About Nina Soden

Wife, Mommy, Urban Fantasy Author, Artist, Actress, Director... I'm only as old as I feel and I try to see the good in everyone. I take life one day at a time and focus only on the moment I'm in without fear or worry about the past or the future.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager #BookReview

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TITLE:      The Last Time I Lied

Paperback Release Date: April 2, 2019

AUTHOR:               Riley Sager

GENRE:                 Thriller

PAGE COUNT:       370

RATING OVERVIEW ★★★★.75
Story: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★


AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

In this New York Times bestselling thriller from the author of Lock Every Door and Final Girls, a young woman returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera–the only one on the property–pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.

BOOK TRAILER:

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

You probably recognize the author’s name, Riley Sager. I recently reviewed his book Final Girls, which I loved. It was the first book in a while that I actually gave a 5 out of 5-star review. Well, he did it again with The Last Time I Lied. It was amazing.

STORY (★★★★★): This story follows Emma, who at the age of 13 goes to summer camp at Camp Nightingale and bunks with three other girls who end up going missing and the camp is shutdown. This book takes place 15 years after that event and Emma is now an accomplished artist in New York City who secretly paints the three missing girls into all of her paintings, hidden under layers of paint.  Basically, she suffers from anxiety because of this tragic event that happened during her childhood and she uses her art as a form of therapy.

During her art show, at the gallery, Franny the owner of the camp shows up and asks her to return to camp for the camps re-opening. She wants her to come and be an art instructor at the camp. Emma eventually decides to go hoping for closer, and also hoping to maybe do a little investigating and find out what happened to the three girls.

WRITING (★★★★★): The pace of this story is great. It’s a very fast read, I think I finished it in just a few days.

The structure is interesting, it jumps back and forth between the past and present a lot. This allows us to not under understand what Emma is going through today but also what she experienced 15 years prior and how that colored her world as she grew up.

This book was so much fun to read. Sager is great at putting suspicion on so many of the characters making it hard for the reader to trust anyone. Usually I can figure out ‘who done it’, but with this one I didn’t know the end until the twist happened and the answers are given.

I really like how Riley Sager writes and I love his vivid settings and descriptions. He uses a lot of similes in his comparisons that just paint a wonderful picture for the reader. I love his plot twists and the big reveals – like in Final Girls, the reveal in this one really surprised me.

I love how Riley Sager is able to tie up all the loose endings by the end of the book. It makes for a very clean story with no plot holes, which I like when it comes to single story books as opposed to series. In a series, I want to be left with a cliffhanger until the last book.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): There are so many characters that I wanted to trust, but couldn’t. You even find out things about the lead character, Emma, that make you question whether or not she is the “good guy” or the “bad guy”.

Since this book is told from the perspective of a female character, there are a number of scenes where the author, being a man, could have really messed up. However, Sager is really good at writing from the female perspective and capturing the emotions that come along with the events that happen throughout the story both in the past as well as present day.

APPEARANCE (★★★★): The cover, designed by Alex Merto with photograph by Aaron Smith, is beautiful and haunting, although the photo doesn’t look like the character of Emma.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Sometimes the only way out is through.”

“My future is quite literally a blank canvas, waiting for me to fill it.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called “the first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries. His second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was a New York Times bestseller. His latest novel, LOCK EVERY DOOR, which is currently on my TO READ LIST, was an instant New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today bestseller. A television adaptation is being developed by Paramount TV and Anonymous Content.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not working on his next novel, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

ALSO BY RILEY SAGER:

Disclosure: When you purchase a book using a link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, marketing, author events, etc.


#Theredheadedauthor Presents the November 2019 New York Times TOP 10 Best Sellers – FICTION

As an avid reader of fiction (and an author who one day hopes to make the list) I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE checking out the New York Times Best Seller list. So, here it is… The independently ranked top 10 Fiction selections for November 2019!

row of books and a cup of coffee

If you’ve read any of the TOP 10 selections and recommend them, please comment below and let me know. If you see something you like and plan to pick up a copy, you can do so by clicking on the title, the cover image, or the [BUY IT HERE] button.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


#1 Blue Moon

by Lee Child

Jack Reacher gets caught up in a turf war between Ukrainian and Albanian gangs.


#2 The Guardians

by John Grisham

Cullen Post, a lawyer and Episcopal minister, antagonizes some ruthless killers when he takes on a wrongful conviction case.


#3 The Night Fire

by Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard return to take up a case that held the attention of Bosch’s mentor.


