Posted in Reviews, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Sisters Reads

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens @aeskens @HBGCanada

Amazing!!! Lindsay and I read and discussed Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens together and we loved it!! As I was discussing this one with Lindsay I started to see more into the depth of the story and I recommend this one for group reads. I then decided to explore Allen Eskens’s website and found some discussion questions. I highly recommend checking them out. I held a discussion in my own head as I answered them on paper and pen. Is that odd or do other people do that? I will be suggesting this one in our Traveling Friends Goodreads Group. I feel this one would make a great in-person group discussion as there is a lot to talk about. It also makes for a thought-provoking discussion with yourself. lol

Brenda’s review

The title here draws from the quote, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Allen Eskens draws on that ignorance and explores prejudice and racism as a way to explore his “own failing regarding notions of prejudice and racism” Taken from his author notes.

Nothing More Dangerous is a prequel to Allen Eskens other books. Boady Sanden is a law professor in The Life We Bury, and we see more of his character in The Heavens May Fall. In Nothing More Dangerous Boady is 15 years old and we follow his coming of age story.

Ellen Eskens creates a thought-provoking part coming of age story here with interesting characters, each with a journey of their own. He weaves a mystery here in the story while layering racial thoughts and feelings along with the racial themes that had me thinking deep into the story. I loved the dynamics here between the characters and their relationships. A few different relationships are explored here so well and each had me feeling different emotions. Eskens has some moves here with those well-layered themes and character dynamics and like a DJ he rolls them right into the next one and we see how dangerous ignorance can be. Ok, I took that phrase with the DJ from Eskens here in this story. He weaves some cliches/phrases in the story that had me laughing and cringing at the same time. I love cliches/phrases and I have been known to use them myself.

The ending was so beautiful and so perfect right out to that amazing line Was Blind and now I see. I really do see so much more after reading this one. I highly recommend.

Lindsay’s review

2019 Favourites List!

Boady (love that name!) is a fifteen-year-old boy who lives with his widowed mother on a remote dirt road in their small town. Hoke, an older man, lives next door and spends many hours with Boady having front porch chats and teaching life lessons. Boady finds himself caught up in a local missing woman’s case where he stumbles upon evidence that no child should be witness to.

Boady stole my heart! I loved everything about him and was fully invested in his journey from start to finish. I adored his relationship with Hoke – it was one of my favourite parts of this novel. I loved watching the dynamics of each of Boady’s relationships change and develop – with his mother, Hoke, his friends and himself.

I enjoyed everything about this book! The gritty, back-roads storyline. The enticing and endearing characters. The engrossing, suspenseful mystery. The writing drew me in from the first word and didn’t let go of my mind until the very last. The way this had my emotions flying around – love, anger, hope, frustration, disgust, comfort – I felt it all.

This is my third Allen Eskens book. I continue to be amazed by his writing – the words seem to easily make their way off of the page and into my heart. I have a strong connection to his writing style and look forward to picking up his other novels.

Thank you to Hachette Canada for sending us our copies to read and review

Posted in Behind the Pages, Reviews, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Friends Reads

Behind the Pages with Angie Kim author of Miracle Creek @AngieKimWriter

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim has been nominated for two Goodreads choice awards in best mystery/thriller and best debut categories. Of course, I am doing my famous happy dance over this news. I loved Miracle Creek and I love Angie Kim!! She has joined us twice for a Q & A. Once when we read Miracle Creek in our Traveling Friends Goodreads group and then again in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group. I have been slacking a bit with my posts due to life and haven’t posted till now. Now I am glad I have because I think this is a perfect time for this post.

Angie shared some insight into Miracle Creek, herself, her writing process and some of the most highlighted quotes provided by Goodreads. Today I am sharing some of the Q & A with you. You can find the full Q & A here

Brenda Let’s start with how all the success of Miracle Creek had felt for?

