First Line Friday: The Story Peddler

Welcome to First Line Friday,

hosted by Hoarding Books.

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With book 3, The Story Hunter by Lindsay A. Franklin, due out from Enclave Publishing in May, I’ve finally started The Weaver Trilogy by reading book 1, The Story Peddler.  

I’m saving my thoughts for a review, so here is the book description:

Selling stories is a deadly business

Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories–she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down…and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers…and they’re after her too.

And here are the first lines:

Continue reading

Blog Tour: Happy Valley & Return to Edisto by Lin Stepp with Book Excerpts & Giveaway Link

Happy Valley Return to Edisto JustRead Blog Tour
Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for Happy Valley & Return to Edisto by Lin Stepp, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Happy Valley by Lin SteppTitle: Happy Valley
Author: Lin Stepp
Publisher: Mountain Hill Press
Release Date: April 2, 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Escape to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee in this sweet tale of two young people who meet by chance, their paths soon overlapping and intertwining amid a cast of warm-hearted characters in the small rural community of Happy Valley.

With Grandpa suffering a heart attack, Juliette Hollander saw little choice but to head back to their Tennessee mountain farm in Happy Valley to help out.  She didn’t expect, or want, to leave behind her life and work in North Carolina to return to her grandparents’ home so soon. Nor did she imagine meeting, and working with, the mysterious man she met briefly last summer and never thought to see again.

Walker Logan spent the last two years traveling the United States, seeing the beauty of the country and running from his past. But an old rock house he sees while hiking near Abrams Creek Campground unexpectedly calls to his soul. With danger close behind, he never stayed in one place long enough to put down roots. Yet now, with a new vision, he decides to take the risk.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

Return to EdistoTitle: Return to Edisto
Series: The Edisto Trilogy #2
Author: Lin Stepp
Publisher: Mountain Hill Press
Release Date: April 2, 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Return to Edisto Island in the rich, Lowcountry story of a young woman’s difficult decision to run from threat and danger, changing the course of her well-ordered life and, in turn, the life of the young man who loved and lost her.

It was a long trip back to Edisto Island, South Carolina, and the beach house that shaped so much of Mary Helen Avery’s early life. Now her mind flashed between anger and hurt over the difficult situation she’d left behind at the job she loved.  Was she doing the right thing to leave? Should she have stayed to fight? She hoped at the quiet, beloved island she knew so well, she’d find the answers she needed and peace from all this turmoil.

J.T.’s heart took a familiar lurch when he saw the car with New Jersey plates parked at the Avery’s beach house. Even after ten years, the memory of Mary Helen Avery still tormented him.  Finding her on the porch weeping lit old fires he thought long dead. Was he a fool to hope for something more between them with all their problems of the past? Probably so, but if she stayed long enough, he’d find one more chance to try.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lin Stepp

Lin Stepp is a native Tennessean, businesswoman and educator. A New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon best-selling international author, Lin has eighteen published books, including her twelve beloved Smoky Mountain novels, all set in different Tennessee and North Carolina locations, her newest Mountain Home book, a novella in one of Kensington’s Christmas anthologies, and two novels in her new Edisto Trilogy, set on the South Carolina coast. Lin and her husband J.L. also write regional guidebooks, including a Smoky Mountain hiking guide and a Tennessee state parks book.

Stepp’s latest 2020 releases are Happy Valley, set in a quiet rural valley near the Smoky Mountains, and Return to Edisto, set at Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Lin’s previous title Claire At Edisto was the 2019 Best Books Award Winner in Fiction: Romance, sponsored by American Book Fest, her novel Welcome Back a finalist in the 2017 Selah Awards, and Lin and her husband’s guidebook Discovering Tennessee State Parks a 2019 American Book Fest Best Books Award Finalist in Nonfiction: Travel Guides and Essays.

Lin enjoys speaking for events, festivals, libraries, and book clubs, reading, hiking, exploring out of doors, and keeping up with her readers on Facebook, Twitter, and through her monthly blog and newsletter which you will find on her website at: www.linstepp.com

CONNECT WITH LIN: Website | Facebook | Twitter


EXCERPT: HAPPY VALLEY

Someone was following him. His heartbeat kicked up, and he felt a thin sweat break across his brow. Walker could see the black van still behind him. It had followed him for the last several miles. Revving his cycle, he turned off on the side road ahead, glancing into his rear view mirror as he did, only to see the van drive by him. He’d been wrong. Again. 

