Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Sunday, April 30, 2017

2017 Book 129: THE BAKER'S SECRET by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan 
ISBN: 9780062369581 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062369604 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062674432 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B01L6R2YAO (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow  
Publication Date: May 2, 2017

From the critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day
On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country. 
Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again.
But in the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers. 
But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them. 

If you're like me, you've read plenty of fictional stories about World War II. Some are about the resistance fighters, some are about the Allied forces, and some are about the lives of those struggling to survive the war. Mr. Kiernan has crafted a World War II story that focuses on one village, one villager, and one day - D-Day with The Baker's Secret.

Emmanuelle, or Emma, was apprenticed at an early age to the village baker, Uncle Ezra. This was astounding for several reasons, the first being Uncle Ezra had never taken a female apprentice before and, second, although he berated her skills, he obviously saw something in her that he began to nurture. As Emma's baking skills grow, she also develops a romantic relationship with her fellow villager, Philippe. All is right in the world until France is invaded. The village of Vergers silently witnesses the initial targeting of all of its Jewish citizenry, forcing them all to wear bright yellow stars denoting their difference. The village and Emma then witness the removal of all of their Jewish friends and neighbors. Then all of the able-bodied village men are conscripted to work in factories. A few remaining men and women work silently in the resistance movement, but as the years go by it seems as if Vergers is all but forgotten. The only thing that keeps Emma going strong is the fact that she must bake bread every day for the German officers, she has to protect her grandmother, and somehow she has become a lifeline for her fellow villagers. How is it possible that one young woman can keep an entire village alive?

I devoured The Baker's Secret in just a few hours (sorry, not sorry for the bad pun). Mr. Kiernan has this amazing ability to craft stories that pull this reader in from the first few pages and keep me in their thrall to the very last page. I became invested in Emma's life and plight and couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I enjoyed meeting and learning about all of the other villages including Didier aka the Goat, Charles aka Monkey Boy, Meme (Emma's grandmother), the veterinarian Guillaume along with his wife and daughter, Yves the fisherman, Odette the cafe owner/operator, and more. The Baker's Secret is more than a book about survival during the war, it's a story about a group of villagers functioning as a somewhat disjointed and dysfunctional family and Emma is the "eldest" child assuming responsibility for everyone else. I have had the pleasure of reading Mr. Kiernan's previous books, The Curiosity and The Hummingbird, and can only say to those of you that have read either of those books, run and get a copy of The Baker's Secret to read. If you haven't read The Curiosity or The Hummingbird, you'll need to add those titles to your TBR list and grab a copy of The Baker's Secret to read ASAP. Just in case you couldn't tell, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Baker's Secret and look forward to rereading it along with The Curiosity and The Hummingbird (yes, they are all just that good).

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ for review purposes. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Read an excerpt from The Baker's Secret here.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

2017 Book 117: RED LEAVES by Paullina Simons

Red Leaves by Paullina Simons 
ISBN: 9780062444318 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062444325 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062660855 (audiobook)
ASIN: B0061RROQ4 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks 
Publication Date: April 11, 2017

In the tradition of Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying and Donna Tartt's The Secret History comes a suspenseful thriller from the international bestselling author of The Bronze Horseman—an utterly captivating story about four Ivy League students whose bizarre friendship leads to a twisted maze of secrets, lies, betrayal, and murder.
As the star player of Dartmouth College's women's basketball team, Kristina Kim is beautiful, intelligent, and fearless. But though she's just 21, Kristina has already had her share of heartache, loss, and dark secrets that haunt her. She's best friends with Conni, Albert, and Jim, but the only one who seems to really know her is Albert. With long dark hair, tattoos, and a rebellious streak, Albert doesn't fit in with the rest of the clean-cut Ivy Leaguers. Like Kristina, he has his share of secrets—secrets that are beginning to unravel this intimate circle of friends.
One wintry Thanksgiving weekend tragedy strikes...
When Detective Spencer O'Malley goes to investigate something suspicious at the foot of a steep hill on Dartmouth's campus, he doesn't expect that the frozen, naked body found in deep snow would belong to Kristina Kim—the remarkable young woman he met recently who entranced him. Now Spencer will never know if the chemistry he had with her was real. All he can do is find her killer.
Spencer is pulled into the strange, complex web of the surviving friends. Many important questions about Kristina's murder cannot be answered, such as: why did none of them report her missing for nine days before her body was discovered? The more Spencer digs, the more clear it becomes that each of the three has a motive for killing Kristina. And as Spencer, seeking justice for a dead girl, is led down a labyrinth of deceit, every new revelation proves more shocking than the last….and more dangerous.
"Simons handles her characters and setting with a certain skill, creating mystery from the ordinary, protected lives of these Ivy League kids, slowly peeling away their deceptions to reveal denial, cowardice, and chilling indifference…an engrossing story."—Publishers Weekly.