#4 Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens

In a quiet town on the North Carolina coast in 1969, a young woman who survived alone in the marsh becomes a murder suspect.


#5 The Giver of Stars

by Jojo Moyes

In Depression-era America, five women refuse to be cowed by men or convention as they deliver books throughout the mountains of Kentucky.


#6 The Dutch House

by Ann Patchett

A sibling relationship is impacted when the family goes from poverty to wealth and back again over the course of many decades.


#7 Find Me

by Andre Aciman

Years after the events of “Call Me by Your Name,” Elio has become a classically trained pianist in Paris while Oliver is a New England college professor with a family.


#8 The 19th Christmas

by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

In the 19th installment of the Women’s Murder Club series, detective Lindsay Boxer and company take on a fearsome criminal known only as “Loman.”


#9 The Deserter

by Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille

Two members of the Criminal Investigation Division must bring back a Delta Force soldier who disappeared.


#10 The Institute

by Stephen King

Children with special talents are abducted and sequestered in an institution where the sinister staff seeks to extract their gifts through harsh methods.


When you purchase a book using a link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.


The Outsider by Stephen King ~ Book Review

Would you prefer to watch the video, instead of reading the review? CLICK HERE

TITLE: The Outsider (June 4, 2019)

AUTHOR:     Stephen King

RATING OVERVIEW ★★★★.★ (4.5)
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Soon to be an HBO limited series starring Ben Mendelsohn!

Evil has many faces…maybe even yours in this #1 New York Times bestseller from master storyteller Stephen King.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park (WARNING – IT IS VERY GRAPHIC). Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems iron-clad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

* Disclosure: Some links within this post are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small commission if you purchase. I only recommend products/books/tools I use and love!

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

There has been so much talk about and praise giving to this book that I just had to read it and see if it lived up to the hype. In my opinion, yes… YES it does. I’m a huge King fan, but I’ll be the first to admit that some of his recent work, I’m talking in the last few years, hasn’t really been my favorite. This one however, I really loved this book. It is a classic good vs. evil story and yet it is still completely original and has the natural clearly Stephen King feel.

WRITING (★★★★★): Stephen King can weave words together like a spider weaves a web. His words are beautiful, haunting, freakishly terrifying, and they trap the reader like an unsuspecting fly never letting go until the spider is done with him.

The Outsider has an uneasy realness quality about it. It’s the same feeling you get when reading the Mr. Mercedes novels. Its less about the things that go bump in the night and more about the unexplainable murder mystery and wondering just how much of it could really happen. It isn’t until late in the novel that King introduces his signature supernatural twist. I won’t lie, I was waiting for it. I even predicted who the killer really was. I’ve read enough Stephen King to know there is always more to his stories than just the reality we live in and if you’re looking for them, he leaves breadcrumbs – or clues – along the way.

STORY (★★★★): The Outsider is a crime novel with a classic Stephen King supernatural twist. Because it comes in at just 560 pages, this one is rather easy, quick to read. It is well paced and definitely one I would recommend to anyone who loves crime thrillers.

Stephen King is great at making you relate to his stories. In The Outsider, he pulls you in right from the beginning with the introduction of a horrific crime that has been committed against an eleven year old boy. Immediately it activates the readers sense of sympathy and compassion for the family involved and the town in which the boy lived. It makes you biased against the man they have in custody before you even know if he is guilty or innocent. King makes you feel like the world he has created could be your own.

Like most King novels, there were no weak elements in this story.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): King has put together a great cast of characters in this one. Like other books, many of his characters are just normal people experiencing the horrific crime that has taken place and King allows us to watch through their eyes. There is even a character from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy that makes an appearance, to help with the investigation. That was really cool. I love when he ties his novels together showing us exactly what world or King universe, they are playing in.   

APPEARANCE (★★★★): I love the cover! It is stunning.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“People had the mistaken idea that Poe wrote fantastic stories about the supernatural, when in fact he wrote realistic stories about abnormal psychology.”

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

“Dreams are the way we touch the unseen world, that’s what I believe. They are a special gift.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His first crime thriller featuring Bill Hodges, MR MERCEDES, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Both MR MERCEDES and END OF WATCH received the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2014 and 2016 respectively.

King co-wrote the bestselling novel Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and many of King’s books have been turned into celebrated films and television series including The Shawshank Redemption, Gerald’s Game The Shining, It, and the list goes on.