It was time to get past this—long past time.  

He slowed on the narrow country road and then gunned his motorcycle into a rough gravel driveway. Roaring to a stop, Walker switched off the motor and dropped his feet to the ground. He pushed the cycle over to prop it against the gate of the rural property, trying not to glance back to see if the van had returned. But he could only hear the quiet of the country now.

Walking around to shake off the tension, he let the sounds of the birds, the hum of insects in the field, and the sun overhead calm him. He hated these moments. It was time for a change, and he was headed in that direction. He’d be danged if he’d let one flashback spook him again.

EXCERPT: RETURN TO EDISTO

Mary Helen smiled for the first time, in nearly two days and seven hundred sixty-five miles of driving, at the “Welcome to Hollywood” sign on the side of the highway. Not Hollywood, California, of course, but Hollywood, South Carolina, a small, rural backwoods town not far from Charleston. She could remember her father making jokes and singing jingles about the town’s name when they’d driven through on their way to the beach. That’s where Mary Helen headed now, to Edisto Beach, where her family had vacationed since her earliest memories, and where she, her mother, and sister lived after her father’s death seventeen years ago. Grieved and heartbroken, they’d retreated to Edisto in 1985, when her father, Reverend Charles Avery, died unexpectedly sitting at his desk in the church. She’d been nine, her sister Suki five. The beach helped to sooth their hurt and sorrow then, and Mary Helen hoped it would do the same for her now.


TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a print copy of Happy Valley & Return to Edisto, matching bookmarks, and a $25 Amazon gift card!

Happy Valley & Return to Edisto JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule shown below. Giveaway will begin at midnight March 23, 2020 and last through 11:59 PM EST on March 30, 2020. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US mailing addresses only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

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*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

 

Review Tour: Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne

Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan HerneI jumped on the chance to join the Just Read Publicity Tours review tour for the third book in Ruth Logan Herne’s Wishing Bridge series, Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge.  

Though I typically prefer to start with the first book, and this is a novel that is very much part of a series whose community of characters and their stories are strongly represented.  So much so that I occasionally had trouble keeping the relationships sorted.  But Jacinda “Jazz” Monroe, former super model turned small town waitress/real estate investor, is such an interesting lead and having her be pursued by a stalker as well as two very different men kept the story hopping. Continue reading

The Edible Reader: Thoughts on Food and Fiction (and a recipe!)

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for quite some time (I’ve had that title saved for quite a while), and what better time than just after I’ve done a bit of book inspired comfort baking on this self-isolation Saturday?  More about that, and the recipe I cobbled together, later.

Whenever I read a book that mentions food, I find myself wanting to taste the food that is mentioned.  Almost more when it is something I’ve never had, but become instantly curious to try and sometimes even to make (kind of like when I watch what is called here The Great British Baking Show).

secrettohummingbirdcake_thomasnelsonI have a big sweet tooth, and I’ve been wanting to make all manner of old-fashioned layer cakes, especially Southern cakes, for the past few years.  It all began with a book that Thomas Nelson sent to me for review, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale.  It’s a story of friendship and the highs and lows, and after using up several tissues I was left with a burning curiosity about this cake.  I’d never heard of it, and neither had anyone else I mentioned it to here in Oregon.  It quickly became a favorite, and even a pregnancy craving for one of my nieces, and I still make the Southern Living magazine recipe (available online) from time to time.

sometamegazelle_pymIn a similar vein, I’m always curious to try any manner of classic English stodginess like a Treacle Tart mentioned in Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series (but not haggis, never haggis, and it’s Scottish anyway), or Cauliflower Cheese after reading my first Barbara Pym novel, Some Tame Gazelle (review). I’ve even purchased The Barbara Pym Cookbook written by Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt. It’s sitting unused among my cookbooks, but I have hopeful plans for using it as I continue to read Pym’s novels.

arefugeassured_bethanyhouseMany authors are aware that smell is the most evocative sense they can invoke, which explains the hunger that takes over when fresh baked bread is mentioned.  In A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green, sent to me for review by Bethany House, all manner of French breads are baked by the lace maker who becomes a refugee of the French Revolution.  It wasn’t long after reading it that I gave in and went to the local patisserie/boulangerie for a hearty Vol au Vent.  Which I am now craving.  Sigh.