Kristina Kim seems to have it all, great looks, amazing athletic talent, good grades, and wonderful friends. Kristina is considered beautiful, inside and out, by most people, but she has her fair share of flaws and quirks. She is a truly talented basketball player and has been an Ivy league favorite for several years. She studies hard and does reasonably well with her classes and gets good grades. True, she has some good friends and friendly acquaintances but there are facets of her life that they know nothing about, just as she doesn't know everything about their lives. Over the course of just a few days, Kristina goes from being a vibrant young lady to a corpse hidden in the snow, all but forgotten by her so-called friends. What deep dark secrets could Kristina have had that led to her death? Why weren't her friends concerned about her absence? What secrets are these so-called friends hiding from one another and the police?

First, I've got to say that this isn't the first time I've read Red Leaves by Paullina Simons. I had the pleasure of reading this story many years ago and consider myself fortunate to get the chance to reread it. On the surface, this seems to be a story about the death of a young college student. But if you dig under the surface, you'll find that this is a story about so much more. Kristina has a love-hate/passive-aggressive relationship with her so-called friends: her former boyfriend Jim Shaw, her former roommate Conni Tobias, and Conni's boyfriend and Jim's former roommate Albert Maplethorpe. Conni and Jim had initially dated one another, before breaking up and becoming involved with Albert and Kristina. The friendship between these four appears to have been heartfelt and wholesome but was anything but that. It is for this reason that Detective Spencer O'Malley comes to realize that their reaction to the death, later revealed to be a murder, seems beyond suspicious. Just as the police had to dig under the snow to reveal Kristina's body, Detective O'Malley digs into the relationships between Kristina's friends to try and find the truth. I could tell you more, but if you enjoy stories about deeply flawed relationships then I'll simply say read Red Leaves. Ms. Simons has crafted a story with characters that are impossible to like, a death that is tragic, the superficialities of friendship, dysfunctional family relationships, and a mystery that drives one person close to madness (no, I won't tell you who). I enjoyed reading Red Leaves the first time around and enjoyed it just as much the second time. If you're looking for something a little dark, twisted, and mysterious, then Red Leaves is the perfect book for you. Go, read, enjoy!

Disclaimer: I received a free print review copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours for review purposes. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Read an excerpt from Red Leaves here. 

Photo by Renaissance Studio

About Paullina Simons

Paullina Simons is an internationally bestselling author whose novels include Bellagrand and The Bronze Horseman was born in Leningrad in 1963. As a child she immigrated to Queens, New York, and attended colleges in Long Island. Then she moved to England and attended Essex University, before returning to America. She lives in New York with her husband and children.

Find out more about Paullina at her website, follow her on Twitter, and connect with her on Facebook.

This review and tour brought to you by TLC Book Tours.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Book Showcase: HER SECRET by Shelley Shepard Gray

Her Secret

by Shelley Shepard Gray

on Tour April 17 – 28, 2017


Her Secret by Shelley Shepard Gray
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray begins a new series—The Amish of Hart County—with this suspenseful tale of a young Amish woman who is forced to move to a new town to escape a threatening stalker.
After a stalker went too far, Hannah Hilty and her family had no choice but to leave the bustling Amish community where she grew up. Now she's getting a fresh start in Hart County, Kentucky…if only she wasn't too scared to take it. Hannah has become afraid to trust anyone—even Isaac, the friendly Amish man who lives next door. She wonders if she'll ever return to the trusting, easy-going woman she once was.
For Isaac Troyer, the beautiful girl he teasingly called "The Recluse" confuses him like no other. When he learns of her past, he knows he's misjudged her. However, he also understands the importance of being grateful for God's gifts, and wonders if they will ever have anything in common. But as Hannah and Isaac slowly grow closer, they realize that there's always more to someone than meets the eye.
Just as Hannah is finally settling into her new life, and perhaps finding a new love, more secrets are revealed and tragedy strikes. Now Hannah must decide if she should run again or dare to fight for the future she has found in Hart County.

