of your life?
My mother passed away in the summer of 2015. After her passing, I fell into a depression because I felt truly alone in the world. Being the only child of a single parent can do that to a person. I had my wife and kids with me but I still felt utterly alone, and I couldn’t shake it off.
My wife kept pushing me to discuss my thoughts and feelings, but I could not muster up the strength. I didn’t know how to discuss what I was experiencing. My wife suggested that I write my feelings down. For years, my wife has been telling me that she believes I’m a good writer. For years, I’ve been ignoring her compliments.
One night after dinner, she brought a letter to me. She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to open it. When I did, I saw that it was a letter I had written to her eight years ago. Eight years ago was when my wife and I first started dating, and one night she asked me over the phone, why I had joined the Army. I wrote her a letter and poured everything out on paper. It opened up the floodgates for me. That letter is now the first chapter of my book.
Do you remember what your idea of ‘America’ was as a child?
Because I began working at the age of seven, my idea of ‘America’ was that of tough living. It is hard for one to realize so young that his or her childhood is nothing like that of other kids. We were dirt poor and I had the full workload of an adult at the age of ten.
In time though, everything around me was a constant reminder of what else was possible in ‘America’. I knew there were better ways to make a living. At such a young age, I wanted to learn how to pursue my thoughts or dreams of a better life. I didn’t have time to dream of the next best toy or fun activity. I spent all my childhood dreaming and thinking of how to break my family cycle of picking crops for a living.
How did your outlook of ‘America’ change after your time in the US Army?
I must say that in many ways, the Army actually spoiled me. Although it increased my awareness of the harshness of life and the many challenges that it can impose on a person, it also continued to show me all the many possibilities available should one choose to work hard to achieve a desired goal. This only enhanced what I already believed as a kid. More so, I also learned of all the harsh realities of life and how people in other countries are in a far worse state than most of us here can ever possibly imagine or understand. I knew, after my military service, that we lived in the greatest country in the world. Even with all our faults and deficiencies, there is no comparison.
Being the son of a Mexican immigrant, was it hard for you to decide to become an agent in the US Border Patrol?
My decision to join the US Border Patrol was actually a fairly easy one. I was looking for something that would allow me to continue my government service. It’s important to note that my grandfather had never talked to us about his encounters with the US Border Patrol and thus played no role in my decision.
It wasn’t until after I had become an agent that I realized how my decision had impacted the entire family. It was a strange feeling and continues to be a delicate subject since I still have family that lives in Mexico and have not been able to visit them because of the dangers a visit from me would pose on them and even on me. With the violent cartel threat just across the border, it will be years before I can see my family again.
What is one stereotype that you think many Americans have of Mexican immigrants?
At this point in time, immigration has become a great issue for our country. With that said, the moment one begins to speak about immigration it is quickly considered to be a topic of Mexican immigrants and the ‘negative’ impact they have on our society.
I am an American Citizen by birth, but I do come from a Mexican Immigrant family and am now a Border Patrol Agent. I have to deal with criminals from every background one can possibly think of. As a federal agent, I don’t merely deal with immigration issues. I also deal with the issue of human trafficking and narcotics trafficking. In essence, I’m caught in the middle of the transaction.
I say this because in any transaction, there is a person providing a product and a person purchasing or demanding that product. I have to process undocumented individuals for deportation while at the same time prosecute the US Citizens that are committing the trafficking.
What role do you feel Mexican-Americans play in bridging the gap between these two countries?
I think we must all play the role of actual educators by way of providing facts and not opinions or emotional outbursts. I wrote a story in the book of an incident that happened to me while on the job as a Border Patrol Agent. The gentleman I encountered truly believed that he was above me simply because of my appearance and name tag. I chose to educate him and not escalate the situation with an emotional outburst. After that interaction, I earned the gentleman’s respect and he earned mine by showing me that he had learned the error in his thinking.
I’m a combat veteran who now has to deport people of my own Mexican Nationality because I have chosen to continue serving my country, the United States of America. And yet, I still have to educate people every single day of my patriotism and the struggles I’ve had to overcome in order to achieve the stability I now have.
Education is key.
“Being the only child of a single mother, Sergio was raised by his maternal grandparents in a South Texas region better known as the Rio Grande Valley. This memoir details the upbringing of a poor Migrant worker of Mexican descent having to pick crops for a living since the age of seven. As a way to break from the family cycle of picking crops and depending on government welfare programs, he joined the United States Army and served ten years active duty. He deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina shortly after the Bosnian War only to find and deal with the aftermath of the genocide that took place there and be caught in the middle of several attacks. His experiences in Bosnia ultimately led to experiencing signs and symptoms related to PTSD. After completing ten years of military service, Sergio joined the U.S. Border Patrol. Being of Mexican descent, having family in south Texas, and in Mexico gave way to new issues of having to counter threats against his family and ill-willed opinions of him for arresting and deporting “his own kind.””