I’ve been not-so-subtly teasing this throughout the post, but one of my favorite books of 2019 is also one of the best books I read that year, All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner (which I stalked & pounced on when review copies were offered by Revell). Not far into this novel of small town Michigan during the Vietnam War, the Dutch pastry Banket is mentioned and I immediately had to search online to know more about it.  I love almond flavored desserts (even more than almonds, I enjoy almond flavored things) and in order to taste it I knew I would have to make it myself.  I have been thinking of making it off and on ever since. Today, I finally did.

allmannerofthings_revell

What made me wait so long?  Simple – the cost of almond paste has increased since I last bought it and I decided I would just have to make it, then proceeded to put it off.  It just seemed like a lot of work for my small food processor to finely grind 2 cups of almonds.  But then I had a small epiphany – I could use almond meal, something I’ve purchased from Trader Joe’s in the past.  Then I had another small epiphany – the banket recipes I’d looked at had filling recipes that included almond paste and more of the ingredients already in the almond paste.  Why not, I thought, skip the step of making the almond paste first and just add the two amounts together for those ingredients?  So, using various sources for reference (a vintage Betty Crocker cookbook, and websites allrecipes.com, food.com, solofoods.com, and recipes.howthingswork.com), my shortcut version of Banket was born:

BANKET – Bookworlder Style
Filling:
2C almond meal (or 2C blanched almonds you’ve ground until fine)
2-1/4C sifted confectioners sugar
1 whole egg + 2 egg whites
2-1/4 tsp almond extract
white sugar, for dusting (optional)
Fully mix together the almond meal and sugar in a medium sized bowl.  Stir in the eggs and almond extract until fully blended.  Cover and refrigerate.
Dough:
2C all purpose flour
1C butter, cold
1/2C cold water
Cut the butter into the flour until you reach a crumb-like texture.
Slowly add the cold water, mixing just until it forms a ball.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for approx. 1 hour or until well chilled.
As the dough and filling chill, preheat oven to 450F. Grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.
Divide the dough & filling into 4 parts each.  When working on a portion, keep the remainder refrigerated.
Roll 1/4 of the dough out into a strip approximately 14 x 3 inches.  Spread 1/4 of the filling down the center of the dough, leaving at least 1/2″ uncovered on each side.
Moisten along one long end of the dough with water then roll towards the wet end.  Seal ends by pinching.
Repeat with the remainder of the dough and filling.
Place the rolls 2″ apart on the cookie sheets, brush with the yolks (dilute the yolks by whisking in 2T of water) & sprinkle with sugar.
Bake 15-20min or until golden.  Can be served sliced, warm or cold.
Optional: Substitute frozen puff pastry (defrosted) for the dough for a quicker, flakier crust.

Not 100% authentic, but then I’m only a smidgen Dutch myself.  This recipe has only been tested once, in my kitchen today, and I’ve been the only taster.  It was worth the effort and I’ll be making it again sometime before the rest of the almond meal reaches it’s use by date.  If you give it a try, or read any of these books, do let me know how you get on.

 

 

First Line Friday: Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge

Welcome to First Line Friday,

hosted by Hoarding Books.

Today’s featured quote is taken from a digital copy and may differ from the published text.

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I’m finally visiting Ruth Logan Herne‘s small town of Wishing Bridge!  I usually like to start a series with the first book, don’t you?  But I couldn’t resist joining Just Read Tours’ review tour for book 3, Findng Peace In Wishing Bridge.

Here is the book description:

Creator of the bestselling “Welcome to Wishing Bridge” and “At Home in Wishing Bridge” award-winning author Ruth Logan Herne invites readers back to the little town with the big heart with “Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge”.

Being a supermodel isn’t just hard.

It can be a killer, so when international sensation Jazz Monroe answered a friend’s call for help, she’d just taken a hiatus from the job that made her a very rich woman and almost took her life. Outwardly Jazz was everything anyone would want to be. Beautiful, confident, rich and famous, and often seen on the arm of some of the world’s most eligible bachelors, Jazz knows the truth she hides. Her self-confidence is an act and the eating disorder that plagues her refuses to let her rest.

But then she and her old friend Thea are called to help a friend and fulfill a pledge they’d made a dozen years before as high school seniors. If any one of the three ever needed help, the others would come running. Last December, Kelsey made that call and her two old friends, the other members of the “Soul Sisterhood”, responded. They’re here now. Thea is practicing medicine, Kelsey has married the hero deputy that saved her life and Jazz is finding the hints of peace that have eluded her for nearly two decades. She settles into the little town, helping out at a local diner, waiting for the sky to fall.