Book Details:

Genre: Amish Fiction
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: March 14th 2017
Number of Pages: 272
ISBN: 006246910X (ISBN13: 9780062469106)
Series: The Amish of Hart County #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


Someone was coming. After reeling in his line, Isaac Troyer set his pole on the bank next to Spot, his Australian shepherd, and turned in the direction of the noise.

He wasn't worried about encountering a stranger as much as curious to know who would walk through the woods while managing to disturb every tree branch, twig, and bird in their midst. A silent tracker, this person was not.

Beside him, Spot, named for the spot of black fur ringing his eye, pricked his ears and tilted his head to one side as he, too, listened and watched for their guest to appear.

When they heard a muffled umph, followed by the crack of a branch, Isaac began to grow amused. Their visitor didn't seem to be faring so well.

He wasn't surprised. That path was rarely used and notoriously overrun with hollyhocks, poison oak, and ivy. For some reason, wild rosebushes also ran rampant there. Though walking on the old path made for a pretty journey, it also was a somewhat dangerous one, too. Those bushes had a lot of thorns. Most everyone he knew chose to walk on the road instead.

He was just wondering if, perhaps, he should brave the thorns and the possibility of rashes to offer his help—when a woman popped out.

The new girl. Hannah Hilty.

Obviously thinking she was completely alone, she stepped out of the shade of the bushes and lifted her face into the sun. She mumbled to herself as she pulled a black sweater off her light-blue short-sleeved dress. Then she turned her right arm this way and that, frowning at what looked like a sizable scrape on it.

He'd been introduced to her at church the first weekend her family had come. His first impression of her had been that she was a pretty thing, with dark-brown hair and hazel-colored eyes. She was fairly tall and willowy, too, and had been blessed with creamy-looking pale skin. But for all of that, she'd looked incredibly wary.

Thinking she was simply shy, he'd tried to be friendly, everyone in his family had. But instead of looking happy to meet him or his siblings, she'd merely stared at him the way a doe might stare at an oncoming car—with a bit of weariness and a great dose of fear.

He left her alone after that.

Every once in a while he'd see her. At church, or at the market with her mother. She always acted kind of odd. She was mostly silent, sometimes hardly even talking to her parents or siblings. Often, when he'd see her family in town shopping, she usually wasn't with them. When she was, he'd see her following her parents. With them, yet separate. Silently watching her surroundings like she feared she was about to step off a cliff.

So, by his estimation, she was a strange girl. Weird.

And her actions just now? They seemed even odder. Feeling kind of sorry for her, he got to his feet. "Hey!" he called out.

Obviously startled, Hannah turned to him with a jerk, then froze.

Her unusual hazel eyes appeared dilated. She looked scared to death. Rethinking the step forward he'd been about to do, he stayed where he was. Maybe she wasn't right in the mind? Maybe she was lost and needed help.

Feeling a little worried about her, he held up a hand. "Hey, Hannah. Are you okay?"

But instead of answering him, or even smiling back like a normal person would, she simply stared.

He tried again. "I'm Isaac Troyer." When no look of recognition flickered in her eyes, he added, "I'm your neighbor. We met at church, soon after you moved in. Remember?"

She clenched her fists but otherwise seemed to be trying hard to regain some self-control. After another second, color bloomed in her cheeks. "I'm Hannah Hilty."

"Yeah. I know." Obviously, he'd known it. Hadn't she heard him say her name? He smiled at her, hoping she'd see the humor in their conversation. It was awfully intense for two neighbors having to reacquaint themselves.
By his reckoning, anyway.

She still didn't smile back. Actually, she didn't do much of anything at all, besides gaze kind of blankly at him.

Belatedly, he started wondering if something had happened to her on her walk. "Hey, are you okay? Are you hurt or something?"

Her hand clenched into a fist. "Why do you ask?"

Everything he wanted to say sounded mean and rude. "You just, uh, seem out of breath." And she was white as a sheet, looked like she'd just seen a monster, and could hardly speak.

Giving her an out, he said, "Are you lost?"


He was starting to lose patience with her. All he'd wanted to do was sit on the bank with Spot and fish for an hour or two, not enter into some strange conversation with his neighbor girl.

"Okay, then. Well, I was just fishing, so I'm going to go back and do that."

Just before he turned away, she took a deep breath. Then she spoke. "I'm sorry. I know I'm not making any sense."

"You're making sense." Kind of. "But that said, you don't got anything to be sorry for. It's obvious you, too, were looking for a couple of minutes to be by yourself."

"No, that ain't it." After taking another deep breath, she said, "Seeing you took me by surprise. That's all."

