Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters is now available and it’s a great one for readers looking for a modern day gothic read that easy and entertaining. It is the follow up to Burying the Honeysuckle Girls; however, Lindsay and I haven’t read it yet and felt Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters worked well as a standalone.  

Brenda’s review

Eve works for the foundation started by her late faith healer Grandma, Dove, who has a few secrets buried with her. Dove’s secrets have caught up to Eve and she is forced to dig up some of those secrets, and a mystery starts to develop. The story is told through two timelines from Eve in the present, and Dove set in 1930. I enjoyed Dove’s storyline a bit more than Eve’s, and it had that gothic feel to the setting I love. I found her storyline to have a little more substance to it that drove the story forward for me. The timelines flowed easy from one to the other and I enjoyed the way it all came together in the end.

The story is far-fetched but purely entertaining and fun with a blend of quirky and dark characters to like or dislike. The mystery is intriguing, but there is a little supernatural to the story that complicated things for me. I struggled with fully engaging in the mystery or the motivation behind solving the mystery. Maybe that has to do with my dark and twisted thriller mind getting in the way. So I think this one is a great one for readers who like a well written, easy entertaining mystery with some family drama to it.

Lindsay’s review

Eve’s grandmother, Dove, was a famous faith healer who died eight years ago. As a young woman, Dove was part of the Hawthorn Sisters famous traveling duo. They sang, entertained and “healed” their dedicated followers. Eve has been keeping a shocking secret about her grandmother for years — before her death Dove confided in Eve that she wasn’t a true healer, she was a con artist. Now with a documentary film being made about Dove’s life, Eve faces her grandmothers long buried secrets and uncovers several more dark pieces of her family’s past.

This novel had all the elements of a gothic, suspenseful family drama mystery — dark foreboding atmosphere, mysterious characters, long hidden family secrets, dual narrative between Past and Present. The novel flowed well between the two timelines and kept the story unfolding in an intriguing manner.

As much as this novel sounded right up my alley, there were some implausible aspects to the storyline. I didn’t connect with any of the characters and had a particularly hard time sympathizing with the main character, Eve. I struggled with buying into the mystery and the threat hanging over Eve’s head. Regardless of my lack of connection to the characters and storyline, I was able to accept the implausible scenarios and simply sit back and be entertained.

We received copies on behalf of Emily Carpenter to read and review.

Anne Egseth joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group for a spoiler-free Q & A and shared some insight to her profound, beautifully written story This Is All He Asks of You. I am excited to share the Q & A with you all today!

“It is refreshing to see a character who is not performing an expected role but one that shows how different we can be from each other and how different we can see the world around us”. From Brenda’s review

“When you read this you will feel the thick, golden air behind my words, and you will know me” Luna

Brenda: What inspired you to write This Is All He Asks of You?

Anne: This Is All He Asks Of Youwas brewing in me for quite a while. It goes back to a play I did when I was still working as an actress, and a character I played that never really left me… Many years ago I played the part of Spoonface Steinberg in the beautiful monologue by the same name. (By playwright Lee Hall. ) Spoonface is an autistic girl dying of cancer, with an incredibly unique and quirky way of looking at the world,- and an ability to perceive the light at the center of all things. Seeing the world through this character’s eyes was powerful for me, as it had a clear innocence coupled with deep wisdom.

Some years later, when I became a mother, witnessing my little girl’s connection to the world around her, hearing her say things like ‘Mom, the trees are talking to me!’, I started remembering my own childhood. I began recalling the way I, too had felt connected to nature and to a certain magic that seemed to get lost under the weight of adult living. Spoonfaces’ voice blended with my young daughter’s voice, and with my own desire to reclaim that kind of translucent way of seeing. All of this developed into the story of Luna in This Is All He Asks Of You.

Brenda: What came first for you the idea of the story or the character of Luna?

Anne: The character of Luna came first. I started almost hearing her voice, and as I got more familiar with who she was, the story unfolded bit by bit

Brenda: The first part of the story is told through unsent letters from 12-year-old Luna to her father. Why did you decide to tell/show us the story through the letters?

Anne: The story starts with the 22 year old Luna receiving a parcel full of letters she wrote when she was 12 ( but never sent).
The 22 year old Luna is rather shut down and very different from her younger self. For the 22 year old, going through the letters written by her younger self becomes a way to reclaim a part that has been ‘frozen in time’ due to trauma. The letters written to her father when she was 12, become letters to her older self. I was hoping to create a way that the older Luna could receive and reintegrate this younger part, – so full of life and openness, and the letters allowed me to do this in a very intimate and direct way.

