A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, November 30, 2018

Covey Jencks by Shelton L Williams - Narrated by Kathy James- Feature and Review

SHELTON L. WILLIAMS Narrated by Kathy James

Genre: Mystery / Social Thriller Publisher: Southern Owl Publications, LLC Publication Date: February 10, 2018

Number of Pages: 229 pages Audio Book Length: 6 hours, 38 minutes


Covey Jencks is a murder mystery with a social conscience. Set in West Texas with a cast of colorful and humorous characters, it follows a young lawyer from Washington, DC back to his hometown of Odessa, Texas. He wants and needs to solve a murder case from 1979 in 1993. The problem is that the Odessa Police Department has already found its man, and no one wants to re-visit the case of a black prostitute whose life was seemingly of no consequence to anyone. But Freddie Mae Johnson’s death matters to Covey, and eventually he discovers an old flame, JayJay Qualls, who also knew and loved Freddie. Together they undertake an investigation that uncovers not only the truth about Freddie but also the secrets of Odessa’s south side, Mexican gangs, a Boston mobster, and the fallacy of unexamined assumptions. Finding out who killed Freddie is one thing, but preventing their own demise is quite another! 

Covey JencksCovey Jencks by Shelton L. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Covey Jencks by Shelton L. Williams is a 2018 Southern Owl publication.

Covey Jencks has returned home to Odessa, Texas, from Washington, D.C., to tackle an unsolved murder which haunted him for years.

He sets up his own law firm, re-connects with an old girlfriend, JayJay, and begins looking under rocks, searching for clues that might, after all these years, solve the 1979 murder of Freddie Johnson, a woman who was very special to him.

As Covey and JayJay connect the dots, they discover ties to Boston mobsters, Mexican gangs, and crooked cops. The closer they get to the truth, the riskier the investigation becomes. “The Lovebirds” can only hope they will live to see justice prevail.

Many of you may recognize Odessa, Texas from the book, movie, and television show, “Friday Night Lights”. It is true that when speaking of Odessa, it is impossible not to make at least a few casual references to football. However, this novel, which is set in the nineties, with flashes back to the late seventies, is a crime novel, which initially starts out as an investigation into a mysterious cold case.

This was a time when racism was not something people took great pains to hide, at least not in this neck of the woods, and as such, minorities or marginalized people led secretive lives, and did not blend together the same way we do now.

The author did an amazing job of capturing the attitudes, dialogue, and social climate of the decades in which the story is set. Not only that, he nails the weather and atmosphere of Odessa, with the dust, and the wind, which goes a long way towards creating a certain ambience for this type of story. The descriptions are vivid and accurate, as is the dialogue, which is often humorous, and very nostalgic. (Think AOL and chat rooms!!) However, it should be noted that racial slurs are common place in the novel. This is in no way gratuitous, but is an authentic and accurate depiction of the attitudes and opinions of the characters in a specific time and place. This doesn’t make it any easier to read or listen to, of course, and it is offensive, as it should be, but unfortunately, it is all too realistic.

This story does have a lot of personality and charm, though, which helps to offset the edgier parts. The story is gritty, yet stylish, with terrific banter and dialogue, a widely diverse cast of characters, and is a superior crime drama, loaded with surprise revelations and interesting twists. The pacing is steady, befitting the style of the story. I’d love to hear more about these characters in the future, and so I hope the author will give us a periodic update. Surely, Covey, JayJay, and the gang have a few more adventures on the horizon!!

Overall, this an impressive mystery and crime story, and I really loved the thought provoking and cautionary warning this novel inspires. As the author states in his closing remarks, the past forty years should not be viewed a decline. If we are not careful, however, a decline is exactly what will happen, and this book shows you just want that decline might look like, and it’s not a pretty sight.


When I signed up to review this title, it was mainly to critique the audio version. The book has been given a little spit and polish since it was first published, and is now available in audiobook format via Audible.

The audiobook recording is smooth, but there are a couple of things you may want to be prepared for.

As a reviewer, I mainly write for other readers and I have found it immensely helpful to know in advance what to expect from a book, which is especially true for the audio experience.

As a person who has only used audio streaming for the past couple of years, a learning curve was required. I only add audio for about one out every eight books I read. So, my opinions may seem a little naive.