Isaac wasn't enough of a jerk to not be aware that seeing a strange man, when you thought you were alone, might be scary to a timid girl like her.

"You took me by surprise, too. I never see anyone out here."

Some of the muscles in her face and neck relaxed. After another second, she seemed to come to a decision and stepped closer to him. "Is that your dog?"

"Jah. His name is Spot, on account of the circle around his eye."

"He looks to be a real fine hund." She smiled.

And what a smile it was. Sweet, lighting up her eyes. Feeling a bit taken by surprise, too, he said, "He's an Australian shepherd and real nice. Would you like to meet him?"

"Sure." She smiled again, this time displaying pretty white teeth.

"Spot, come here, boy."

With a stretch and a groan, Spot stood up, stretched again, then sauntered over. When he got to Isaac's side, he paused. Isaac ran a hand along his back, then clicked his tongue, a sign for Spot to simply be a dog.

Spot walked right over and rubbed his nose along one of Hannah's hands.

She giggled softly. "Hello, Spot. Aren't you a handsome hund?" After she let Spot sniff her hand, she ran it along his soft fur. Spot, as could be expected, closed his eyes and enjoyed the attention.

"Look at that," Hannah said. "He likes to be petted."

"He's friendly."

"Do you go fishing here much?" she asked hesitantly.

"Not as much as I'd like to. I'm pretty busy. Usually, I'm helping my father on the farm or working in my uncle's woodworking shop." Because she seemed interested, he admitted, "I don't get to sit around and just enjoy the day all that much."

"And here I came and ruined your peace and quiet."

"I didn't say that. You're fine."

She didn't look as if she believed him. Actually, she looked even more agitated. Taking a step backward, she said, "I should probably let you get back to your fishing, then."

"I don't care about that. I'd rather talk to you."

Her eyes widened. "Oh?"

"Jah. I mean, we're neighbors and all." When she still looked doubtful, he said, "Besides, everyone is curious about you."

"I don't know why. I'm just an Amish girl."

He thought she was anything but that. "Come on," he chided. "You know what I'm talking about."

Looking even more unsure, she shook her head.

"First off, I've hardly even seen you around town, only on Sundays when we have church. And even then you never stray from your parents' side. That's kind of odd."

"I'm still getting used to being here in Kentucky," she said quickly.

"What is there to get used to?" he joked. "We're just a small community in the middle of cave country."

To his surprise, she stepped back. "I guess getting used to my new home is taking me a while. But that doesn't mean anything."

Aware that he'd hurt her feelings, he realized that he should have really watched his tone. "Sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. I was just saying that the way you've been acting has everyone curious.  That's why people are calling you 'The Recluse.' "

" 'The Recluse'?"

"Well, jah. I mean you truly are an Amish woman of mystery," he said, hoping she'd tease him right back like his older sister would have done.    

She did not.

Actually, she looked like she was about to cry, and it was his doing.

When was he ever going to learn to read people better? Actually, he should knock some sense into himself. He'd been a real jerk. "Sorry. I didn't intend to sound so callous."

"Well, you certainly did."

"Ah, you are right. It was a bad joke."

"I better go."

Staring at her more closely, he noticed that those pretty hazel eyes of hers looked kind of shimmery, like a whole mess of tears was about to fall. Now he felt worse than bad."Hey, are you going to be okay getting home? I could walk you back, if you'd like."

"Danke, nee."

Reaching out, he grasped Spot by his collar. "I don't mind at all. It will give us a chance to—"

She cut him off. "I do not want or need your help." She was staring at him like he was scary. Like he was the type of guy who would do her harm.

That bothered him.

"Look, I already apologized. You don't need to look at me like I'm going to attack you or something. I'm just trying to be a good neighbor."

She flinched before visibly collecting herself. "I understand. But like I said, I don't want your help. I will be fine."

When he noticed that Spot was also sensing her distress, he tried again even though he knew he should just let her go. "I was done fishing anyway. All I have to do is grab my pole. Then Spot and I could walk with you."

"What else do I have to say for you to listen to me?" she fairly cried out. "Isaac, I do not want you to walk me anywhere." She turned and darted away, sliding back into the brush. No doubt about to get covered in more scratches and poison ivy.

Well, she'd finally said his name, and it certainly did sound sweet on her lips.

Too bad she was now certain to avoid him for the rest of her life. He really hoped his mother was never going to hear about how awful he'd just been. She'd be so disappointed.

