Book Blitz: The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens

Chrysta Castañeda & Loren Steffy
Genre: Biography/Autobiography, Courtroom Drama
Publisher: Stoney Creek Publishing Group
Date of Paperback Publication: September 15, 2021
Number of Pages: 300 Pages
Finalist, 2020 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award
T. Boone Pickens, legendary Texas oilman and infamous corporate raider from the 1980s, climbed the steps of the Reeves County courthouse in Pecos, Texas in early November 2016. He entered the solitary courtroom and settled into the witness stand for two days of testimony in what would be the final trial of his life.
Pickens, who was 88 by then, had made and lost billions over his long career, but he’d come to Pecos seeking justice from several other oil companies. He claimed they cut him out of what became the biggest oil play he’d ever invested in—in an oil-rich section of far West Texas that was primed for an unprecedented boom. After years of dealing with the media, shareholders and politicians, Pickens would need to win over a dozen West Texas jurors in one last battle.
To lead his legal fight, he chose an unlikely advocate—Chrysta Castañeda, a Dallas solo practitioner who had only recently returned to the practice of law after a hiatus borne of disillusionment with big firms. Pickens was a hardline Republican, while Castañeda had run for public office as a Democrat. But they shared an unwavering determination to win and formed a friendship that spanned their differences in age, politics, and gender.
In a town where frontier justice was once meted out by Judge Roy Bean—“The Law West of the Pecos”—Pickens would gird for one final courtroom showdown. Sitting through trial every day, he was determined to prevail, even at the cost of his health.
The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens is a high-stakes courtroom drama told through the eyes of Castañeda. It’s the story of an American business legend still fighting in the twilight of his long career, and the lawyer determined to help him make one final stand for justice.

“Think you know T. Boone Pickens, the larger-than-life business titan, energy trader, and corporate raider? Think again. The attorney representing Pickens in his final major court battle and the business writer who covered him most over the decades reveal a whole other T. Boone that few people outside his bubble could have ever imagined.” Joe Nick Patoski, author of Austin to ATX and host of the Texas Music Hour of Power

“Chrysta Castañeda and Loren Steffy have accomplished the remarkable. They’ve taken issues most familiar to lawyers and judges, woven them into an incredible story and presented to all an enjoyable journey through The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens. Craig Enoch, Former Texas Supreme Court Justice and founder of the Enoch Kever law firm

CHRYSTA CASTAÑEDA is a Texas trial attorney specializing in oil and gas disputes. She formed her own boutique law firm in 2014 after more than twenty years as a partner and associate in some of the world’s top law firms.


LOREN STEFFY is a journalist and author of four other nonfiction books: Deconstructed: An Insider’s View of Illegal Immigration and the Building Trades (with Stan Marek) (Stoney Creek Publishing, 2020), George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet (Texas A&M University Press, 2019), Drowning in Oil: BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit (McGraw-Hill, 2010) and The Man Who Thought Like a Ship (Texas A&M University Press, 2012). His first novel, The Big Empty, was published in April 2021.

Nonfiction Review: Egyptomaniacs by Dr. Nicky Nielsen

Egyptomaniacs: How We Became Obsessed with Ancient Egypt

Author: Nicky Nielsen, Ph.D.

Published: November 19, 2020

Publisher: Pen and Sword History

Number of Pages: 224 pages

Format: eBook

Source: NetGalley

Egyptomaniacs is an in depth analysis of Ancient Egypt, both it’s discovery and the subsequent media frenzy and perceived mythology in the wake of said discovery.  The author, Dr. Nicky Nielsen, is an accomplished lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Manchester and has published numerous works of academic research in this field.  The author breaks the book down into two larger sections:  one focusing on the ways in which Egypt has been studied from the Classical period to the Napoleonic Era.  Also featured is the rise of the Egyptian tourism industry and an in depth analysis of the ways in which fascist and nationalist regimes have used Egyptian symbolism and culture for their own devices.  The second portion of the books explores the ways that popular mythology about Egyptian culture have formed and propagated through the collective psyche.  The author writes at length about how ancient Egypt has been portrayed in popular culture, including several interesting pseudoscience theories about aliens.