King was the recipient of America’s prestigious 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. In 2007 he also won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife Tabitha King in Maine.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Stephen King…

I can’t list them all, but below are a few of my favorites. Just click on the cover photo to read the description and order your copy!

Disclosure: Some links within this post are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small commission if you purchase. I only recommend products/books/tools I use and love!


Author Interview ~ Marc Neuffer

I’d like to welcome Marc Neuffer, author of Light Thief – Journey to the End as a guest on my website. He will be sharing a little about himself, his latest story, and of course his process as a writer. If you have questions that aren’t answer in this interview, please feel free to comment below so he can respond personally.

Let’s start by finding out a little bit about you…

  • What is your name, and do you write under a pen name?
    Marc Neuffer. My children refer to me as ‘the old one.’ I don’t have a pen name. I use a pencil.

Oh boy, it looks like Marc is a comedian… I have a feeling this interview might be very interesting.

  • Where do you call home?
    Middle of nowhere in Marshall County, Alabama
  • Obviously, we know you are an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do?
    I’m fully retired from the U.S. Navy – 22 years – and a follow-on twenty-year civilian career as a business owner and as a professional photographer. Perhaps you’ve seen my work on the wall at the post office. I was very good at what I did and have the documentation to prove it. Those other records have been sealed by the court. In the navy, I was a nuclear propulsion engineer.
  • What is your family like?
    Well, my four kids are out on their own with successful careers and families, and they don’t ask for money. I blame their mother for their individual successes. We are empty nesters with one dog and three cats. I don’t know where the cats came from; I’m allergic to cats.
  • If it doesn’t bother you, can you let us know what your childhood home looked like?
    My childhood homes? Well, there were five of them. My father’s career, as an aerospace engineer, caused us to move around a lot until the space program settled down in Huntsville, Alabama. The houses were always in the suburbs, real Leave It To Beaver-villes.
  • Do you have any hobbies other than writing? What do you enjoy doing? Well, I like Pina Coladas and walks in the rain … no wait, that’s just a song I heard on the radio yesterday. Since retiring, I have taken up the piano; it soothes me as much as writing does.
  • What is your greatest dream?
    Well, if you’re asking about a persona dream of doing something I have never done before, then I haven’t got one. I have been around the world, visited more than a dozen countries, played guitar on stage with a band, arrested people, driven police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks, been a sports coach, and Scout Master, started and ran a successful small business, which I have since sold. Everything on my bucket list has been crossed off.

    Now, if you’re asking about things like people I would like to meet or places I would like to go, and we’re talking dreams here, then Samuel Clemens and Mars… yeah, those two.
  • What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?
    I’d like to be thirty-two, tall, dark, and handsome with an exotic accent. My wife would like that. Time and genetics hold me back.

Yes, a comedian… I was right.

  • Not to pry too much, but do you remember your first love?
    YES!  She had the most sorrowful brown eyes. Her tail wagged furiously the first time we met. I was twelve. Sadly, she passed away.
  • What is the most terrible thing that ever happened to you? Well, I suppose I would have to say the deaths of my mother and father.
  • What or who inspired you to start writing? And how long have you been writing?
    I remember precisely when I decided to start writing, I was just starting my daily nap, my mind disengaged, letting whatever thoughts might surface, drift around. I came up with a story idea. Ended up writing a science fiction novel around that … then four more books … since late March of this year.
  • What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?
    Not really any dreams of the future when I was growing up. So, you can leave this one blank. I was a boy, and as I recall, we didn’t sit around planning our dream wedding, we were too busy finding food and fun.
  • Who is your role model?
    Sorry, I thought about this one … seriously, I don’t have one.
  • What is your greatest fear?
    The greatest fear is something terrible happening to my wife or children. No phobias
  • Do you prefer e-books, paperbacks, hard-covers, or audio-books?
    When my children still lived at home, we would make a trip to ‘the big city’ once a month to visit the book store. Everyone loaded up for their monthly read. So, print books back then. Now I use e-books since I can keep my library on my phone available at all times. I have a few audiobooks I listen to … they help me fall asleep at night.
  • Have you ever read a book more than once? And if so, what was it?
    Since e-books have come along, I have occasionally re-read some of the Sci-Fi classics I read as a teenager. Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke.
  • What is your opinion of novellas?
    I like novellas much the same way I like short people. For me, it’s all about the story; word count is irrelevant.

