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

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

The Whisper Man by Alex North @CeladonBooks @alexnorth @about_thethrill

Hot supreme diggity dang! We are busting out a groove here and boogieing to the beat of excitement with this Traveling Friends group read. We all had a such a hard time putting this one down once we started reading it. It’s one fabulosity read.

Brenda’s review

Alex North does some mighty fine footwork here with this creepy, unnerving, and captivating dark, suspenseful thriller.  It has all the elements here to make this a spooky and compelling read for me. There are some supernatural overtones here that send my imagination into overdrive with some unexplainable elements to this story. That dark and twisted thriller mind of mine had me a little unnerved here while reading this story.   It’s a police procedural with a glimpse into a dangerous and broken killer. It has well-layered characters with complicated and compelling relationship between father and son. I loved the dynamics here between the characters.  

Alex North does such a great job here with Jake who stole the show for us.  It’s not easy to pull off a creepy, story with a child character being the centre of it and he nailed it here for us.  We loved the eerie feeling going on here with the whispering but never felt disturbed by it. The story is entertaining and fun yet just enough dark and twisted.  Just the way I love it! 

I highly enjoyed the time I spend with this spooky story and the characters along with my Traveling Friends!!  I highly recommend it. 

Norma’s review

Suspenseful, a little bit spooky, & definitely full of heart!

THE WHISPER MAN by ALEX NORTH is an engrossing, fast-paced, tense, dark, and eerie novel that had me fully immersed in this story right from the very start. What and who “The Whisper Man” is and represents in this tale is downright brilliant, unnerving and definitely has this creepy and spooky vibe resonating throughout this novel. The following rhyme definitely gave me the chills.

If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken.
If you play outside alone, soon you won’t be going home.
If your window’s left unlatched, you’ll hear him tapping at the glass. 
If you’re lonely, sad, and blue, the Whisper Man will come for you.

Although I wouldn’t necessarily say that this novel creeped me out though or scared me out of my wits but it definitely had an underlying spook factor with the supernatural overtones to the story. I found to be quite absorbing and appealing.

ALEX NORTH delivers an atmospheric, intriguing, well-written and irresistibly unsettling thriller here that thoroughly entertained me. The little boy in this book definitely stole the show for me! He was the shining star and I loved his character so much!! He reminded me so much of the little boy in the movie The Sixth Sense.

The story is told in short chapters from alternating perspectives of Tom Kennedy, Jake (his son), DI Amanda Beck, and DI Pete Willis. I was never confused once and I absolutely loved the short chapters as it definitely helped to keep the pacing high to easily hold your attention. 

Lindsay’s review

Intense. Haunting. Addictive. Engrossing. Chilling.

Seven-year-old Jake and his widowed father, Tom, move to Featherbank. A new town for a new start after the passing of Jake’s mom. Featherbank has a past filled with secrets. Jake seems connected to some of these long buried stories and secrets of the small town. Not long after moving to Featherbank, a young boy goes missing which stirs up old memories of a serial killer who once lived in there.

This was a spine-tingling, heart-pounding, sleep-with-the-lights-on story! I am not one for reading scary stories (I’m a big chicken!), but this was so engrossing that I became addicted to the novel from the very start. I couldn’t put it down once I began this shocking and unforgettable journey. The frightening parts were not gory or over-detailed, but simply created an extreme feeling of tension and nervousness that I couldn’t shake. The characters were fantastic! I was invested in them from the first chapter. The changing narratives was perfectly executed and added multiple layers to this mesmerizing novel. Simply put, the writing was excellent! I look forward to what Alex North comes out with next.

We read this one along with our Traveling Sister Kim! Check out her review here

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: An eye-catching, relevant, eerie, sinister, brilliant, intriguing, suspenseful, and extremely fitting representation to storyline. This cover definitely caught my attention and I love it! 
Title: Appealing, creepy, suspenseful, significant, intriguing and absolutely love how the title plays so fittingly and meaningfully into storyline. 
Writing/Prose: Well-written, vivid, suspenseful, engaging, captivating, and fluid. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing! 
Plot: Chilling, sinister, suspenseful, unsettling, moving, riveting, fast-paced, clever, absorbing, enjoyable and extremely entertaining. 
Ending: Spine-tingling, rewarding, and thoroughly satisfying!
Overall: An excellent read that had me thoroughly engrossed and immersed in this tale from start to finish! And learning that this story was inspired by the author’s own son who told him he was playing with “the boy in the floor” was quite clever and in itself frightening. I highly recommend!