The book is written in a first person narrative, so I found the female narrator to be an interesting choice, since Covey is a guy. This is not a criticism, really, it's just that I've never come across that before, and it took me a little time to adjust.

That said, the narrator does give distinct voices for each character, and tells the story with great enthusiasm. Once all the characters were introduced and I understood their roles, I was completely invested in the plot, and could visualize the landscape. I grew to love Covey and JayJay, and the colorful cast of characters featured in the book. It was smooth sailing from then on. Overall, it was a pleasant listening experience. I recommend adding the audio to complement the e-book, for a richer experience.

4.5 stars for the story and 3.5 stars for the audiobook version.




Williams seamlessly braids a murder mystery with a love story and a drama about the pervasiveness of racism in the South... The author’s prose is buoyantly eccentric, both insightful and self-effacingly humorous. And the clues Covey and JayJay track down are meted out to readers with impressive judiciousness: The author never prematurely surrenders so much information that the conclusion is rendered foregone while the tale’s swift pace prevents it from becoming tedious. An engrossing crime drama that’s both entertaining and provocative. -- Kirkus Indie

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now Covey Jencks. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

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My first part time job while I was in high school was announcing at the local radio station, and I had fun being "on the air” and using my sarcastic sense of humor.  I worked in the radio business for more than twenty years. My favorite pastimes are teaching figure skating, getting lost in a great book, and watching movies.  I narrate and produce audio books in my home studio, and I truly enjoy bringing an author’s characters to life with an audio book. I currently reside in Minnesota with my slightly overweight cat and two childlike golden retrievers.  
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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine- Feature and Review


From the author of the acclaimed novels The House Between Tides and Beyond the Wild River, a rich, atmospheric tale set on the sea-lashed coast of west Scotland, in which the lives of a ninth-century Norsewoman, a nineteenth-century woman, and a twenty-first-century archeologist weave together after a body is discovered in the dunes.

Libby Snow has always felt the pull of Ullanessm a lush Scottish island enshrouded in myth and deeply important to her family. Her great-great-grandmother Ellen was obsessed with the strange legend of Ulla, a Viking maiden who washed up on shore with the nearly lifeless body of her husband—and who inspired countless epic poems and the island’s name.

Central to the mystery is an ornate chalice and Libby, an archaeologist, finally has permission to excavate the site where Ulla is believed to have lived. But what Libby finds in the ancient dunes is a body from the Victorian era, clearly murdered…and potentially connected to Ellen.

What unfolds is an epic story that spans centuries, with Libby mining Ellen and Ulla’s stories for clues about the body, and in doing so, discovering the darker threads that bind all three women together across history.

Infused with Sarah Maine’s signature “meticulous research and descriptive passages of lush, beautiful landscapes” (Publishers Weekly), Women of the Dunes is a beautifully told and compelling mystery for fans of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams.



Women of the DunesWomen of the Dunes by Sarah Maine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine is a 2018 Atria Books publication.

“Perhaps that’s what a legend is, a memory preserved over many generations”

What a fascinating and thought- provoking Scottish tale spanning centuries and generations, examining legends, the truth behind them, and the way history tends to repeat itself.

Libby and her university team have arrived on Ullanessm Island for the summer to work on an excavation project. For Libby, the trip is just as personal as it is professional. Her great- great grandmother once lived on Sturrock estate, as a service worker.

The past timelines, beginning in the 9th century, reveal adultery, scandal, trials of faith, forbidden love, and the makings of legends. Those legends, passed down through the years, has an enormous impact on Ellen, a servant girl in the 19th century. Once more a love triangle emerges, and a man of God questions his faith, while more doubt is cast on lineage and heritage, and eventually leads the reader to Libby. As Libby works closely with the Sturrock family, she finds herself embroiled in their unconventional family dramas, where once more, scandal, lies, and greed brings the legends and myths of old, full circle, while adding and creating their own contemporary legends, sure to be pondered on and investigated by future generations.

While the pacing of the story slowly connects the three timelines, it is seamless and easy to follow, and so full of drama, angst, and tension it was hard to put the book aside for any length of time. The vivid Scottish scenery helps to create the rich atmosphere of the novel, combining historical details in with present day analogies.

I love legends, myths, folklore, and stories that are passed down from generation to generation. As is demonstrated here, the stories don’t always represent the whole truth, but, they allow us a portal to the past, and has a way of connecting families. But, one must wonder at the validity of the legends, how much truth is blended with embellishments, or if the legends were censured or exaggerated to conceal a scandal, or to protect someone, thus adding a quality of mystery and intrigue to be guessed at and debated for many generations to come.