A particularly poignant line from the introduction:

[Egypt] is and always has been a crossroads of ideas, trade, and exchange.  But perhaps more so than any other country on the planet, even the mention of its name in casual conversation will conjure up mental images and evoke emotions; the name speaks of the desert and crumbling limestone carvings, of the flow of the River Nile, of an ancient land, exotic, mystic, arcane.  These perceptions of Egypt have changed surprisingly little across the centuries; many can be traced from the Greeks to the Romans, to Renaissance scholars in Italy and to the first Egyptologists and the public they catered to.

‘You’re and Egyptologist? Then you know about the aliens, right?!’ [Introduction]. (2020). In N. NIELSEN (Author), EGYPTOMANIACS: How we became obsessed with ancient egypt (p. Xi). S.l.: PEN & SWORD HISTORY.

As a reader, I loved the Egypt that I saw in movies as a child.  I remember picking up an Eyewitness book on Egypt at my local library.  This book has re-shaped and re-formed my ideas about Egypt.  Of course, as I am now an adult, I understand that the Egypt I saw in popular culture was something that had been embellished and hyperbolized through the filter of mass media.  This is a must read for anyone who has an affinity for the ancient Egypt as depicted in pop culture.  Not only is it a fantastic, well written exploration of our obsession with Egypt, it is also a striking critique of pop culture through time.  The author’s analysis of the human obsession with an ancient culture can be applied to any subject that has been run through the mass media filter.  As a Texan, I understand that the Alamo is a symbol of hope for many, but it is also a mythologized point in our history that was not as glamorous as the movies make it out to be. 

Overall, I enjoyed the pacing and structure of this book as a nonfiction monograph.  I felt the writing style was conversational and easy to read, even for someone who is not prone to academic reading.  I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in the topic it presents. 

I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Review: Finding Dora Maar by Brigitte Benkemoun

Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, an Address Book, a Life

Author: Brigitte Benkemoun

Published: May 19, 2020

Publisher: Getty Publications

Format: Paperback

Source: Publisher Request

In search of a replacement for his lost Hermès agenda, Brigitte Benkemoun’s husband buys a vintage diary on eBay. When it arrives, she opens it and finds inside private notes dating back to 1951—twenty pages of phone numbers and addresses for Balthus, Brassaï, André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Paul Éluard, Leonor Fini, Jacqueline Lamba, and other artistic luminaries of the European avant-garde.

After realizing that the address book belonged to Dora Maar—Picasso’s famous “Weeping Woman” and a brilliant artist in her own right—Benkemoun embarks on a two-year voyage of discovery to learn more about this provocative, passionate, and enigmatic woman, and the role that each of these figures played in her life.

Longlisted for the prestigious literary award Prix Renaudot, Finding Dora Maar is a fascinating and breathtaking portrait of the artist.

This work received support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States through their publishing assistance program.

There are many reviews of this book, but I feel like many are missing the point of the book.  Yes, a vintage diary was purchased to replace a lost one.  Yes, the author does a lot of research to be able to bring the narrative of Maar’s life, for lack of a better phrase, to life.  But the point that is missed that I found wonderfully striking as I read this work was that of found object theory.  This is the artistic concept of using an object which has a non-art purpose as art.  A toilet painted in fluorescent colors and installed on a street corner as a piece of art would be in this vein.  The author takes a seemingly inconspicuous diary, ordered from eBay and meant to replace a lost item, and takes a journey through the life of an artist, to create art in written form.  It’s beautiful and in the same vein as Picasso and so many other artists who are mentioned in this book. 

I found this book thought provoking and very well written and translated.  I would recommend this to fans of art and biographies.  This is an interesting story with many facets.  Of course, there is a bit of controversy with the views that Dora held near the end of her life, though I think the author deal with it in an equitable way.  I do think that this is an interesting and through provoking book that is worth the time to read!  Thank you to the folks at Getty Publications for sending me a copy to review!  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I received a galley copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!


Review: River Queens by Alexander Watson

River Queens

Author: Alexander Watson

Published: October 15, 2018

Publisher: Orange Frazer Press

Format: Hardcover

Source: Author Request

Two men and a spotted dog restore a vintage Chris-Craft motor yacht and launch across the American Heartland from Texas to Ohio. The restoration, the people they met along the way, and life in an America which few know exists are the story of River Queens: Saucy boat, stout mates, spotted dog, America.