Brenda: Luna is not what I excepted from a 12-year-old character and at first that threw me off. Often is stories characters play into gender roles and we as readers have come to expect that.

In my review, I wrote It is refreshing to see a character who is not performing an expected role but one that shows how different we can be from each other and how different we can see the world around us.

Tell us a little about Luna and how you created Luna’s voice and was she inspired by someone in your life?

Anne: In my work I’m interested in bringing forth voices of people who might be seen as different, or are marginalized in some ways. I am drawn to the fringes of what is viewed as normal, and I wish to bring forth the beauty of diversity.
One of my goals as an artist and author is to keep speaking up for ways of being and expressing and perceiving that might not conform to standardized or prescribed norms.

Luna is a twelve-year-old girl living with her mother in a suburb near Washington DC. She has a secret passion: the light she sees in people, and the light she senses in the world. She wants to know what it is and where it comes from.

The story expresses Luna’s desire to connect with her long gone father, described by her mother as “a waste of space in search of cheap miracles.” Luna worries about being a “waste of space” too, and starts an imaginary correspondence with a father figure who represents the possibility of an enchanted world existing in the midst of mashed potatoes, homework and a gray city. Luna writes, and her words are all for him.

Luna is a sensitive child with a wide open awareness and a great imagination. These are qualities that are not always easy to live with in a world that rewards rational thought and conformity. I wanted to explore the world through two characters who live somehow outside of the adult world full of performative demands; a young girl and an elderly Vietnam Veteran. Neither of them are caught up in the business of having a ‘successful life’, and both are somehow invested in the life of the soul more than in outer achievements. By having characters that didn’t conform to expected roles, I felt there was more freedom to explore questions of soul and of individuality, -of the importance of becoming who we truly are, rather than what any role would prescribe for us to be.

Luna is a tribute to that magical part of us that feels close to the mystery of life, -and which sometimes might be more present in children and forgotten as we grow up, but which nevertheless can be re-claimed and remembered.

Brenda: I love that Luna sees the world through nature and she has a strong connection to it. She gives us a gift by showing us the importance of connecting to nature. Can you talk a bit about that connection to nature and why that was a theme you explored in the story?

Anne: For Luna it is quite easy to commune with nature, and experience oneness with the natural world. I believe children have this capacity, and can cultivate it if given a chance. Differently than grown-ups, they often experience life directly through their whole embodied beings, and not just through their minds. When we feel the world in this way, like Luna does, we know directly that the natural world around us is completely alive and intelligent, and that it has the capacity to know us, too, just as we know it. As adults, sensing the natural world around us as acutely as Luna does, often requires cultivating a certain kind of attention and embodied presence; a state where our busy minds become more quiet. Depending on how addicted we are to removing and numbing ourselves to our embodied experience of life, it might take a lot of practice to develop the capacity to experience the natural world directly. But when we do, we will know intimately that we are part of the web of life, and we will sense that each tree, each flower and rock speak with a particular and unique quality.

I love how you wrote in your review, Brenda, that you had to quiet your mind before you could connect with Luna’s story, because that is exactly what I wanted to convey! -And it is the same when we want to connect with nature, we need to slow down a little
and cultivate our capacity to be present, then there is really nothing we need to DO in order to connect with the natural world. The connection is already there; we just have to be present, quiet and embodied enough to experience and know it directly. The trees will literally find us, and speak to us! When we come into a more direct connection with, and experience of nature, it becomes harder to treat the natural world like a thing, in Luna’s words: – “ it doesn’t matter much what we do to things, right? Like strow them away or chop them down…”

I believe connecting more to the natural world is available to all of us, and it brings us back to our bodies, to our souls, to our humanity and to our shared responsibility for this planet that we live on

Brenda: The story is short with only 134 pages to it. You explored a few themes in the story. Did you plot out the story and have a version where you wanted the story to go? How long did it take you to write the story?