It doesn’t. Instead, the sun begins to shine, winter fades to spring, and surrounded by new and old friends, Jazz begins to believe in herself. She loves the small town, the kindness of the locals, the warmth of the family diner and the special attention from two very different and distinct men makes her think new thoughts. Thoughts of family and picket fences and settling down.

But an unexpected attack on a wood-edged path reignites her fears and insecurities. Now she’s looking in shadows again, doubting herself and others. In Manhattan, locked elevators and a staffed entrance desk kept her safe from intruders.

Wishing Bridge has nothing like that. Here, she lives life at ground level, with no bodyguards watching out for her. But when a local contingent makes it their job to keep her safe, Jazz learns not to sell the small town short. Folks here mean what they say because that’s the kind of town Wishing Bridge is.

As Jazz rediscovers the most important things in life, she realizes that happiness isn’t about where you are: it’s about who you’re with. And who you love.

Join Jazz, Kelsey, Thea and the rest of the Wishing Bridge cast as they band together to help the town and one another because together– in Wishing Bridge– they can make anything happen.

And here are the first lines:

Continue reading

Blog Tour: Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne (with Book Excerpt & Giveaway Link)

Finding Love in Wishing Bridge JustRead Blog Tour
Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan HerneTitle: Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge
Series: Wishing Bridge #3
Author: Ruth Logan Herne
Release Date: March 2, 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Being a supermodel isn’t just hard.

It can be a killer, so when international sensation Jazz Monroe answered a friend’s call for help, she’d just taken a hiatus from the job that made her a very rich woman and almost took her life. Outwardly Jazz was everything anyone would want to be. Beautiful, confident, rich and famous, and often seen on the arm of some of the world’s most eligible bachelors, Jazz knows the truth she hides. Her self-confidence is an act and the eating disorder that plagues her refuses to let her rest.

But then she and her old friend Thea are called to help a friend and fulfill a pledge they’d made a dozen years before as high school seniors. If any one of the three ever needed help, the others would come running. Last December, Kelsey made that call and her two old friends, the other members of the “Soul Sisterhood”, responded. They’re here now. Thea is practicing medicine, Kelsey has married the hero deputy that saved her life and Jazz is finding the hints of peace that have eluded her for nearly two decades. She settles into the little town, helping out at a local diner, waiting for the sky to fall.

It doesn’t. Instead, the sun begins to shine, winter fades to spring, and surrounded by new and old friends, Jazz begins to believe in herself. She loves the small town, the kindness of the locals, the warmth of the family diner and the special attention from two very different and distinct men makes her think new thoughts. Thoughts of family and picket fences and settling down.

But an unexpected attack on a wood-edged path reignites her fears and insecurities. Now she’s looking in shadows again, doubting herself and others. In Manhattan, locked elevators and a staffed entrance desk kept her safe from intruders.

Wishing Bridge has nothing like that. Here, she lives life at ground level, with no bodyguards watching out for her. But when a local contingent makes it their job to keep her safe, Jazz learns not to sell the small town short. Folks here mean what they say because that’s the kind of town Wishing Bridge is.

As Jazz rediscovers the most important things in life, she realizes that happiness isn’t about where you are: it’s about who you’re with. And who you love.

Join Jazz, Kelsey, Thea and the rest of the Wishing Bridge cast as they band together to help the town and one another because together– in Wishing Bridge– they can make anything happen.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ruth Logan Herne

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Ruth Logan Herne is living her dream of writing sweet stories, full of unforgettable characters in pastoral small towns and the occasional big city. With over 50 books published to date, and more to come, Ruthy loves to pen stories in the middle of the night when it bothers no one… and, in return, they don’t bother her! J Married with six children and a daughter of her heart, Ruthy has fourteen grandkids who all love her and think she’s the coolest thing on the planet. Except for Star Wars & Harry Potter, puppies, baseball, Nerd ropes…. Okay, you get the picture. She loves chatting with readers. Email Ruthy at loganherne@gmail.com, ask to be put on her newsletter list or visit her website ruthloganherne.com.

CONNECT WITH RUTH: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


EXCERPT

And the first Fairy Houses appear to lighten a sick child’s journey…. 

“Miss Cinda! Come see! Quick!” Excitement sparked Emerson’s voice as he headed down a forest path on Monday afternoon.