I was approached by the author to review this book early in my blogging days.  I am ashamed to say that I’ve just now gotten to it with my blog tour commitments and NetGalley queue.  I should have read this a long time ago!  This is a story about the human condition, acceptance, and finding yourself in the most unexpected places.  From page 1 of the prologue, I was hooked, line, and sinker.  I had no idea what I was in for and it turned into the most interesting read of this year.  I understand the reviews from my fellow readers.  This book is an experience.  Not only is it an experience that I needed, but it is an experience that should be shared!

There is a familiar refrain within this book that bears repeating again, “Is this what you intend to do with your life?”  Alexander Watson narrates this story with periodic flash backs and visceral descriptions of events in his life.  This  is a deeply personal journey and I am so glad that I was able to be along for the ride!

Alexander and Dale meet so many interesting people along the way.  What they find is not only  acceptance, but kinship and friendship, which is a rare thing.  It almost feels like, in the age of technology and connection, it is so hard to make connections in the vein of kinship.  I can’t tell you the last time I felt like I had that sort of connection with someone! 

There is loss, grief, and most of all love in this book.  I genuinely feel like, after reading this book, I am a better person, or at least a changed person in a good way.  If you are looking for a memoir, this is the book for you.  A classic wooden yacht, partners, and their faithful dog embark on a journey that will change them forever.  Magnificent!

Thank you to Alexander Watson for asking me to review this book.  It truly is a wonderful memoir!  Get your copy today at the links below!


#LSBBT Blog Tour: Landing in My Present by Mary Walker Clark

Mary Clark Biography / Aviation / Historical / WWII
Publisher: Hellgate Press Date of Publication: June 15, 2020
Number of Pages: 218
Scroll down for the giveaway!
Mary Walker Clark barely knew her father. When he died, he left not only the obvious void every teen would experience, but took with him scores of Indiana Jones-style tales about flying the Hump, a treacherous series of US missions that transported supplies over the Himalayas to China during World War II. 
It would take a chance interview with a pilot who had flown with her father in the war to launch a series of extraordinary journeysinto a shrouded past and halfway around the globe to India and Chinafor Clark to finally come to know the father whose absence had haunted her for decades. 
Landing in My Present chronicles the adventures of a daughter who chose to pry open a painful past while enlarging her view of an adventurous father long thought lost.

As I get older, I begin to realize that one of the hardest things in life is grappling with the past in the present.  Landing In My Present is not only a story of familial discovery, but of the lessons learned along the way.  As a historian, I have  been studying place and shared memory for a very long time.  Oftentimes, our loved ones wish to not take up space in our lives with stories of the past because they want us to live in the present.  Mary Walker Clark’s father is a prime example of this, having lived his life without a lot of talk about his days in the war.  He passed away in November 1966.  50 years later, Mary Walker Clark undertook a journey to learn about her father and explore those spaces that he inhabited during his service years. 

A beautiful line in the beginning struck a resounding chord with me:  “How do you broaden your relationship with someone who has been dead 50 years?”  This is the key to this story and the key to Mary’s journey.  Throughout the book, I saw a lot of myself in Mary’s descriptions of her experiences and her emotions.  I too deal with grief in a similar way, silence at first, but oftentimes I look for pieces of those people in the historical record and experience that grief all over again.  Not to worry though, this is not a sad story, it’s a story of self-discovery! 

Along the way, there are beautifully written vignettes, just snippets of memory, that draw you even deeper into Mary’s narrative.  She describes her father as an entrepreneur, always striving to implement a new technique or innovate.  That innovative, ingenious spirit reminds me of my grandfather, also born and raised in the Texas Panhandle in a tiny town.  I don’t know if it’s the spirit of the Texas Panhandle farmer or if there is something unique about growing up in this region, but the similarities between my family and the author’s family were touching. 

The metaphorical journey through memory, coupled with the physical journey to re-trace the author’s footsteps are a revelation!  This is the best sort of memoir, weaving memory with the historical record to bring the reader into a world of hardship turned success.  It is hard for me to put into words how this book made me feel, being a historian from the Texas Panhandle.  It warmed my heart, it made me emotional, and it taught me a little bit more about myself and my family. 

I enjoyed this story from beginning to end and would recommend this to anyone looking for a touching memoir about finding yourself in the past and grappling with that in the present.  Mary Walker Clark is a talented writer and accomplished narrator.  A great book for Texans and an even better book for history lovers!