Angie Thank you so much, Brenda! It’s been more than a little surreal, quite honestly. I think all writers dream that their books will find an audience, and I of course did as well. But it’s one thing to have silly fantasies, and another to actually have so many of them come true. Because I’m new to the writing/book publishing world, I didn’t even know about many of the things that have happened to me, including Book of the Month, Indie Next, Amazon Best of Month, Library Reads, and all the magazines that feature most-anticipated and best-of lists. (SO MANY lists!!!!) It’s been really amazing and now that we’re gearing up for paperback publication next April, I’m finding out even more things, which are so exciting and fun. But the most fun and gratifying have been doing things like this and book clubs, where I get to interact directly with readers. So thank you!!

Brenda You wrote about themes you know from your life experiences. Can you share a bit of them that inspired you to write this story or shaped the characters for you?

Angie The three main threads of my life that I mined for Miracle Creek are my own experience being a Korean immigrant as a preteen, my first career as a trial lawyer, and my experience as a mother to three kids who all had medical issues as babies/toddlers. (All are fine now, thankfully!)

The immigrant thread – I moved from Seoul to the Baltimore area when I was 11 (much like Mary in Miracle Creek), and I went through a really rough period of being bullied in middle school, not speaking English at all and feeling lost as a result, and being separated from my parents (who ran a grocery store in a dangerous part of Baltimore). One of the things I loved most about writing Miracle Creek was that I got to explore this experience from my parents’ experience as well as my own. (The mom, the dad and the daughter of the immigrant family all have their own POV chapters.)

The courtroom scenes were amazingly fun to write for me, almost like going back to the courtroom, except that I got to control what the witnesses said! Being in the courtroom and questioning hostile witnesses was my favorite part of being a lawyer, so I loved revisiting that.

Finally, the parenting experience provided the foundation for Miracle Creek. I actually did HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) in a group chamber just like “Miracle Submarine” in the novel with one of my kids. I wrote about it in an essay for Vogue, which you can read here: tinyurl.com/vogueangiekim

Brenda You have a few different and very interesting characters each with their own heartache dealing with being a parent? What came first for you the plot/story or the characters?

Angie I would say the situation and setting came first – the HBOT world and the fact that there would be a disaster that occurs in that group chamber during an active session. Then, the characters–both the Yoo family (the owners of the HBOT chamber) and the patients and their families who are affected by the tragedy. The plot, the trial, what happened that led up to that moment of the fire, etc. – all that came as I was writing.

Brenda What character or characters did you identify more with?

Angie I probably identify the most with Mary Yoo, because she is me (as a preteen/teenager). The Yoos are the characters who are most directly based on people from my own life (me + my parents). As an adult, I also identify with Elizabeth, the mother who’s on trial, mostly because I, like her, felt guilty at times about having a child who had the least severe medical issues in the group HBOT setting and felt a lot of angst about that.

Brenda What does your writing day look like to you? Do you have a routine?

Angie I used to have a routine, which I hope to get back into once travel and events slow down a bit. After the kids are all off to school, I start with reading my previous day’s writing over coffee, and I just force myself to sit in my writing nook for as may hours as I possibly can. I don’t have any word count goals or time goals because it depends so greatly on what I’m working on. If I’m working on the beginning of a scene or chapter, it might take me days to find the right sentence. If I’m working on continuing a scene, I’m usually in the flow and can crank out the last 1/3 of a scene in one sitting.

Brenda On Goodreads you shared some insight into some for the most popular highlighted Kindle passages. Can you give us here some insight into them?

Highlight My Husband Asked me to Lie

Angie The first version of the beginning of the novel started with “The pounding. It’s the pounding I remember most,” and then went directly into the scene with TJ’s head-banging (in the middle of page 7). This original opening line was a rhythmic homage to Russell Banks’ THE SWEET HEREAFTER, which opens with “A dog—it was a dog I saw for certain. Or thought I saw.” I love the structure of that novel—the exploration of a tragedy, the causation and the aftermath, through four people’s POVs—and I wanted to do something similar with my novel.