He was disappointed in himself, and was usually a lot more patient with people. He liked that about himself, too. And this girl? Well, she needed someone, too. But she seemed even afraid of her shadow.

Excerpt from Her Secret by Shelley Shepard Gray.  Copyright © 2017 by Shelley Shepard Gray. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Shelley Shepard Gray

Author Bio:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.

Catch Up With Ms. Gray On:

Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

Tour Participants:


This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Shelley Shepard Gray and HarperCollins Publishers. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com GiftCard. The giveaway begins on April 15th and runs through May 2nd, 2017. This giveaway is for US residents only. Void where prohibited by law.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Guest Post: Steven Manchester, author of ASHES

It is always an honor when an author agrees to stop by for a visit, it is doubly so when it is a return visit. Today, The Book Diva's Reads welcomes Steven Manchester, author of the recently released Ashes, Twelve Months, The Rockin' Chair, and more. Mr. Manchester will be answering some frequently asked questions about writing, his writing, and more. Thank you, Mr. Manchester, for taking time out of your busy schedule and giving us some insight into your thoughts on writing and your writing goals.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

As far as we know, we only get one shot at this thing called life—so we each need to make it a great one. It's important to stop wasting time drifting along and take complete responsibility for our lives; living each moment with real intention. 

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Stephen King—not in genre, but in discipline. Stephen King is a prolific writer who is a master of our craft. I have read everything I could get on him and have been inspired.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I'd just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, "The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?" He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I'd done it! In his office, he explained, "There's no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates." He smiled again and dropped the bomb. "If you're so smart," he said, "why don't you write it?" Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

In Ashes, two brothers—estranged for fifteen years—are brought together under circumstances that neither can avoid. By trapping them in a car for several long days, I was able to play out some deep, dark emotions that quickly rise to the surface. The outcome proves to be biting and comical exchange that the reader can experience as if they're sitting right there in the backseat with the box of ashes. Although there are several twists and turns along the way, the goal was to keep the journey real and relatable—proving that every family has its fair share of dysfunction, as well as unbreakable bonds.

Have you ever had writer's block?  If so, what do you do about it?

Honestly, I don't believe in writer's blocks—though I understand that they're quite real when perceived as such. True story: I have a friend—let's call him Jack. Anyway, he phoned me one night complaining that he was agonizing over a terrible writer's block. "How does your story end?" I asked him and he went on to explain the ending in detail. "Good," I said, "so write the ending and then all you have to do is fill in the middle." He did just that. The lesson is this: Most books aren't written from point A to point Z. If you get stuck at a certain crossroad, begin to write a passage from a different point in the book. This maintains momentum and confidence (if lost, the two causes of a perceived block). Again, I write novels like creating complicated word puzzles—only to put it all together in the end in order to paint the grandest picture I can. Do whatever works for you, but keep moving. The last thing you want is for a story to go cold on you. You could risk losing the passion, if you wait too long to finish it.

How did you develop your plot and characters?

Plot: In my estimation, the first decision in the writing process is also the toughest decision of all. You have to honestly ask yourself: What idea is good enough, or worthy enough to cost you the next year of your life? If you can sincerely say that you have one, then get started right away. Some writers spend months working out a concept before they ever put pen to paper (so when someone asks you how long it took you to write a book, there is no true way to answer this. It happens in the mind long before it ever appears between two covers).

Characters: Learn them. Know them. If they become real enough, your characters will tell the story for you. Think about it: The raised eyebrow from a well-established character is worth more than a paragraph or two. The saddest time for me is when a novel comes to its end. This is mostly true because I start to miss the people that I've grown to love and hate. And if you don't feel that for your characters, then your readers won't, either. When I'm completely vested in a story, the first thing I think about in the morning is the characters (what they're thinking and feeling, and how they might act), and the last thing I think about before turning in at night is the characters. 

What are your goals as a writer?

My most important goal is to teach my children and be able to share what's in my heart and mind with them. The next goal is to be creative for the rest of my life, and if I can make a good living at it—then all the better. 

I maintain two lists: What I've done, and what I dream of doing.  The second list is always longer. Forgive the cliché, but perhaps as a reminder to myself, writing truly is a journey. If I ever get to where I think I'm supposed to end up, then that which I love will no longer be my reality; the process of writing and creating with words. 