“Miss Jazz, you won’t believe this!” added Shannon’s voice. She’d been searching for nature specimens for a science assignment, so she’d lagged behind Emerson. There was no lagging now. 

Maggie and Jazz hurried forward. Jazz had Hayley balanced on her hip because the rooted trail wasn’t friendly to strollers and Kelsey wouldn’t be by to pick her up for another half hour.

“I can’t even believe it.” Eyes wide, Shannon stared down, then at Emerson, and then down again. Whatever had caught their attention was either really good or horrifically bad. Jazz reached her side and paused in surprise. “Why, it’s a house,” she said. She turned toward Maggie. “A tiny house.”

“A fairy house,” insisted Shannie. “Because, oh, look!” The cottage-style house was tucked into leaves and moss on the forest floor and just above it, affixed to a tree trunk, was a tiny plaque. The plaque read: “17 Fairy Trail Lane”. 

“It’s got an address, Miss Jazz! Maggie, do you see it?”

Maggie looked just as surprised as the children. “I do and I don’t rightly believe it because I took a walk here yesterday and there wasn’t a fairy house to be seen anywhere along this trail.”

“Maybe you just walked by,” Emerson suggested with all the innocence of a small, honest child. “Because you’re old and stuff.”

“Emerson.” Jazz made an “eek!” face, but Maggie didn’t shush the boy.

“I am old, and rightly so, but I have the good sense to know my surroundings young man, and this house wasn’t here, which means one thing and one thing only.”

“What?” Emerson’s eyes went round.

So did Shannon’s.

“The fairies are moving into the forest again.” Maggie nodded wisely like she knew something that they didn’t.

“You mean they used to live here?” Emerson looked from Maggie to the house in disbelief. “Like for real?”

“For real,” she assured him. “And it does my heart good to see them coming back.”

“Do you think she sees us?” That thought seemed to scare Emerson a little.

“Well, that depends on what kind of fairy it is,” added Jazz, ready to help Maggie spin her story. “Ground-dwelling fairies tend to hide more. There’s always the danger of being stepped on, so they have clever spots close at hand. That way they can disappear from sight.”

“Like they’re invisible,” said Shannon, but Jazz shook her head. 

“No, nothing’s invisible, honey,” she told her, as if the rest of the story was stocked with solid truths. “But it is in their best interests to take cover. Or if she’s off on a secret fairy mission, she could be away for the day.”

Maggie had to swallow a chuckle, and Jazz didn’t dare look her way. 

“That’s like so amazing.” Emerson reached out, then snatched his hand back. “Can I touch it?”

“Yes,” Maggie told him. “Gently, though.”

“It’s so cool,” breathed Shannon. “I can’t wait to have Mara and Keegan come over and see it. And Shelly and Dray from my class, too. It’s so absolutely beautiful, isn’t it, Maggie?”

“It is.” 

Maggie looked at Jazz. Jazz returned the look.

Where had it come from?

Friend or foe?

And she hated that every sweet thing in life might have a twisted meaning, but she didn’t dare assume anything. “Shall we keep walking? And if you find any acorns, bring a few back and leave them by the house when we pass it again. Fairies use acorn covers for all kinds of things, I’m told. Umbrellas, hats, bowls and bathtubs.”

“Well, it makes sense,” added Maggie. “They are the perfect size and quite versatile.”

“Maybe there’s more.” Excited by the thought, the two skipped ahead, searching left and right.

Should she be worried? Concerned that someone was tempting them into the forest and here they were with three small children?

Maggie took her hand. “Max,” she whispered.

Jazz’s fears dissipated.

“He wants the boy’s time to be special.”

“Oh, Max.” If ever there was a man who should have had children, it was the kind-hearted man who put others first.


TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a print copy of Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge and an assortment of candies!

Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule shown below. Giveaway will begin at midnight March 16, 2020 and last through 11:59 PM EST on March 23, 2020. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US mailing addresses only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

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*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

 

Thinking About Library E-Book Etiquette in the middle of the night…now with Bonus Tips!

black tablet computer behind books
Photo by Perfecto Capucine on Pexels.com

With the growing number of library closures, more people may be accessing their library’s online resources, possibly for the first time.  A small, positive effect of devastating times and the current call for social distancing.  E-books are a virus free alternative to physical library books (wondering just how many days it has been since someone licked their finger to turn that page makes me want to shudder). Continue reading