Anne: I wrote the story over a period of three years. I had the voice of Luna almost ‘nagging’ me at times, asking me to listen and to write. I avoided sitting down to write for a while, as I didn’t have the story mapped out, but then I would feel this subtle tension inside, that I was trying to avoid something… So it became a question of listening. I would treat it a bit like a meditation. If I could get still and quiet enough, I could hear Luna’s voice, -and as I sat down to write the next scene would emerge. It was an organic unfolding rather than a though out storyline, and I was surprised by some of the scenes that emerged. I found that for the kind of sensitivity I wanted to portray, a mixture of poetic language and a simple, pared down writing style seemed to work. I tried to talk about difficult and complex things in a simple and condensed way, -and somehow the number of pages reflects this desire for simplicity.

Brenda: I love the title of the story and it alone gives us something to think about. How did you come up with the title? Is it meant to be a question for us to explore what it is he asks of you?

Anne: Many, many years ago I read a quote by St Francis: ‘This is all he asks of you, that you live and respond to his grace in the here and now.’ I wrote it down and for whatever reason I never forgot it. I am not religious, but I do wonder a lot about the mystery of being alive. And I also wonder about ‘what is it that is truly mine to do in this life?’ I have experienced that as I become more present, and not so caught up in my mind, I become more able to sense into what is asked of me in terms of how I live my life, the choices I make, and how those choices also affect people and the world around me. It is as if there exist a guiding force that aims towards truth and wholeness, -and by becoming more present and quiet inside, I become more aware of this Presence or Force. – And I think it’s a good inquiry to be in…what is asked of me? -In this moment? -In this situation?-In life? If we substitute He with Life, or even Truth, then the question becomes ‘What is Life, or Truth asking of me now? I find that a useful question, and it gets me out of my narrow egoistic frame of thinking; -That I should always ask something of life, that life owes me something. When life is asking something of me, when Truth is asking something of me, -I have to figure out if I am prepared to respond. Not responding is somehow avoiding an invitation to co-create with the Mystery.

That’s what is behind the title for me. It is rooted in a quote from St Francis, which for me became like a Zen Koan, something I couldn’t quite ‘crack’ with my mind, but became a living question that I kept sensing into, and which guided the writing of Luna’s story

Brenda: What would you like for us to get from reading this story? Is there anything you would like us to know?

Anne: I am so happy when someone tells me that reading Luna’s story had them remember how they also experienced a closeness to the mystery of life when they were younger. I guess for me this remembering is at the heart of what I hope to evoke.

One of my readers captured my wish when she said : “I felt as if I was shown a tiny sliver of the mystery in all our lives, why we are here, who travels with us, and ultimately what we can really know.”

If I can evoke in a tiny way, something like what this reader expresses, then I am very, very happy!

Brenda: Are you working on anything right now you can share with us?

Anne: I am working on a story about a woman called Nora. She is also waking up to her life, waking up to the fact that she feels like she has been sleepwalking for a long time, -and is realizing that she is dreaming about roaming free in a much bigger story…
It will be spanning California, Norway and Italy…

“My story was fiction, but it was about how the world should be–how it would be if we could turn men’s actions back on them. Made them fear us instead.”

This is a purely entertaining, chilling, and thrilling far fetched look into a terrifying female psychopath seeking a twisted sense of justice and revenge against the men who get away with harming women.

Layne Fargo horrifies and entertains us here with this dark and twisted terrifying psychopath. She played on that dark and twisted side of me and took me into the mind and shoes of this fascinating serial killer.

Professor Scarlett Clark has appointed herself an avenging angel for women harmed by men. She has spent years hunting and killing predatory men and making their deaths appear accidental or self-inflicted. That’s a lot to find believable, and I have to admit I needed to leave that overthinking in me out of the story and just go along with this thrilling ride. Things get even more interesting with another POV from student Carly who has violent thoughts towards predatory men.

I was surprised with a brilliant turn to the story that I should have seen coming, but I didn’t. The dynamics change a bit, and things started to get even more tense and exciting right up to the end of the story. I enjoyed how it all wrapped but I did feel the whole twisted feminism things was pushed a little too far and that final surprising twist. Dang, it! I said I wasn’t going to overthink this one.

I received a copy from Layne Fargo to read and review.

The book sleeve is made by my Mom and Norma made the book marker. You can find a variety of fun book sleeves and book markers in their Etsy shop

Hello Friends!! I wrote a post on Unlikeable Characters: Why is likability Even a Question? a couple of weeks ago, and it sparked another topic that had me thinking. So today, I am questioning the gender roles of men and women in fiction. Now, this wasn’t something I have put a lot of thought into till now. Here I am overthinking it and talking about those expected behaviors and attitudes of men and women in fiction.