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

There are too many to list. I've been able to touch lives in a positive way and make some sort of difference (at least I hope so). I've shared my dreams with my children and proved that dreams do come true—with a whole lot of perseverance and hard work. And I've been able to give life to the creative thoughts that constantly fight for my attention. 

by Steven Manchester 
on Tour February 19 - April 21, 2017

Ashes by Steven Manchester

Book Details

Genre: Fiction
Published by:     The Story Plant
Publication Date: February 21st 2017
Number of Pages: 260
Purchase Links:  


Middle-aged brothers Jason and Tom Prendergast thought they were completely done with each other. Perceived betrayal had burned the bridge between them, tossing them into the icy river of estrangement. But life – and death – has a robust sense of irony, and when they learn that their cruel father has died and made his final request that they travel together across the country to spread his ashes, they have no choice but to spend a long, long car trip in each other's company. It's either that or lose out on the contents of the envelope he's left with his lawyer. The trip will be as gut-wrenching as each expects it to be . . . and revealing in ways neither of them is prepared for.

At turns humorous, biting, poignant, and surprisingly tender, Ashes puts a new spin on family and dysfunction with a story that is at once fresh and timelessly universal.

Author Bio:

Steven Manchester

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin' Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island as well as the novels Goodnight, Brian and The Changing Season. His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning, and BET's Nightly News. Recently, three of Manchester's short stories were selected "101 Best" for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Find Steven on his Website, on Twitter, & on Facebook!

Tour Host Participants:

Don't miss your chance to learn more about Steven Manchester & his book, Ashes! Visit the tour stops for interviews, guest posts, and lots of reviews!

Don't Miss Your Chance to WIN Ashes!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Steven Manchester and The Story Plant. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) PRINT copy of Ashes by Steven Manchester. The giveaway begins on February 18th and runs through April 23rd, 2017.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

2017 Book 115: BONE WHITE by Wendy Corsi Staub

Bone White (Mundy's Landing #3) by Wendy Corsi Staub 
ISBN: 9780062349774 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062349781 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781470854232 (audio CD)
ASIN: B01HXJT7N6 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow 
Publication Date: March 28, 2017

New York Times  Bestselling Author Wendy Corsi Staub revisits Mundy's Landing—a small town with a blood-soaked past.
The town of Mundy's Landing was founded on a horrifying secret, but stark white bones of the dead never lie… 
"We shall never tell." Spurred by the cryptic phrase in a centuries-old letter, Emerson Mundy travels to her ancestral hometown to trace her past. In Mundy's Landing, she connects with long lost relatives—and a closet full of skeletons going back centuries.
In the year since former NYPD Detective Sullivan Leary solved the historic Sleeping Beauty Murders, she—like the village itself—has made a fresh start. But someone has unearthed blood-drenched secrets in a disembodied skull, and is hacking away at the Mundy family tree, branch by branch…

Mundy's Landing might seem like a small town where nothing ever happens, but looks can be deceiving. Back in the winter of 1666, Mundy's Landing was the scene of a horrific crime, murder followed by cannibalism, in an effort to survive the winter. Some of the descendant's of the survivors are still found in Mundy's Landing, while others have left to make lives elsewhere. One of those descendants is Emerson Mundy. Still grieving the death of her father, Emerson has traveled to New York from California to find out more about her family. Meanwhile, New York City transplant, Sullivan "Sully" Leary is enjoying the laid back lifestyle in Mundy's Landing. As a police detective, she no longer has to deal with the rampant crime in the city. But Sullivan's life is about to be shook up when her former NYPD partner, Stockton Barnes, shows up in Mundy's Landing. As Emerson investigates her family's past and Sullivan tries to find out what is going on with her former partner, a murder occurs that harkens back to the founding family's history. Adding to the general sense of intrigue, Miss (never Ms.) Aurora Abrams, curator at the Mundy's Landing Historical Society, is determined to find out what happened back in 1666 by hiring a forensic anthropologist to examine a skull exhumed from the original settler's site back in the 1940s. Can this somewhat idyllic small town handle all that is about to be revealed?