But one day, the line “My husband asked me to lie” came to me, and I knew that had to be the beginning of the novel. It seemed so perfect for the themes of the novel, as well as the character arc for Young Yoo, who struggles to find her own voice and to stand up to her husband for much of the novel.

Brenda This is one of my favorite quotes from your book that I really could relate too. I love to see more insight into the quote “But life doesn’t work like that. Tragedies don’t inoculate you against further tragedies, and misfortune doesn’t get sprinkled out in fair proportions; bad things get hurled at you in clumps and batches, unmanageable and messy.”

Angie This is one of my favorites, too! As I commented earlier, I have three boys who all had medical issues. My first child was born deaf in one ear due to a neurological condition, which involved a lot of hospital visits, tests, and therapy when he was a baby/toddler. By the time he was four, when everything seemed resolved with that (and other associated neuropathies ruled out), we found out that he had two OTHER unrelated medical issues—celiac disease and ulcerative colitis—and my other child turned out to have severe anaphylactic allergies. Shortly thereafter, we had two medical scares with our third child for conditions completely unrelated to any of those. (Thankfully, all three kids are fine now.) I was a Philosophy major in college, and this set of events definitely made me think hard about how foolish I’d been to expect that going through one misfortune would mean nothing more would happen to my life, at least for a while.

Highlight “Having a special-needs child didn’t just change you; it transmuted you, transported you to a parallel world with an altered gravitational axis.”

Angie I did HBOT in real life with one of my kids who had ulcerative colitis. The standard treatments weren’t working, and he was in pain, throwing up every day, losing weight, and we became desperate and decided to try this experimental treatment. It was a group HBOT chamber like Miracle Submarine, with kids with chronic illnesses and special needs, including autism and cerebral palsy. It was an intense and intimate environment, with a confessional feel, and we parents talked about our lives and families. No matter what the condition or the severity, the one thing we all agreed on is that when your kids have a chronic condition, it’s not just your actions that change, but the whole world, your outlook, your relationship to society, EVERYTHING changes. One of my favorite things about having written this book is reading reviews and emails from readers who have children with special needs or chronic illnesses—hearing that they appreciate reading sentiments like this because they’ve thought it themselves, and it makes them feel less alone.

Highlight “That was the thing about lies: they demanded commitment. Once you lied, you had to stick to your story”

Angie I think lying is very difficult, precisely because of this. You have to stick to the story you tell, and you have to stick to all the ramifications of that story. My favorite part of being a lawyer (by far!) was being in the courtroom or taking a deposition, questioning a hostile witness and ferreting out and trying to find a weakness in their story. One of the best ways to do that, I found, was to ask them about a logical extension of their main story, something that must be true if they’re telling the truth, and then confronting them with a document or previous statement that contradicts that. The funny thing was, people would often continue to stick to their lie even when faced with incontrovertible evidence that it was a lie. It made them look ridiculous and destroyed their credibility, and yet, they’d persist. I found it fascinating, this commitment to their lies. It often led to a situation in which someone would lie about something little, insignificant, but rather than admit that they lied, shame would take over and they’d end up saying more and more outlandish things in support of that initial little lie, until the lie grew to something big and important. Shame is at the root of so many lies and secrets. I think it may be the most powerful emotion we have, certainly the most long-lasting

Brenda I really connected with the characters in their grief for their children and I loved that you added some of the inner thoughts that in grief we have, the ones that we are too afraid to say for being judged, unliked or feeling bad for thinking them. The thoughts that make us human. “So if a tiny part of us has these thoughts a tiny part of the time, thoughts we shut out as soon as they creep in, is that so bad? Isn’t that just human?”