As a rather short person, I appreciate the lack of discrimination. lol

  • Have you ever read a book just based on its cover?
    No, not without reading a synopsis or back cover.
  • What is your favorite film based on a book?
    Can’t think of one.
  • What is your favorite book genre at the moment?
    History, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction
  • What books have made it onto your wish list recently? And why?
    Humm … don’t have a wish list. I browse when looking for my next book.
  • What book are you reading at the moment? And in what format?
    “Let me see,” he said, reaching for his phone …

    Robinson Crusoe … to study Defoe’s first-person narrative style.
    The Ruin of the Roman Empire – James O’Donnell
    Sector C – The Chosen, by you-know-who

Yes, I do believe I know who write SECTOR C – The Chosen and I appreciate you reading it.

  • If you could invite any four (4) celebrities (alive or dead) to your dinner party, who would you invite and why?
    I don’t care for fictitious people with publicists.

Let’s shift somewhat and talk about your latest story.

  • What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or fewer words, what would you say?
    Light Thief – Journey to the End
    Sci-Fi – In the far future, a twelve-year-old girl finds her purpose 20 years later, while searching for something else.
  • Is the above book part of a series?
    Yes, but it can be read as a stand-alone novel
  • How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book(s)?
    When starting a new book, I browse the pre-made cover offerings for something that fits.  I do the title graphics myself.
  • Did you listen to any particular songs while writing your book(s)?
    Not unless my wife has the radio on.
  • How did you come up with the title for your book(s)?
    Well, for the first one, I was thinking about physics and the universe, how heat and light are the basic building blocks. Don’t get me started on E=MC2; it’s not an equivalency.   Anyway, Heat and Light became the title, followed, naturally by Cold and Dark, then Light Thief. See what I did there?
  • Do you have a book trailer? If so, where can we watch it?
    No book trailer… have a boat trailer.
  • In your latest novel, who is the lead character, and can you tell us a little about him/her?
    In Light Thief, Darby is a 12-year-old, precocious self-assured daughter of a scientist mother and a lost space explorer father. The book follows her through the next twenty years.
  • What is your character’s greatest strengths?
    Belief in self and living a non-self-limiting life.
  • And what are his/her greatest weaknesses?
    Men?  The unrelenting pull into space to find her lost father, or what had happened to him.
  • What are some of his/her favorite foods?
    Jahuna chips — very crunchy with just the right amount of salt — the hot ones.  I made that up for the book.
  • Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?
    Unless the reader is a sociopath, they will not only like, but identify with her coming of age story. She never kills anyone who doesn’t deserve it. What a girl!
  • What first gave you the idea for your latest book?
    A reader of my books, Paradox Twins and Riley 2.0  asked what happened to Riley after the 2.0 story. Rather than continue with Riley as the main character, in Light Thief, she becomes an off-stage (and disembodied) persona that occasionally interacts with Darby.

Let’s talk now about your writing process.

  • What is your writing style like? Are you a pantster or a plotter?
    I write with my high-beams on … letting the characters live their lives unencumbered by me. I simply type as I watch the movies play in my head. Given that, I usually have an end-of-story I’m driving towards.

I write in much the same way. I do use a planning guide to help me keep track of important details, but mostly I just fly by the seat of my pants following my characters’ lead and writing what I see at the movie of their lives play out.

  • Have you come across any specific challenges in writing or publishing? What would you do differently the next time?
    I would pick the brains of someone who had been through self-publishing themselves. As for writing, I generally do a very structured stream of consciousness flow, not letting myself be too concerned with commas, split infinitives or starting sentence with an –ing ending word.

    Self-publishing is very easy, once you learn the technical steps. If you need help, ask a teenager to walk you though the website steps. I think they are all IT department people.

  • Since you are a self-published/Indie author what made you go that route instead of the traditional publishing route?
    First, it is very time consuming to find an interested traditional publisher.  I think Amazon’s platform for indies makes them nervous. They may become the next buggy whip manufacturers, as in ‘what purpose do they serve.’