Sarah Maine was born in England and emigrated to Canada with her family at the age of ten. A small northern Ontario community was home for the next two years before the family moved south, and Sarah went to high school in Toronto. She returned to England to study archaeology, stayed on to do research and work, married there and has two sons. 
Books were always important. She grew up on a diet of Arthur Ransome and Robert Louis Stevenson but also the classics, Jane Austen and the Brontés and, of course, Daphne du Maurier - but now enjoys a wide range of contemporary fiction. 
She has publlished three books - The House between Tides, Beyond the Wild River and Women of the Dunes and is currently working on her fourth, set partly in New Zealand.

A Christmas Secret by Kirsty Ferry - Feature and Review


A heartwarming fun read from Kirsty Ferry, perfect for cat lovers and fans of Kathryn Freeman, Lindsey Kelk and Jill Mansell. 
What if a secret from Christmas past was stopping you from moving on to Christmas future? 

When Hugo McCreadie steps into Isla Brodie’s pet portrait studio to get a ‘Festive Furball Photo Shoot’ for his sister’s cat Schubert, he does question his sanity. But he knows the photographs will be the perfect Christmas present for his eccentric sister, Nessa – and he finds himself quite taken with ditzy, animal-loving Isla Brodie, too. 

Will a Christmas secret from long ago prevent Hugo and Isla’s new friendship from going any further? Or will a certain big, black cat taking matters into his own paws lead them not only on a mad winter dash through snowy Edinburgh –but into each other’s arms for Christmas as well? 



 A Christmas Secret (Choc Lit): A gorgeous fun novel to set you up for the season. (Schubert Book 2)A Christmas Secret (Choc Lit): A gorgeous fun novel to set you up for the season. by Kirsty Ferry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Christmas Secret by Kirsty Ferry is a 2018 Choc Lit publication.

A madcap adventurous romance featuring the sly matchmaker, Schubert the cat.

Hugo is pet sitting his sister Nessa’s very large black cat- Schubert, who could be a Norwegian Forest Cat or a Maine Coon. With the holidays quickly approaching, Hugo decides to take Schubert to a pet photography studio to have his picture made as a gift for his sister.

There he meets Isla, the pet photographer. Hugo thinks Isla is adorable and nice and wants to get to know her better. But he’s harboring a dark little secret from his past that could be a deal breaker for Isla.

Isla, meanwhile, is having trouble avoiding her possessive ex-boyfriend whose jealousy could interfere with Isla’s budding romance with Hugo.

Sensing there could be a little trouble brewing, Schubert, who is too smart and intuitive for his own good, is working overtime to help this couple overcome the obstacles in the way of their romance.

I knew I was going to enjoy this story simply because I love cats. But, when I discovered the cat’s breed, I was even more delighted. I desperately want a Maine Coon cat and am on the look out for a rescue. Not only that, I’m partial to black cats. But the question is, even with all that going for it, is the story a good one? Absolutely!

This a short, light hearted and zany holiday story full of humor and romantic adventure. There is a slightly sinister undertone, however, but Shubert has everything under control. So, just sit back and watch him manipulate his humans- for their own good, of course, and enjoy Isla and Hugo’s magical whirlwind romance!




Kirsty is from the North East of England and won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition in 2009 with the ghostly tale 'Enchantment'.

Her timeslip novel, 'Some Veil Did Fall', a paranormal romance set in Whitby, was published by Choc Lit in Autumn 2014. This was followed by another Choc Lit timeslip, 'The Girl in the Painting' in February 2016. The experience of signing 'Some Veil Did Fall' in a quirky bookshop in the midst of Goth Weekend in Whitby, dressed as a recently undead person was one of the highlights of her writing career so far!

Kirsty's first timeslip novel 'The Memory of Snow' is set on Hadrian's Wall, not far from where she lives and her second novel, the vampire tale 'Refuge' is set on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which lies just off the beautiful Northumberland coast.

'The Memory of Snow' was also commended in the Northern Writer's Awards, shortlisted to the top five of Wyvern Publication's novel competition in 2011 and longlisted in the Red Telephone Novel Competition in 2012. 