Thank you to Mary Walker Clark and Lone Star Book Blog Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book!  This is my honest review.

Mary Walker Clark is a retired attorney turned travel writer who loves taking readers with her to worldwide destinations. She has been traveling independently and internationally for over fifty years. Her essays may be found in the Paris News, at her blog, “Mary Clark, Traveler,” and her podcasts at KETR 88.9, an NPR affiliate. Clark is an award-winning member of the North American Travel Journalists Association and a contributor to Still Me, … After All These Years, 24 Writers Reflect on Aging. 
In 2016, Clark traveled to India and China to follow her father’s WWII footsteps when he was a Hump pilot flying over the Himalayas. Her journey to connect with him fifty years after his death is told in her book, Landing in My Present
Clark is a fifth generation Texan living in Paris, Texas.
Website ║ Facebook  Blog
FIRST WINNER: $25 Amazon card  SECOND WINNER: Signed copy of Landing in My Present THIRD WINNER: $15 Amazon card.
 July 21-July 31, 2020
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Review: #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE by Nicole Byer

#VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE:  The Fat Girl’s Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected , Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a  Bikini is a brand new humorous memoir from Nicole Byer.  I have been a fan of Nicole since seeing her on Nailed It! And listening to numerous podcast appearances.  She is a great writer and comedian, I was so excited when I was approved for this book! 

More than anything, this title made me laugh and inspired me to have more confidence, not only when wearing a bathing suit, but in my everyday life.  The focus of this book is gaining confidence, facing your fears, and wearing that bikini.  As a fat girl myself, I have struggled with body confidence and body positivity for so long.  Nicole is already a great comedy writer and this book made me love her even more.  From the instructions on how to buy a bikini to the foods to eat while wearing a bikini to advice on being #brave to strip club visits to reactions when someone decides to comment on your body.  This book is amazing and inspiring!

Here’s a line I particularly loved:

But maybe I wouldn’t have to be #brave if we stopped defining people’s bodies as anything other than just bodies.

This is the message, body positivity can be achieved without comparing your body to someone else’s.  It’s your body and shouldn’t be defined as something other than just a body.  It’s your right to live in the body you have. 

Also, Nicole repeatedly refers to herself as a “li’l water baby” and I couldn’t not stop laughing.  Every time it popped up, I cackled and repeated the words out loud.  It’s just fantastic.

Final Thoughts:  As Nicole repeatedly points out, a bikini body is just a body with a bikini on it.  The pictures are marvelous and sprinkled throughout the book, until the end when there is a barrage of gorgeous pictures of Nicole’s bikini’s.  When I  grow up, I want to have her attitude and her confidence.  Indeed, I think this book has given me the tools to get there.  It’s funny, it’s well written, and my gosh was it a joy to read.  It was truly a li’l treat for me!

#VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE is out today! Grab a copy from one of the fine retailer’s below and follow Nicole Byer on social media for more funny stuff!


Review: The Called Shot by Thomas Wolf

The Called Shot is not just a book about Babe Ruth and the game that served as a turning point in baseball.  It is a book about one of the golden eras of baseball, featuring a cast of characters that all made decisions which led to the fateful pitch and ultimate swing by Babe Ruth.  A casual fan of baseball may not understand the intricacies of the sport as laid out in this title.  Most sports have managers and owners, staff that support the team, but baseball has a long history of incredible supporting roles.  We all know who Babe Ruth is, but how many of us know Roger Hornsby, one of the most feared batters of all time?  How many of us know Charlie Root, the player that pitched to Babe Ruth in this at bat?  I believe this is the brilliance of the book, readers must wait until the precipice of the book to read about the titular event.  The author has packaged this narrative into a tightly written story that flows from one person to the next, one subject to another, until the ultimate conclusion of ‘the called shot’, supplying context along the way.

I particularly enjoyed the author’s candid treatment of the subject at-bat.  He relates that Ruth pointed somewhere in the vicinity of a distant location, above the pitcher’s head, maybe in the outfield, the historical record is hard to decipher in this situation.  Through the book, the author presents chapter after chapter of well-researched, interesting text that shines a light on the inner workings of baseball in this period.  From the endnotes, the reader can glimpse the thorough research that went into this book. 