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for gifting us and our Traveling Sisters a copy of this book. It was an absolute pleasure reading and discussing this book in our group.

#travelingsistersread #travelingfriendsread

Posted in Traveling Friends Reads

Traveling Friends Goodreads Group Read: The Whisper Man by Alex North @CeladonBooks @writer_north @goodreads ##TheWhisperMan #travelingfriendsreads

Our Traveling Friends Goodreads group read for The Whisper Man by Alex North is about to start. The Traveling Sisters are doing some dancing and we are excited to join our friends and dive into this highly anticipated group read. 

Let’s be friends, join the dancing and discussion! We love to hear our friends thoughts!! You can find the group here

From Goodreads

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window… 

Thank you to Celadon Books from all The Traveling Sisters for our copies and making this a very special group read for us!

The Traveling Friends Group Read
Posted in Reviews, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Friends Reads

Summer of ‘69 by Elin Hilderbrand #travelingfriendsread #BookReview

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

Brenda’s review

Summer of ‘69 is my first book I read by Elin Hilderbrand and I have to say it was the perfect one to start with.  It’s already coming up to the end of summer and we haven’t had any summer weather and I really enjoyed being swept away to the sun in Nantucket.  The cover alone took me to my happy summer place. 

Elin Hilderbrand weaves a historical fiction, family drama  with a beach read that was the perfect summer read for me. She vividly creates the iconic american summer of ‘69 while capturing each of the characters’ own conflicts that represents a theme of that era.   The writing flows so quietly as Hilderbrand explores a lot of themes here. 

I was immediately drawn into the family dynamics here with their misunderstanding, secrets, headache and worry.  Their relationships are complicated however the dynamics between them is easy and light while still capturing their emotional depth and growth.

I enjoyed every minute of this story and it all came together so well.  I highly recommend! I look forward to diving into one of the many other books by Elin Hilderbrand I own! 

Norma’s review

Evocative, entrancing, & absorbing!

I have been meaning to read one of ELIN HILDERBRAND books for quite a while now and I am so glad that I finally followed through and read my very first book by her. This is some fine storytelling here. I totally loved the dynamics between the characters, was full-heartedly entranced by the setting, enraptured by the premise, and had a deep fondness for the whole story in general. 

SUMMER OF ‘69 by ELIN HILDERBRAND is a nostalgic, fun, touching, moving, and breezy domestic tale that totally enchanted me. I was immediately hooked and fully absorbed within this storyline. Being born in 1966, I absolutely loved being transported back to a place in time and era that totally came alive for me. It was extremely easy to visualize and experience place and time perfectly through the words expressed here. Loved that! 

ELIN HILDERBRAND delivers an intriguing, vivid, atmospheric, beautifully written and retrospective tale here that has woven together some historical moments perfectly into an easy-breezy summer read with heart. I really loved the tone and flow of this novel. It was like sitting down with a good friend on a relaxing summery day while they relayed to me their story. 

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: A feel-good, happy, summery, and lively cover that depicts this time period and storyline perfectly.
Title: Intriguing, appealing, emotive, relevant, and a simply beautiful representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Compulsively readable, expressive, prolific, engaging, and dramatic. 
Plot: Dynamic, steadily-paced, fun, captivating, nostalgic, heartfelt, relevant, and entertaining.
Ending: A beautiful and heartfelt ending that left me feeling totally satiated.
Overall: I thought this was the perfect summer read and absolutely loved reading the authors note in the end where I found out where the inspiration behind the story came from. That just brought in an extra feeling of respect, meaning and warmth for the novel for me. Would highly recommend!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase. Thank you so much and have a wonderful day!

Posted in Reviews, Traveling Friends Reads

Girls Like Us by Christina Alger #travelingsistersread #BookReview

Girls Like Us By Christina Alger is available now!

Lindsay’s Review

Loved the characters! Loved the atmosphere! Loved the storyline!

Twelve years after moving away, FBI agent Nell Flynn, returns to her small seaside hometown to handle closing her father’s estate.   Nell’s mother was murdered when Nell was a child and since then, she and her father, a police detective, had a rocky relationship.   When Nell was old enough to be on her own, she left her hometown and never looked back.   Now that she is backin her childhood town following her father’s death, old memories return and she is drawn to looking into some unanswered questions about her past.   Shortly after her arrival,a dead body is found and Nell finds herself helping the local police investigate.   Could the body be connected to one of her father’s old cases?