Angie Thank you so much for highlighting this, which is what Elizabeth says to Teresa in response to what Teresa confesses to her, about her once having a fleeting thought (that she’s extremely ashamed by) of wondering if her life would be better if her daughter had died. This is a passage that Ari Shapiro read on NPR’s All Things Considered and discussed with me. I love that so much because it’s such a pivotal moment that’s at the heart of this novel for me. I think that there’s a Myth of the Good Mother, which is that mothers are and should be saintly. Elle Magazine said that Miracle Creek “tears the ‘Good Mother’ myth apart,” and I hope that that’s true. I think all humans have fleeting, shameful thoughts, but I think mothers who admit openly to having such thoughts are demonized. Being a mother is hard. It’s hard with any child, special needs and chronic illnesses or not. We should be able to be open and honest with each other about it, and not have it be so taboo. I’m not saying that it’s all hard and bad—not at all! There’s intense love and so much joy, but it can be awful sometimes, and we should be able to talk about that and process it with each other, together.

Brenda Can you tell us what your are working on?

Angie I’m working on my next novel (or trying to, anyway!). It’s about a 10-yr old boy who’s nonverbal (with autism) who goes on a walk at the beginning of the novel with his father, who’s his primary caregiver. But only the boy returns home. And because he’s nonverbal, he can’t tell us what happened to the father. His older siblings (17-18 yr old fraternal twins, one boy, one girl) become obsessed with working with him with assistive communication technologies and therapies to get him to communicate

What Angie had to say about us “I know this is an active group filled with passionate readers, and I loved getting a chance to think through and answer such thoughtful, insightful questions. Thank you so much for reading Miracle Creek and for inviting me to take part in this amazing discussion group!”

For more highlights on Goodreads can be found here

Posted in The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Friends Reads, Traveling Sisters Reads

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger @WmKentKrueger @SimonSchusterCA @AtriaBooks

This Tender Land was our monthly group read for October in our Traveling Friends Goodreads group. This mesmerizing and absorbing read makes for such a great group read. There is so much to think about and talk about. We all lost our hearts to these characters and loved this well thought out story!

This Tender Land swept me away on a thought-provoking adventure along the river with the children here in the story and I lost my heart to them as they searched for their place in the world. I was captivated by the children and their personal journey and adventures. They encounter challenges, threats and kindness from strangers along the way. I loved how with each turn or twist of the river, they learned something about themselves, each other, people and the world around them. In turn, I learned something about myself or saw something different in the world around me.

William Kent Krueger offers up his heart here is this remarkable affecting beautiful story full of hope and possibilities not only for these endearing characters but for us as well.

“In asking you to read This Tender Land, I am, in a way, offering you my heart.”

There is some tension here with the danger lurking in every turn. I found myself rooting, fearing for the children and yes, shouting at them at times. I wanted to protect them and was silently teaching them about the ways of the world in my mind but it was them that taught me something. I highly recommend reading this one and as Odie said “Open yourself to every possibility for there is nothing your heart can imagine that is not so”

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley.

Posted in Reviews, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Sisters Reads

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris @StMartinsPress

Love a strong character, this one is for you and one not to be missed!!!

“She was the bravest person I ever met.” —Lale Sokolov on Cilka Klein, The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Brenda’s review

Cilka’s Journey is a fictionalized story that is inspired by what Heather Morris discovered about real-life Cilka who is a character in The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Cilka survived Auschwitz and then was sent to a labour camp for collaborating and sleeping with the enemy. Heather Morris captures what it could have been like for Cilka and the other prisoners in the camp.

Cilka’s bravery and strength shine through here as we see her care for prisoners and her friends. It is an inspiring, hopeful story of an ordinary young woman who becomes an extraordinary woman under unimaginable circumstances. Cilka’s actions throughout the story show us the goodness in people at times of horror and the strength needed to survive. I highly recommend it.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley

Lindsay’s review

An engrossing, shocking and unsettling extension of this series. I read and loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz last year and was eagerly anticipating getting my hands on a copy of Cilka’s Journey. Although a very difficult novel to read due to the atrocities detailed within these pages, I found this book to be even more intriguing and informative than the first one. The writing is honest, brutal at times, but so important to read so we can honour those that lived through these devastating wartimes. Their voices cannot be forgotten.