Again I am inspired to write this post after reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. She talks about the gender roles of men and women in fiction, and she gave me a bit to think about that.

I asked about the likeability of male characters and if we found them more likeable than female characters in my post for unlikeable characters. Jonetta commented that we, as women, hold women to higher standards than men and thought it was a case of conditioning. Lindsay also commented on that. I asked myself a few questions do I judge women more harshly and question their motivates more than men

I am reading Ordinary Hazards (Hardcover) by Anna Bruno right now, and this quote from a female character had me thinking more about likeability in characters.

“It’s a man’s prerogative to be liked. Women are sometimes respected, sometimes admired, sometimes adored, but they aren’t liked, not really”

Gay talks about how gender roles can be a performance and questions if we have become trapped, expecting women and men to perform their gender. Have I come to expect men and women to play their roles in fiction? In thrillers have I come to expect women to be portrayed as either catty, evil, manipulative, not to be trusted, or helpless to disadvantages and grounded by cruelty and violence of men. Then in some twist or turn to the story, become strong, brave women. Thrillers have become more of a miss than hits lately for me, and I am starting to wonder if gender roles play a part in that for me.

Have we become conditioned on what we expected from male and female characters’ behaviour and attitudes in fiction?

I think some authors have come a long way with portraying those expected behaviours and attitudes of characters that seem to perform gender roles. Some are doing it better than others, and some miss the mark, especially in thrillers. We have come a long way away from the sidekick women to women-driven stories. However, I wonder if we should be raising our expectations on how men and women’s roles are portrayed in thrillers. How does an author balance an entertaining page-turner without falling into that gender-stereotyped behaviour and attitudes?

In Domestic suspense thrillers, women are often grounded in toxic marriages and disadvantages because of cheating, controlling murdering husbands, and the women are represented as broken by men’s cruelty. We also see self-absorbed, selfish, catty, manipulative women who can’t be trusted. While this can make for a suspenseful page-turner, I find myself wanting more from the characters in terms of development and depth to them.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them”― Margaret Atwood

I just read three domestic suspense thrillers that revolved around cheating, lying, deceitful or controlling husbands. Each portrayed the character’s roles differently, and that set different tones to the story for me. In one, the author layered the twists and turns while developing and adding depth to the characters creating three dimensional characters. She questioned some of those gender roles through the characters. In another, the author portrayed a few stereotyped gender roles, and then in the twist, the character becomes a “strong female.” In the other one, nothing too deep was explored, and the story was a fun, entertaining read for me that kept me guessing throughout the story.

What about those strong female characters, and how does that play into those gender roles in fiction? Is it the kiss-ass female character who drives the plot forward with her strength and bravery, a strong female character or the character that starts flawed (weak), vulnerable and is given her own conflicts and is driven by her goals the strong female character? More about that in another post.

Are characters that feel like actors performing a role more likeable and make for a more entertaining read, better yet what we call escapism read? When we read, do we want a performance of those gender roles or more realistic human characters? Sometimes knowing what we expect makes for a more comfortable read.

Thank you for sticking with me and reading through my post! What do you think about the things I said? Have you thought about the gender roles in fiction? Do you think we should expected more from characters or are we conditioned on what we expect from male and female characters’ behaviour and attitudes in fiction?

I am back with another one of my favorite meatless meal ideas! Mexican food is one of the easiest meals to go meatless with. There are so many options to make. Our favorite is burritos and even though for this meal I decided to go with soft tacos it is easy to add some rice and make burritos instead. This is a quick and easy version of soft tacos with simple ingredients to get dinner on the table in about 30 mins. This is a meal you can cook up a bit more and use it for freezer meals or prep for the next day. Burritos are easy to do some batch cooking and make a few burritos for the freezer. They freeze well and make a quick meal for another day.

I started by slicing up some onions and peppers and frying them up with some salt and garlic blend spice. I cook them till they are tender, however you can cooked them a bit more if you like. I find that this is more of texture thing and preference. When I make burritos I prefer to cook them longer till they are soft.

While the pepper and onions are cooking I started on the black bean filling by adding the black beans, tomatoes and spices and let it simmer for about 15 mins.

To make your meal a bit easier you can just use black beans without simmering them in the tomatoes and just use salsa.