Kirsty has also put together a collection of short stories entitled 'Turn on a Sixpence' and a non-fiction collection of articles entitled 'History and Mystery - Northern Hauntings Explored'. 

'Skellig' author David Almond has given Kirsty excellent feedback on her work and she recently attended a Crossover Fiction workshop with David, facilitated by the Royal Society of Literature. 

Kirsty has also had articles and short stories published in Peoples Friend, Ghost Voices, The Weekly News, It's Fate, Vintage Script, and Wyvern Magazine. Her short stories also appear in Wyvern Publications 'Mertales' and 'Fangtales anthologies, Whitby Abbey's 'Pure Inspiration' anthology and Bridge House Publishing's anthologies 'Devils, Demons and Werewolves', 'Crime after Crime' and 'Voices of Angels', along with 'The Best of CafeLit 2011'. All of these books are available on Amazon. 

Kirsty was a judge in the Paws 'n' Claws 'Wild and Free' Children's Story competition in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

You can find out more about Kirsty and her work at www.rosethornpress.co.uk, catch her on her Facebook AuthorPage or follow her on Twitter @kirsty_ferry.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Best Man For the Wedding Planner by Donna Alward- Feature and Review


The first rule of wedding planning…Be prepared for anything!

Wedding planner Adele Hawthorne is prepared for wedding hitches…but not for the best man to be Dan — her ex! Thrown together at every turn, Adele can’t escape their chemistry or the fact that her heart-breaking reason for leaving him all those years ago hasn’t changed. With just days before Dan leaves their winter wonderland, can he convince Adele they still have something worth fighting for?


Best Man for the Wedding Planner (Marrying a Millionaire Book 1)Best Man for the Wedding Planner by Donna Alward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Best Man for the Wedding Planner by Donna Alward is a 2018 Harlequin Romance publication.

A dramatic, very emotional and heartwarming second chance love story!

As a wedding planner, Adele is always prepared for the unexpected. But even she couldn’t have anticipated her client’s best man would be Dan, the love of her life, the man whose heart she broke years ago.

Dan can’t believe he is face to face with ‘Delly’ after all this time. She still deeply affects him, and try as he might, he’s never gotten over her. He never understood why she abruptly broke things off. As awkward as things are, Dan and Adele put on their best faces for the sake of the bride and groom.

However, they keep running into one another, with first one thing, then another, going south. The attraction is still strong between them, but Dan’s pain and bitterness occasionally breaks through. Why did Adele leave him? Is there a chance they can put the past behind them and have a future together, or has too much time elapsed?

The trouble with fiction is that it makes too much sense
whereas reality never makes sense

Adele was only in her early twenties when she received very bad news. She felt the right thing to do, the fair thing to do, for Dan, was to set him free. However, after all this time, Dan is still single, and can’t settle down. For Adele, whose upbringing was a little tough, she is a firm believer in facing reality and despite her job of creating the perfect weddings for happily ever after futures, she doesn’t think that applies to her. Her reality is not the same and so she refuses to allow even a glimmer of hope to penetrate her heart or mind.

But maybe Dan is right. Maybe ‘reality’ is over rated.

Amen and Hallelujah!! Dan is the man! Too much ‘reality’ can make people blind to other possibilities, cause them to stop trying, to lose all faith and hope. It can become an excuse to just give up, to harden your heart, to close your mind, to settle for something less than, to admit defeat. It stymies creativity and imagination.

Adele was given a major life blow and believing herself to be noble, made a cowardly choice. Her ‘reality’ trapped her heart in a cage of fear, that nearly cost her a chance to really live a full life. No, nothing about her original circumstances changed, but she changed the reality of her circumstances, and wow!! Just wow!!

Working through conflict is tough. Adele’s choices had consequences that caused trust issues, and yes, there were high, painful hurdles to climb over, but because Dan and Adele took a chance, a leap of faith, and went out on a limb, they found their way back to each other, despite ‘reality’.

The ending to this supercharged emotional story was so very sweet and touching. It tugs on the old heart strings and I admit I may have blubbered a little.

The situation started off on a grim note, with raw, sad, and painful emotions, but I loved watching this couple work their way back to each other and finally, finally, getting that much deserved and long overdue happily ever after!!





While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers.

Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict. You can visit her on the web at www.DonnaAlward.com and join her mailing list at www.DonnaAlward.com/newsletter .