Cilka is only sixteen-years-old when she is sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1942. She is singled out by the commandant to be given separate living arrangements where she will be available for his pleasure. After living this way for three years, the camp is liberated, although Cilka is not freed. She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy. She is sentenced to fifteen years at a Siberian prison camp where living conditions are not much different than they were at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

I had not known about these Siberian prison camps prior to reading this novel. I was devastated to learn that these dreadful prison camps continued existing after the liberation of Auschwitz. The charges that Cilka faced were so extremely unjust. Had Cilka denied the commandant what he requested, she would have been killed. What other option did she have? My mind was spinning with this situation throughout the entire novel. What options did these prisoners have other than to accept what was demanded of them?

I loved Cilka’s character. She was extremely strong and inspiring in the face of so much pain. She gave strength and hope to many.

On a side note, I believe a large part of what made me truly connect to and love this book so much was that I had been advised by Brenda (who read this novel before I did) that not everything that happens to Cilka is based on fact. As with any historical fiction book, fact and fiction are weaved together to paint a broad picture of the time period/situation being examined. Although Cilka was a real person who could of endured much of what happens in this novel, not every circumstance is her personal story. I think knowing that ahead of time really enhanced my connection to the story as it stopped me from looking too deep into the reality of each scenario. As the Heather Morris mentions in the Note at the end of the novel, “There is a mix of characters inspired by real-life figures, in some instances representing more than one individual, and characters completely imagined.” I urge you to keep this in mind when reading this harrowing and unforgettable book. Heather Morris does a phenomenal job incorporating much detail into this gripping and emotional storyline.

I will leave you with one of the most powerful quotes from this book. “Everyone affected by war, captivity, or oppression reacts differently — and away from it, people might try to guess how they would act, or react, in the circumstances. But they do not really know.”

Thank you to my lovely local library for the loan of this exceptional novel!

Posted in Reviews, Sister Reads, The Sisters Recommend

The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer @nfischerauthor @InkyardPress @HarperCollins

Oct 1 is pub date for THE SPEED OF FALLING OBJECTS by NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER and it’s a not to be missed YA adventure story of survival!

Norma’s Review

Strength, endurance, & love!

*One Word – Truth*

THE SPEED OF FALLING OBJECTS by NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER is an entertaining, action-packed, suspenseful, thrilling, and edge-of-your-seat YA survivalist story that immediately hooked and captivated me. The backdrop of the Amazon rainforest and the premise of this novel totally intrigued and enthralled me, I was totally taken with this adventurous tale and loved Danny’s story. The action was so fierce that I literally could not put this book down.

NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER delivers an atmospheric, vividly descriptive, fascinating, adventurous, engaging, and well-written coming-of-age story here that is packed full of adventure, explores a complex father-daughter relationship, and a touch of romance to lighten the mood.

Danger “Danny” Danielle Warren and her TV celebrity survivalist dad were interesting characters to say the least. Even though the father wasn’t the greatest dad out there he definitely had his purpose in this story and I loved how Danny ended up coming to terms with so many different aspects to her character. She definitely grew as a character and the underlying message and love emanating from the words written were extremely palpable and packed quite the punch. Danny was definitely the shining star in this novel!

Brenda’s review

I took a step out of my normal here with reading The Speed of Falling Objects, and I am so glad I did.  What a great surprise this one was. I loved the self-discovery adventure here I took with our main character Danger “Danny” Danielle Warren.

The Speed of Falling Objects has all the elements here to make this a thrilling edge of your seat emotional YA adventure for me.  It’s an action-packed story of survival, a coming of age story with a touch of romance.  

Nancy Richardson Fischer does such a great job here creating exciting characters.  I am not a big fan of young voices at times, and it took me a bit to get into the head of Danny.  Once I was, I was hooked and loved the personal and emotional conflicts Danny experiences and the adventure she took me on.  I enjoyed seeing her grow and develop with each page. Now her Dad Cougar is a very unlikable character here, making his character a hard one to enjoy but he creates some interesting dynamics here to the story of survival for both the jungle and Danny. 