    Secondly, I don’t trust anybody’s opinion but my own. I know my material, I do research for my books, and I know when my work satisfies me.  I learned that editors don’t read like real people; it’s so sad.
  • What’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing?
    I never received any, except from my 6th grade teacher who wanted me to write legibly. I didn’t know any writers when I started. So, I got nothing on this question.
  • Where can your readers follow you? Please list links to any applicable websites and/or social media accounts.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate ~ Book Review

Would you prefer to watch the video, instead of reading the review? CLICK HERE

  • Title: Before We Were Yours
  • Author: Lisa Wingate
  • Release Date: May 21, 2019

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

RATING OVERVIEW ★★★★ (4 Stars)
Writing: ★★★★ | Story: ★★★★ | Characters: ★★★★ | Appearance: ★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—Over two million copies sold! A New York TimesUSA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller

“Poignant, engrossing.”—People • “Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain


Memphis, 1939. 
Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

Publishers Weekly’s #3 Longest-Running Bestseller of 2017  Winner of the Southern Book Prize  If All Arkansas Read the Same Book Selection

“Sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year. . . . Wingate is a master-storyteller, and you’ll find yourself pulled along as she reveals the wake of terror and heartache that is Georgia Tann’s legacy.”Parade

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

I didn’t know anything about this book when I started reading it. It was a book club selection, so I didn’t need to read the back – I knew I was going to read it. I had a feeling it was going to be emotional, and it was. It isn’t the typical genre I like reading, but I am so glad I read it. It has opened my eyes to a piece of U.S. history that I never knew about. Not all history is good, in fact most isn’t, this included. Yet, not knowing, doesn’t make it any better. The families that supported and participated in this “legalized” child trading should be ashamed of themselves. It was disgusting and unforgivable. No child should have to suffer the way these kids did. No child should be ripped away from their family for no reason. There is a difference between children being put into the system when there is abuse, drug use, or the families are just unable to care for the children properly. But to have a child kidnapped off their front porch or sold into the system, its not right.

WRITING (★★★★):

Lisa Wingate’s writing style is simple and elegant storytelling. The pages are painted with descriptive text that make you feel like you’re there in the world she’s seeing in her mind. Talk of magnolias smelling like freedom, children wrapped in bedsheets like caterpillars, and the way the boat moans beneath their feet…all of it allows you to hear, smell, even taste exactly what the characters are experiencing.  

STORY (★★★★):

This book tells two stories, the first centers around Rill Foss and her siblings and the second centers around Avery Stafford a woman who comes from a well-known political family. The stories take place about 70 years apart, but are weaved into each other for the purposes of the novel. The first story, that of Rill Foss and her siblings, covers their time and experiences within the Tennessee Home for Children, and is both intriguing and devastating. The second story, that of Avery Stafford and the Stafford family as Avery is digging up her grandmother’s history and past secrets was a little less intriguing. In fact, at times, it was quite boring.

The Tennessee Home for Children portion of the story takes the unthinkable facts, based on the recounted stories told by children who survived the Tennessee Children’s Homes Society orphanage and who later were able to locate their lost family members after the documents were unsealed in 1995, 45 years after the home was closed. Lisa Wingate has created a family of believable siblings, using an all to likely storyline, caught up in this terrible scheme of child trafficking. It is heart-breaking and takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. When you consider these things actually happened, and may still be happening in some areas of the world, it is sickening.

As a mother, this was a rather hard book to read. The subject matter is disturbing and unforgettable. I kept picturing my children going through what Rill and her siblings when through and it made me sick. Having a story like this be based on something that really happened makes it all the much worse. That being said, I felt like it was extremely well-written and hard to put down. I needed to get to the end. I needed to find out if everything worked out for them in the end, even though I knew that for many of the children in the care of the Tennessee Home for Children, things didn’t work out well.

CHARACTERS (★★★★):

Character development is one of Lisa Wingate’s strongest tools. She weaves two stories; then and now, into this book and the only thing holding them together is the strong characters she has created. Rill Foss (aka May Crandall) and her siblings has such a tight bond that the entire book your hoping and praying that there will be a happy ending and everyone will find each other again. Avery Stafford, the great granddaughter of Rill’s sister is a truly honorable woman, set on finding out the truth even if the buried secrets could hurt her family politically.

APPEARANCE (★★★★):

The cover is beautiful. It speaks to the heart without giving anything away.  

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“One of the best things a father can do for his daughter is let her know that she has met his expectations. My father did that for me, and no amount of effort on my part can fully repay the debt.”

“A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she chooses. Her own music. To hear the tune, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean. We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Selected among BOOKLIST’S Top 10 for two years running, Lisa Wingate writes novels that Publisher’s Weekly calls “Masterful” and ForeWord Magazine refers to as “Filled with lyrical prose, hope, and healing.” Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of a host of literary works. Her novels have garnered or been short-listed for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, the LORIES Best Fiction Award, The Carol Award, the Christy Award, Family Fiction’s Top 10, RT Booklover’s Reviewer’s Choice Award, and others. The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with six others for the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who promote greater kindness and civility in American life. She’s been a writer since Mrs. Krackhardt’s first-grade class and still believes that stories have the power to change the world.