Although Bone White is the third book in the Mundy's Landing series, it is one that can be read as a standalone. How do I know this? Well, I haven't read the previous books in this series (something that is about to be corrected) and didn't feel like I was coming into the series with tons of missing information from previous books. I found Bone White to be a fast-paced and engaging read. There are multiple storylines at work in this book and all are interconnected (trust me, they are). Adding to the overall sense of mystery, Ms. Staub has incorporated letters from one of the 1666 survivors in between the chapters. Actually, there are other letters as well, but all of the letters are provided as clues to what has happened in the past. Emerson's past is just as much of a mystery as what happened back in 1666. Sully's naturally inquisitive nature is piqued by the appearance of her former partner, the visit by Emerson, and subsequent murder of Emerson's fiance. Mundy's Landing isn't quite the sleepy little town I thought it was. Just in case you couldn't tell, there's a lot happening in this story, murder, cannibalism, mental illness, and more. I could tell you more about the characters and the action, but I won't. I'll tell you that if you enjoy contemporary mysteries then you'll want to read this book. If you enjoy contemporary stories with ties to the past, you want to read this book. If you're interested in reading something a little bit different, then you'll want to read this book. I enjoyed reading Bone White, and look forward to reading the previous books in this series just so I can reread Bone White.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ for review purposes. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wendy Corsi Staub

Author Bio:

New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than seventy novels. Wendy now lives in the New York City suburbs with her husband and their two children.

Catch Up With Wendy Corsi Staub On Her Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Wendy Corsi Staub and William Morrow. There will be 3 winners of one (1) Print copy of Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub. The giveaway begins on March 30th and runs through May 2nd, 2017. This giveaway is for US residents only. Void where prohibited by law.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Guest Author Post: Stephen Booth, SECRETS OF DEATH

Hello, my bookish peeps. Today the Book Diva's Reads is pleased to host a visit from Stephen Booth, author of the Cooper and Fry mystery series including the latest installment in this series, Secrets of Death. Mr. Booth will be discussing creating a sense of place in his writings. Thank you, Mr. Booth, for taking time out of your busy schedule to share a few minutes with us today. 

Darkness and light - creating a sense of place

My interest in using a strong sense of place in crime fiction goes back a long way. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' made a deep impression on me as a child - a very dark story, with a wild, remote setting. In another story, Sherlock Holmes tells Dr. Watson: "The lowest and vilest alleys of London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside." 

So it was perhaps inevitable that I would choose a rural setting for the Cooper and Fry series. And the Derbyshire Peak District was the perfect choice.

The original inspiration for Edendale, my fictional Derbyshire town, came while I was admiring a wonderful panorama of the Hope Valley from a location called Surprise View. It was the spectacular picture I had in my mind when I began to write 'Black Dog', the first novel featuring young police detectives Ben Cooper and Diane Fry. 

But that spot also marks the boundary between the Dark Peak and the White Peak, the geologically contrasting halves of the Peak District which provide perfect symbolism for a crime novel, representing the dark and light, good and evil. Those sudden eruptions of black, twisted rock in the middle of a picturesque landscape constantly remind me of the darkness that lurks beneath the surface. 

Since then, various locations have inspired each book in the series. The eerie silence of Stanton Moor and its stone circles inspired the scene of a murder in 'Dancing with the Virgins'. Winter on the Snake Pass and the remains of Second World War aircraft wrecks came together in 'Blood on the Tongue'. The desolate moors and vanished communities of Longdendale helped me create the village of Withens and the tribal Oxley family in 'Blind to the Bones'. Castleton and its underground caves are central to 'One Last Breath'. 

In many of those places, there's definitely a sense of that lurking darkness beneath that surface, sinister secrets behind the attractive exterior. And that's what I'm writing about - complex family relationships, ancient vendettas, the deepest mysteries of the human heart.

The Peak District appealed to me on several different levels. I was born in a similar area a little further north, and I know the people can be a little, er… quirky? They're stubborn and independent, and tend to say no more than is absolutely necessary, which makes them interesting to write about. There's a huge range of wonderfully atmospheric locations within a small area, plus thousands of years of history - much of it visible right there in the landscape, from stone circles to abandoned lead mines. It's said to be the second most visited national park in the world, resulting from the fact that it isn't really remote, but has several cities right on the doorstep, so that everyone treats it as their back yard. One of the subjects I explore in the books is the uneasy relationship between city and countryside. Of course, there are inherent conflicts between all those millions of visitors and the people who live and work in the Peaks. It's also fairly easy to commit your murder in one of the cities and drive out into the national park to dispose of the body!

I think of the Peak District as beautiful but dangerous. It can be quite a frightening place, particularly for people unfamiliar with the hills and the unpredictable weather. The area has been responsible for many deaths.

Readers sometimes say the location is a "character" in the books. I don't think you can entirely separate location from character anyway, since we're all shaped by where we live and where we come from. For me, each book has to be set in a very specific location. It helps me to work out who the characters are, and I go to a lot of trouble to find the right places. 