The rainforest is brought alive and I was fascinated and terrified at the same time with the dangerous bugs and reptiles in the story.  There is a lot of danger here and there is no shying away from details. It did feel at times a bit much with one thing after another; however I enjoy the thrilling fight of survival.  I highly recommend it. 

Thank you to Nancy Richardson Fischer for thinking of us and giving us the opportunity to read something different than we usually do.  

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: A beautiful, eye-catching, appealing, intriguing and fitting representation to storyline. I love the fall colours to the cover design.
Title: Intriguing, interesting, metaphorical and a meaningful and significant representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Beautifully written, expressive, passionate, vividly descriptive, engaging, and compulsively readable. I immediately connected with the author’s prose.
Plot: Detailed, atmospheric, suspenseful, interesting, authentic, action-packed, fast-paced, and entertaining.
Ending: A deeply touching, satisfying and great ending that made me ugly cry.
Overall: I absolutely loved the adventurous and emotional journey this book took me on! Would highly recommend!

Posted in Behind the Pages, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Friends Reads

Behind the Pages Q & A With Kim Michele Richardson author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek @KYBookWoman #behindthepagesgroup

Kim Michele Richardson spend an insightful hour with us answering our questions in the Behind the Pages Goodreads group. We learned so much more about this story and after our discussion we appreciated and love THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK even more.

Brenda Welcome, Kim Michele! Thank you so much for joining us. I have not heard of “blue-skinned people” or the Pack Horse Project before reading your story. I love when I read about something I haven’t. Your story was such an eye-opening.

What inspired you to write about both?

Kim Michele Hi, Brenda! For 80 years these brave, heroic Kentucky packhorse librarians were ignored and only given a nod in a couple of amazing children’s books—the women’s historic legacy, but a small footnote in history. Their courage and dedication for spreading literacy to the poorest pocket of the United States—the hills of eastern Kentucky and during its most violent era, deserved more in literary history. I felt it would be a privilege to tell their story. And when I learned of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky who suffered from congenital Methemoglobinemia, I was determined to give them a voice they’d long been denied.

There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t feel a tremendous honor for the opportunity to finally introduce these fierce, female packhorse librarians, and the blue people from my home state of Kentucky.

Brenda What research did you do?

Kim Michele I spent 5 years on this book with many 12-16 hour days.
Thousands of hours went into exploring everything from fauna to flora to folklore to food, and longtime traditions indigenous to Appalachia. I’m also able to live in that landscape and spend time with native Appalachians who have taught me the lyrics and language of their people and ancestors. Other research took me to coal-mining towns and their history, visiting doctors, speaking with a hematologist to learn about congenital Methemoglobinemia, and exploring fire tower look-outs and their history. There was the fun and interesting research on mules.

And last, during this remarkable and sometimes crazy and dangerous journey of living full time for a year in Appalachia for research and writing, I clumsily fell off a mountain. Alas, I can’t claim a cool story like a ‘bear or snake chased me’. I was simply toting a stack of Pyrex dishes down crooked mountain steps for an elderly mountain woman when I stumbled. The Pyrex flew out of my hands and went bouncing off concrete. I received seven breaks to my arm, but nary a nick or scratch on any of the Pyrex.

A week later, my husband caught Lyme’s disease, which forced us back home to our Kentucky city to seek medical care.

Norma Hi, Kim Michele! Thank you so much for joining us! I am a reader that chooses my books by covers and how intrigued I am by them. The cover design definitely intrigued me and it is one that I knew that I had to read. Did you have a vision of what you wanted the cover to look like? Are you happy with the finished product? Would you mind sharing with us a little insight into how the cover came about.

P.S. – Looks like there are a few different versions of covers out there. I bought my copy in the States and was published by Sourcebooks Landmark.

Kim Michele Hi, Norma, thanks for the question. There are several versions, one for foreign which is Harper Collins Canada, and the U.S. version as well as the ARC.

Publishers create and control covers, and although they will often ask for the author’s input, the publisher has the final decision. This is due to the marketing and art teams that are deemed professional and more skilled than the writer.