The author explores every facet of the game from umpires to relief pitchers and everything in between.  The interplay between the league, the management of the teams, and the players is carefully examined in a narrative and engaging way throughout the course of the story.  This is a work of history that captures the spirit of baseball and stays as close to the truth as possible.  Readers will identify that the author has thoroughly researched this work, though not on the level of a historical monograph.  This is a captivating look at baseball in the era of Babe Ruth.

Overall, this is a great read and a fantastic title from the University of Nebraska Press and Thomas Wolf.  I would recommend to any fan of both history and baseball, or someone who is interested in this period and is not necessarily a baseball fan.  This is a great book for a reader interested in learning more about baseball in the summer of 1932.

I received a galley copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Grab a copy of this book today! Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this book!


Review: Four Lost Cities by Annalee Newitz

Four Lost Cities is an incredibly interesting and topical monograph that isn’t a monograph.  The author, Annalee Newitz, takes readers through a conversation about the rise and fall of four ancient cities.  Many scholarly works get bogged down in jargon, but this book takes the reader on a journey with an easy to read style and makes it all the more effective in bringing it’s central message to the reader.

The ancient cities are Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey from the Neolithic period, Pompeii in Italy, Angkor in Cambodia, and Cahokia near the Mississippi River in North America.  Going into this book, I knew about two of the four cities and was astounded to read about both Çatalhöyük  and Cahokia.

Contrary to popular belief, Newitz concludes that the residents of these cities did not die out, rather they migrated from their close-quarters homes.  Through the narrative, Newitz analyzes the cultural and historical implications that led to migrations from these ancient metropolis sites. Detailing new and innovative techniques in the field of archelogy, Newitz presents conclusions and findings in a compelling way.  Though the author’s background is journalism, the research that was put into this book is evident in every paragraph.

Though I do not live in a metropolitan area, I see the effects of urbanization within my community and region.  Like other reviewers, I focused on the message about urbanism and it’s effect on society.  I enjoyed reading the historical and archeological analysis of urbanism and migration in ancient cities.  Newitz makes a clear statement that the subject civilizations migrated as a result of necessity.  This is the message I held on to at the end of the book.  We, as humans, must change as a result of necessity, be that migration from urban centers or changing other habits.  This is an incredibly timely message for the world!

Find this title on goodreads, visit Annalee Newitz’ website, and pre-order your copy today at W. W. Norton & Company!

Four Lost Cities is on sale February 1, 2021!

I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Edelweiss and W. W. Norton for the opportunity to read this title!


Review: Sporting Blood: Tales from the Dark Side of Boxing by Carlos Acevedo

Award-winning boxing writer, Carlos Acevedo has given us a beautiful collection of essays highlighting the people, the events, and the complexities that make up the world of boxing.  Sporting Blood: Tales from the Dark Side of Boxing contains 20 essays dedicated to people from Muhammad Ali to Johnny Tapia to Mike Tyson to Eddie Machen and events like Wilfredo Gomez v. Lupe Pintor, the curious death of Sonny Liston, and the interestingly complicated relationship between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. 

Acevedo is an accomplished writer who weaves 20 individual stories into a cohesive narrative that captures the gruesome legacy of boxing.  At one point, Acevedo writes:

“At the core of these apocalyptic fights, where two men take turns punishing each other from round to round, lies the question of motivation.  Not in the sporting sense- that is, not in the careerist sense or anything so mundane as competition- but in an existential sense.”

This book contrasts the stark realities that were fights throughout the history of boxing:  some competitors were subject to extreme family violence, inherent poverty, juvenile delinquency, drug use, and incredibly physical and mental harm in the ring.  Writing about Wilfredo Gomez, the author denotes that Gomez’ career caught up to him in the present day.  A life of hard living, extreme physical punishment in the ring, drug and alcohol abuse have left him with a childlike persona and in need of assistance for daily tasks.

Acevedo has put together a compelling and masterful perspective on the darkest side of boxing.  With a foreword from award-winning author Thomas Hauser, this book is a must read for any boxing fan.

I would recommend this to students in Sport History courses, fans of boxing, and anyone looking for a richly sourced perspective on the history of boxing.

Sporting Blood is out now and can be found at most major retailers! 

I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss+.