Over the years, I've found the Peak District locations have become very important to readers. A reader once wrote to me to describe what she called her "Ben Cooper Holiday", which she'd spent tracing the footsteps of one of my fictional detectives. Many readers are keen to figure out the 'real' location of Edendale.

Since the books sell all around the world, it means that the majority of my readers have never heard of the Peak District until they pick up one of my books. I love the fact that I'm introducing the area to those countries. One summer, a party of Norwegian readers came over to visit the locations used in my books, and they made a point of staying in the same pub where a convicted murderer holed up while he was on the run in 'One Last Breath'. 

In the real world Derbyshire Constabulary deal with the kind of murder inquiries I wouldn't dare use in my stories. Reality is stranger than fiction, and events happen in the Peak District which readers wouldn't believe in a novel. One murder took place at a rural railway station, when a taxi driver was found dead in the boot of his cab. It was a difficult one for the police to crack, because there was almost no motive, and no prior link between victim and perpetrator. It turned out that the man responsible simply wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone, and he sought out an isolated location to choose a stranger for his victim.

But in my books, deaths happen for a reason, often as a result of catastrophic decisions, tangled relationships, a desire for revenge, or sheer despair at being unable to see any other way out. 

The new Cooper and Fry novel 'Secrets of Death' explores an equally deadly fascination for the tourist hotspots of the Peak District. The story began with a classic 'what if' premise. If you'd decided to end your own life, how would you chose the way to do it, when to do it – and, most of all, where to do it? 

Many people have a favourite spot they go back to time and time again for all kinds of personal reasons. Wouldn't you choose that favourite spot for the last moments of your life, if you could? That gave me the first line of the book: 'There's always a right time and place to die'. 

As summer approaches in the Peak District and the number of visitors increases, so does the suicide rate. DI Ben Cooper and his team from E Division CID are tasked with the problem of getting to the bottom of the epidemic of 'suicide tourism', not knowing where or when the next dead body might turn up. When the Major Crime Unit lose a suspect, DS Diane Fry has to convince Cooper that not all those deaths are suicide.

So in 'Secrets of Death' some of the best-known tourist spots become attractions for people with a much darker purpose, including Monsal Head - and even Surprise View itself. It seemed appropriate that the original inspiration for my fictional landscapes should be the scene for a death. It is, after all, the point where dark meets light, and good meets evil. 

Secrets of Death

by Stephen Booth

on Tour April 3 - 30, 2017


Secrets of Death by Stephen Booth
Residents of the Peak District are used to tourists descending on its soaring hills and brooding valleys. However, this summer brings a different kind of visitor to the idyllic landscape, leaving behind bodies and secrets.
A series of suicides throughout the Peaks throws Detective Inspector Ben Cooper and his team in Derbyshire's E Division into a race against time to find a connection to these seemingly random acts — with no way of predicting where the next body will turn up. Meanwhile, in Nottingham Detective Sergeant Diane Fry finds a key witness has vanished...
But what are the mysterious Secrets of Death?
And is there one victim whose fate wasn't suicide at all?

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Fiction
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: April 4th, 2017
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 0062690353 (ISBN13: 9780062690357)
Series: Cooper & Fry #16 (Each is a Stand Alone Novel)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Stephen Booth
A newspaper and magazine journalist for over 25 years, Stephen Booth was born in the English Pennine mill town of Burnley. He was brought up on the Lancashire coast at Blackpool, where he attended Arnold School. He began his career in journalism by editing his school magazine and wrote his first novel at the age of 12. The Cooper & Fry series is now published by Little, Brown in the UK and by the Witness Impulse imprint of HarperCollins in the USA. In addition to publication in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, translation rights in the series have so far been sold in sixteen languages – French, German, Dutch, Italian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Czech, Romanian, Bulgarian, Japanese and Hebrew.Stephen left journalism in 2001 to write novels full time. He and his wife Lesley live in a village in rural Nottinghamshire, England (home of Robin Hood and the Pilgrim Fathers). They have three cats.

In recent years, Stephen Booth has become a Library Champion in support of the UK's 'Love Libraries' campaign, and a Reading Champion to support the National Year of Reading. He has also represented British literature at the Helsinki Book Fair in Finland, filmed a documentary for 20th Century Fox on the French detective Vidocq, taken part in online chats for World Book Day, and given talks at many conferences, conventions, libraries, bookshops and festivals around the world.

Catch Up With Stephen Booth On:

Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Stephen Booth and WitnessImpulse. There will be 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Secrets of Death by Stephen Booth. The giveaway begins on March 30 and runs through May 1, 2017.

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