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This collective memoir recounts the history of Sergio Tinoco, a migrant worker born in the USA accidentally, and his life as he maneuvers the complicated world of privileges and adventures. The storytelling is light and intuitive, offering a beautiful insight to the world of a maturing American trapped within a completely different frame-of-mind within his grandparents, who had raised him. As the years progress through Tinoco’s smooth narrative you see how his growth manifests in impressive ways as he joins the army and continues his life as a strong individual and proud American.
A tough beginning gives Sergio a critical and unique insight to the world that is clearly delivered through the narrative of the story, which is a tale about the author’s own beginnings and his growth into an adult. He was born into an immigrant family, having to be raised by his grandparents who were located in the US instead of his biological mother who was stuck in Mexico.
One aspect that is heavily played into in the beginning of the story is the itching desire to escape your hometown, your family, and reach a greater place. Most kids and teenagers feel this way, I believe, despite what kind of upbringing they had. It’s inspiring to read how that path opens up for a young soldier with such a rich background.
Fear and ambition is a common element in the history of Sergio, and the way he writes really draws readers in and lets them experience the emotions he feels during the twists and turns of his life. There are not many other characters aside from the storyteller, just brief occurrences of names and influences as years pass by in a beautiful trail of words and imagery. The narrative is quite similar to how our real lives unfold, full of minor characters and events that help mold and craft us into the people we stand as today. The same is true for Sergio, and the story is patriotic and full of struggles and achievements that you can share in while reading.
Every few pages readers are treated with an image of the author, sometimes accompanied by other family members and friends, or just of an action he has told us about. It’s a great way to connect with his audience and it really helped me get a picture of the life he lived and how it affected him.
Since I didn’t have an upbringing or lifestyle even remotely close to what Sergio’s environment, it was very interesting to read about, and I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about things foreign to me. The writing was thought-provoking, and I enjoyed the little instances of humor that were thrown in. Seeing the evolution of Sergio and his mindset over the years as he thinks back was a really enjoyable read, and I loved the way he painted vivid images and made me understand how his mind worked. A truly beautiful story.
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This novel is set in present day Dallas, Texas. It follows several characters dealing with a wide range of conflicts, all of which are expertly presented and developed. The story opens with Howard in a panic, leaving the reader to wonder what shady deal has gone wrong. Then, we get to meet Billy, the secretly homosexual Councilman and his crush. Quickly, Billy becomes desperate to keep his night life a secret and has to deal with some mean, motivated men to keep it that way. He calls Howard, lies about the situation, and the two try to deal with it while both playing their cards very close to their chests. When money gets involved, things go awry, the two men scramble even more to clean up their tracks.
This novel is supremely written, and the dramatic irony is set up perfectly. The reader is given just enough information about each of the characters to understand how much trouble they are actually causing for themselves. The pages turn quickly, and the reader can’t help but wait for all of the paths to cross. When they do, the action picks up, and the characters struggle to deal with the consequences.
Where this novel really shines is in the development of its characters. Lynch has crafted a diverse group of individuals, and each of them has an agenda that is logical and meaningful. Allison and her dream of becoming a lawyer while trying to support her brother and his ill son was one of the most gripping plots of the story. She makes a couple of decisions that may not seem logical to readers, but the decisions fit when someone is put into an illogical situation, as she is.
The pacing of the novel is superb, as well. Every chapter holds a new twist to the story, or a new goal for the characters to accomplish, and there is little downtime between the events. Readers will be excited to see how the characters react to each other, how they make their decisions, and how those decisions factor into the big picture.
If there was one downfall for the novel, it is that it can be a little predictable. This is difficult to judge, though. If one were to read and just enjoy, then the story carries itself very well through the pages. However, if one pauses and considers the events and the characters, it becomes quite easy to see what is going to happen in the following pages. No spoilers here, though.
Overall, the story is great. It is a fun, fast-paced read full of action, suspense, and angry people in Texas. The plot is twisting, logical, and exciting. The characters are believable, regular people, and any reader will quickly care about some of them, and hate the others. I hope that Mr. Lynch continues to write and publish his works, because he has done well in this attempt.
Pages: 352 | ASIN: B01G2IGCJ6
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Player follows Chloe, a British student attending college in the United States where she falls in love with a star football player. What was the inspiration to write a story about a British girl living in the United States and the subsequent love story?
Well, I actually applied to study in America (Texas being my first choice!), however, due to various reasons I ended up not going. This story sprang from that and, of course, I had to make it a romance because the lovey-dovey stuff is my favourite thing to write!
I felt that the relationship between Chole and Parker was deep and always entertaining to read. What was the inspiration for the love that develops between Chloe and Parker?
To be honest, their love wasn’t inspired by anything, it just grew and developed as I wrote the story. I’m so happy with the way that their relationship turned out; I liked the way Chloe and Parker were together, but I also thought that they were also strong characters apart.
What was one scene in the novel that you felt captured the morals and message you were trying to deliver to readers?