IN THE WRITER’S OWN WORDS: A special first grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, made a writer out of me. That may sound unlikely, but it’s true. It’s possible to find a calling when you’re still in pigtails and Mary Jane shoes, and to know it’s your calling. I was halfway through the first grade when I landed in Mrs. Krackhardt’s classroom. I was fairly convinced there wasn’t anything all that special about me… and then, Mrs. Krackhardt stood over my desk and read a story I was writing. She said things like, “This is a great story! I wonder what happens next?”

It isn’t every day a shy new kid gets that kind of attention. I rushed to finish the story, and when I wrote the last word, the teacher took the pages, straightened them on the desk, looked at me over the top, and said, “You are a wonderful writer!”

A dream was born. Over the years, other dreams bloomed and died tragic, untimely deaths. I planned to become an Olympic gymnast or win the National Finals Rodeo, but there was this matter of back flips on the balance beam and these parents who stubbornly refused to buy me a pony. Yet the writer dream remained. I always believed I could do it because… well… my first grade teacher told me so, and first grade teachers don’t lie.

So, that is my story, and if you are a teacher, or know a teacher, or ever loved a special teacher, I salute you from afar and wish you days be filled with stories worth telling and stories worth reading.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Lisa Wingate:

Click on the book cover images below to read the descriptions and order your copy! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Week 34 – #WritingWednesday Challenge

Today is the 34th Edition of #WritingWednesday!!!

Remember, #WritingWednesday is an EASY, STRESS-FREE (which is why I’m not stressing that this post is a day late), weekly writing challenge.

  • Read the writing prompt below,
  • Spend 5 minutes writing (in your own voice or the voice of a character you’re writing) whatever comes to mind,
  • DON’T EDIT what you write! IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT!

The goal is 5 minutes of creativity.

Today I am writing in the voice of Tanja, one of the characters in the novel I’m currently outlining. I’m not sure if this will be a selection in the novel, or just part of my character development journal.

Today’s writing prompt:

Describe one odd item you always carry with you, in your purse, your wallet, or just a pocket.

I was young when my mother died, but before she did, she shared the secrets of our lineage with me. She didn’t want to, but having watched as she and my aunt raised my grandmother’s body from the grave, she kind of had to. When she believed I was ready, or maybe just because she knew her time was coming to an end, she gave me her sacred ritual knife. It was an ivory white, alligator jaw bone boline-athame-knife. It was razor sharper and as strong as any knife I’ve ever seen. The blade is only three inches long, but it doesn’t have to be long when you’re only using it to slice into the palm of your own hand, or that of a relative of the dead you’re trying to raise. Since my mother died, I’ve kept that blade with me without fail. She had used it since she was a child, learning her craft. It felt like a piece of her was always with me, guiding me, and protecting me.

© 2019 Nina Soden


Alright, now it’s your turn. I’d love to see what today’s writing prompt inspires in you. So, if you are willing, go to the comment section below and start typing. Take 5 minutes and let’s see what you come up with! 

Describe one odd item you always carry with you, in your purse, your wallet, or just a pocket.


What books have made your October reading list? Comment below and let me know! Then, click on the links below to check out the October 2019 New York Times Top Ten Lists and see which books you’d like to add to your reading list!


Let Passion Drive You!

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

What are you passionate about?

When I sit down and think about my life, really think, there are so many things I am passionate about. It makes me wonder if you can have too much passion in your life. Can too much passion overwhelm your life, causing you to spread yourself to thin… thus never achieving greatness in any one area?

The following quote comes to mind: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ~ Harriet Tubman

The thing is I don’t know that I really want to change the world. My passions aren’t about earth-changing, life-altering, global-effecting issues. My passions are about: watching my children live, laugh, and love; experiencing the natural talents as I watch my husband on the golf course; spending quiet time as I put my thoughts on paper creating a new world for my readers; giving my time to the local community theatre and performing on stage with some amazing actresses and actors.

You see, I have had big dreams and amazing passions in my life… they are what took me to L.A. to pursue a career in film… However, what I have discovered, in my Blah Blah years, is that my true passions aren’t out there somewhere in the world undiscovered, but instead they are here, in my home, with my family close at hand.

So, as my all time favorite actress Audrey Hepburn once said, “The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”

You see… the love I give to my family is my passion and through them my passion drives me!