These characters were fantastic!   I ADORED Nell!   She was such a strong yet vulnerable character who I was rooting for from start to finish.

Each character carried an air of mystery which kept me curious to see how things would play out.   The atmosphere was thick and engrossing throughout this thrilling and edgy storyline which had me flipping the pages as quickly as possible.  I really enjoyed the writing – the pace and flow of the story was excellent.   I look forward to reading more from this author!

Norma’s Thoughts

An easy-breezy, entertaining and quick read!

GIRLS LIKE US by CHRISTINA ALGER was an interesting premise with a fabulous and strong female character that mildly held my interest throughout. I was immediately intrigued and thoroughly enjoyed the mystery but felt like I was never fully engaged though. I was a little disappointed with the way a few things played out in the end which lowered my overall rating.

I enjoyed it just didn’t love it as much as I would have liked. It was a much loved book by quite a few other Traveling Friends though so please don’t let my rating/review deter you from picking this one up.

Thank you so much to Edelweiss, G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Cristina Alger for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy of this book.

*************************************

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase. Thank you so much and have a wonderful day!

Posted in Reviews, Traveling Friends Reads

Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins @Kristan_Higgins @BerkleyPub #travelingfriendsread #BookReview

Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

Norma’s Review

Affecting, emotional, & expressive!

I am a fairly new reader of KRISTAN HIGGINS, I have only read one of her previous novels, NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT and absolutely loved it. So I was extremely eager to read her latest offering here with LIFE AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES. I have read a few reviews where they have mentioned that this book isn’t written in her signature humorous style. So without really knowing her signature style I thought it was an extremely balanced read that produced the perfect mixture of emotions from me which included some laugh-out-loud ones from a few comical scenes. 

LIFE AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES by KRISTAN HIGGINS is a touching, impactful, powerful, insightful, and moving story that immediately captured my attention and my heart. I was totally immersed in these characters lives which had me smiling, laughing, happy, sad, and even shed a few tears over the course of reading this emotionally captivating story and in the end, it left me with feelings of such warmth in my heart.

KRISTAN HIGGINS delivers a beautifully written, engaging, and heartfelt story here with absolutely wonderful, relatable and compelling characters. With the fantastic characterizations the emotions and compassion that you feel for these characters are extremely palpable and easily be fully invested in.

The story is told mostly between the perspectives of Genevieve, Riley and Emma with a few chapters from some secondary characters. Although I totally loved each and every perspective equally, I had a fondness for Miller and thoroughly enjoyed him and his story. 

Brenda’s review

Life and Other Inconveniences is my second book I have read by Kristan Higgins and I have to admit my first was a miss for me.  Well I was completely surprised and this one was a big hit for me!

Kristan Higgins does a great job creating engaging characters using warm humor, insightful thoughts with realistic, raw emotions and actions.  For me the humor has to have some warmth to it when more affecting topics are explored in a story. I have been told I am just a little over sensitive when it comes to that.  

I was hooked right from the start with these engaging likable and unlikable characters. I loved the dynamics between the characters and I enjoyed the complicated relationships between them.  Old wounds are opened up and second chances are explored with emotional depth to the characters. Each are given a conflict and through each of their POV we see them grow. At times I did feel their inner thoughts were a bit repetitive and would have preferred to see them grow more by their actions.

There is a mystery here as well and that added some suspense to the story.  I really enjoyed how Higgins weaved that into the story line and I thought it all came together well.  The story wrapped up and I felt very satisfied after reading this one. I highly recommend. 

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: Affecting, intriguing, heartfelt, peaceful, eye-catching, and an impactful representation to storyline. 
Title: An impactful and powerful title!!
Writing/Prose: Well-written, beautiful, captivating, expressive, skilled, and proficient.
Plot: Suspenseful, thought-provoking, heartbreaking, heartwarming, insightful, perfectly-paced, amusing, enjoyable and extremely entertaining. 
Ending: Bittersweet, satisfying, and heartwarming that definitely made me pause, reflect and contemplate. 
Overall: This book contained all the elements that I absolutely love in my books. Would highly recommend!

Thank you so much to Elisha at Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this beautiful book.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase. Thank you so much and have a wonderful day!