Probably the scene where Parker punches one of his team mates for being rude to Chloe, because the message that I was trying to get across in this book was that New Adult romances don’t need to be jam-packed with unrealistic drama, with hero’s that are ridiculously overprotective and get into fights at the smallest provocation. That’s not real life. In real life you can’t go around punching people that annoy you. In real life you have to talk to your partner otherwise there WILL be misunderstandings. In the scene that I’m talking about Chloe is not accepting of Parkers behaviour and makes it clear that she won’t put up with it, instead of just accepting it or thinking its sexy.
Player is the first book in the What Happens on Campus series. Can you tell us a little about where the story goes in book two and when the novel will be available?
Book two will be Flirt, Riley and Cameron’s book and it will explore Riley’s broken dreams and the reasons behind her escalating drug abuse, among other issues. I haven’t actually started writing it yet, though I plan to soon, and I’m hoping to have it ready for release in mid/late 2017.
After a tragic accident which leaves her tormented by guilt, Chloe Newman accepts a scholarship to study a St. Joseph’s University. Traveling from England to Texas, the last thing she expects is to meet the schools charming quarterback on her first night. However, Parker Mitchell is a player both on and off the field.
Parker is immediately fascinated by Chloe and, after a rocky start, they manage to find a way to make their relationship work despite interference from others on campus, including Parkers jealous ex, and the ghosts that haunt Chloe’s conscience. But, the real test comes when they visit Parker’s family over Christmas break and he finds himself being pulled back into their lifestyle…
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When twenty-year-old Chloe gets a scholarship to a university in South Texas, she’s more than happy to leave behind memories of a horrendous car accident that occurred two years earlier in her homeland of England. A fish out of water in the small, Texan town, Chloe immediately finds a friend in her roommate. Parker is an All-American football star at St. Joseph’s University in Texas. Known throughout campus as the ultimate ladies man, he’s just as surprised as his friends when he meets Chloe and can’t seem to shake her from his mind. While Parker’s interest in Chloe grows, she makes it known that she is a relationship girl only. Will he be able to change his ways? And can she finally outrun the ghosts that chase after her?
M.L. Sparrow’s Player: What Happens on Campus #1, appears to be a thoroughly entertaining attempt in kick-starting a series about these college students from a small university in Texas. Two worlds collide as British born Chloe and American raised Parker navigate separate sides of this story to bring it together as a whole.
The author does do a thorough job in keeping the story moving and keeping the reader on seat’s edge. Sparrow does not skimp on the drama, throwing plot twists and new characters into the mix to keep the story moving along at a speedy pace. The many plot twists and heightened drama alone make this story a worthwhile read for anyone looking to enjoy some easy entertainment.
Pages: 235 | ASIN: B01HH8GEF2
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Wilder Hearts by Lilly Gayle is a combination of a historical western romance and a mystery romance novel. If you love stories about Billy the Kid and western gunslingers, you will enjoy this book. There is a mystery story line involving a serial killer to keep the novel moving along as well as the romance between the two main characters Ellie Wilder and Jake Markham. The book has a slow start, you get some background to the characters but it jumps around a lot between current events, stories that Ellie and her sister Ida Louise tell, and past events. About a third of the way though the novel, when the Wilder family make it to Harmony Texas, the story picks up and moves quickly.
From the beginning of the book Ellie and her sister are following their father from Pennsylvania to Texas. Their father Clay is an oil wildcat looking to find the next big oil deposit in Texas. When the they arrive in Austin Texas they’re greeted by the street cleaner outside the train depot. He tells the girls about some murders that have happened recently by a killer named the Servant Girl Annihilator. Ellie is drawn into the mystery and wants to know all she can about the case. While at the train station waiting on their father to fetch their trunks she spots a man resembling a sketch in her book about Billy the Kid and his gang of Renegades. The man she see’s is listed as Jake the Snake in her book but in reality he goes by several names. Ellie is attracted to him right away even if she doesn’t recognize that it is desire at first. She is just intrigued by the mystery, why is he in Austin, how is a wanted man wandering the city unnoticed, is he the Annihilator? Ellie dreams of being a famous writer and thinks telling the story of what happened to Jake the Snake or the story of the Annihilator is her ticket to fame. In Ellie’s innocence she fails to see the danger and trouble associated with her spying and investigating.
Jake is actually a Texas Ranger that goes undercover in the small dying town of Harmony. This is also where the Wilder family winds up as Clay Wilder is certain there is oil to be found in that small town. Character development was something that I enjoyed as there were many interesting people the book introduces. From the rich grandfather, to the old town sheriff you really get a feel for each character’s personality. And as the story goes on you start to understand and like them. I liked the historical accuracy of the Oil Industry and its expansion in the west that is used throughout the novel. The author expertly uses accurate descriptions of that time period to really sell the time and place of the old west; and I enjoyed the references to the Texas Rangers and Billy the Kid.
This is a great read once you get past the slow beginning chapters. Then the story gains a strong direction and the story flows smoothly. Wilder Hearts provides an adventurous and romantic look at the untamed west that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Pages: 254 | ISBN: 9781310875816
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