On this book we had several designs. Originally, the art team created one of the covers with a vivid blue filter. But sometimes a buyer like Barnes & Noble will come in and ask for changes. In this case, B & N wanted the blue filter removed. After much discussion and input from many, the publisher ended up with this cover.

The design was more of a literal metaphor, both beautiful and sad—the whole concept of being smeared because of color. Sort of like how the gaze of Troublesome’s townsfolk reduces Cussy Mary to a color. . . The U.S. publisher as well as Harper Collins Canada adopted this metaphor for their covers.

DeAnn I really loved this book! I found it interesting that few men were part of the Pack Horse Project. Were you more drawn to this because so many women were involved?

Kim Michele Good evening, DeAnn, and thanks for your question.

The project alone was a fascinating, unknown part of history, but having it mostly women-driven, made it more unique. It showed fierce, courageous women in a unforgiving landscape, accomplishing what many never could, and battling everything from inclement weather, mistrust, treacherous landscapes and extreme poverty, and again, doing it all in Kentucky’s most violent era—the bloody coal mine wars.

Also, women who defy the odds, achieve great measures, both in the past and present, should be recognized as more than a blip in history, and should be lifted up and shown for the true heroes they are.

Brenda My heart went out to the people in your story and I felt the power of words with each. I loved the positive effects the Pack Horse Project had to the people in times of heartbreak. What inspired or motivated you to write about the impact that the books had on the people in your story?

Kim Michele Great question! As a foster child, I remember going to my first library one lonely summer and checking out a book. The librarian sized me up and then quietly said, “Only one? You look smarter than a one-book read, and I bet we can find you more than just one.” She reached under her counter, snapped open a folded, brown paper sack, handed it to me, and then marched me over to shelves filled with glorious books. I was shocked that I could even get more than one book, much less a bag full of precious books, and I was moved by her compassion, kindness, and wisdom.

Librarians are lifelines for so many, giving us powerful resources to help us become empowered.

Mary Beth How did you select the names of your characters? I loved Cully!

Kim Michele Thank you for the question. On selecting names, I chose Cussy because I wanted to have her family come from the tiny village in Cussy, France. Generally, I research old Kentucky social security indexes, and birth rolls and death indexes of my state for names. A few times I’ve used my ancestors, like Mudas (Muddy) Summers in LIAR’S BENCH which was indeed plucked from my great-grandparents.

Brenda Do you have any feel strong emotions for your characters? Is there one that stands out more for you?

Kim Michele Yes, I grew up under the grinding heels of poverty, spending my first decade in a rural Kentucky orphanage and then on to foster care, and beyond, to finding myself homeless at age fourteen. So I can relate to marginalized people, and have much empathy for Cussy and her family, anyone who faces prejudices and hardships. It’s easy to feel pain deeply, particularly if you’ve gone through hardships in your own life.

They are all so dear: Young, innocent Angeline, fire-tower lookout RC, ol’ weak-eyed Loretta— there’s too many to choose just one. We have Junia, Cussy Mary’s protector.

It was important for the packhorse librarians to have trusted mounts. So I gave Cussy a mule since they are stronger and can outlive horses and donkeys. When you think of a mule you think of it being stubborn. But not so, mules are wise and won’t do anything to bring harm to themselves. They are the greatest preservationists. Surprisingly, I’m finding so many are endeared to that ol’ feisty mule, and I receive many sweet and funny letters about her.

Brenda Is there anything you would like readers to get out of your story?

Kim Michele The novel won’t change the world, but if I’ve dropped seeds of courage, empathy and kindness into this sometimes tumultuous and charged world as we know it today, that’s all I could ever hope. Another is that poverty and marginalization are not so much economics or politics or societal issues as much as human issues which are best grappled with by reaching deep into the lives of those suffering them.

What Kim Michele had to say about us The Traveling Sisters group was such a delight—these amazing women are the smart, fierce readers I love to write for

For more Q & A with Kim Michele Richardson and other author Q & A, you can find the group here