Assemble the tacos using your favorite toppings. I kept my tacos simple by adding cheese, lettuce and salsa. Normally I would add guacamole to the tacos but I forgot for this meal. It must of been the pressure of my hunger family. LOL. You can add sour cream as well. My youngest son follows a vegan diet so I omit the cheese for him. He reminds me that often tacos don’t have cheese in them. LOL You can add cilantro as well. I love it but my oldest son says it taste like soap. I guess that a real thing, some people find it does. Does anyone else?

I also made up a taco with the black bean filling and beyond meat. I will talk a bit about beyond meat in a different post. Has anyone tried it? I I love it and use it as treat in place of something that normally would call for ground meat. Let me know what you think about beyond meat.

If you made a little extra you now have what you need to make a simple meal for the next day. I used the filling and made chili.

Black Bean Soft Tacos

1 pepper and onion

1/2 tsp salt

1tsp of garlic spice blend. I use Club House garlic plus and buy it at Costco. It is handy and I use it pretty much for everything I cook that needs garlic.

1 can of black beans

1 can of tomatoes

1/2 tbsp of taco spice blend. I use Club House taco seasoning and add a little water as well

1/2 tbsp of chili powder

1/2 tbsp. of cumin powder

cheese

salas

lettuce

I don’t normally measure my herbs and spices and really go by taste and adding a bit at a time to reach the flavors I like. This is the best way to add spices to your recipe. After awhile it just comes naturally and you get the feel of how much to add.

Well that’s it and I hope you all found this meal idea helpful for a meatless meal. Let’s chat! Do you follow a meatless diet or try to eat meatless once a week? Do you find you need more ideas for those meatless meals? What do you think of my meatless posts? Are they easy to follow?

And of course I can’t leave this post without talking about a book or something bookish. I just started They Never Learn by Layne Fargo and it off to an amazing start for me. It releases tomorrow Oct 13 but of course I won’t have it finished to post my review on pub date. The book sleeve is made by my Mom and Norma made the book marker. You can find a variety of fun book sleeves and book markers in their Etsy shop

Hello my Friends!! We are back with our stop on the blog tour for Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger. If you haven’t read this one, you need to hop on this fast track full of lies and deceit. This is one well-crafted entertaining story with exciting twists and turns.

BOOK SUMMARY: 

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Unger returns with her best novel yet. Reminiscent of the classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a riveting psychological thriller that begins with a chance encounter on a commuter train and shows why you should never, ever make conversation with strangers.

Be careful who you tell your darkest secrets…

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.

Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a stunning web of lies and deceit, and a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives.

Brenda’s review

After reading and loving Stranger Inside, I had some high expectations that I tried to leave behind before boarding this train of deceit. Well, not only were those expectations met, they were exceeded!

Confessions on the 7:45 is a clever, compelling, suspenseful story that explores the complexities of marriage while representing the gender roles women and men play well. I was a bit worried about the direction the story was going, and at first, I felt I was on the wrong track going nowhere I wanted to go. What I first thought was another cheating story with toxic male characters and manipulating women playing those expected gender roles in thrillers turned into not what I expect at all.

Lisa Unger hit the mark on what I love about unlikeable characters giving them an unexpected twist that made them very likable to me. Not only are their actions questionable and intriguing, but the turns their characters take are exciting and surprising. She creates strong, well-crafted female characters here that drive the story forward, and while the men do play a bit into their expected gender roles, there is some well-layered depth to them that added tension to the story.

Once I hit the climate to the story, it was full steam ahead for me, and I was pleasantly surprised by how Lisa Unger examed those gender roles of men and women with marriage making this one what I call better reading. I highly recommend it.

Lindsay’s review

A fast paced, gripping and suspenseful domestic thriller!

Selena starts chatting with the woman seated next to her on the train ride home from work one night. They chat with ease and gain comfort from one another as they share their personal stresses and struggles. Selena confides in the woman that she suspects her husband is sleeping with their nanny. Days later, Selena’s nanny doesn’t show up for work. She has disappeared and Selena’s conversation with the woman on the train weighs heavy on her mind. Could there be a connection?

I love this author’s writing! It drew me in from page one and didn’t let go until the twisty ending. I was glued to the pages of this mysterious story that had me guessing at various outcomes along the way. The characters were real — relatable and well developed. I enjoyed the multiple perspectives which provided several layers to this brilliantly plotted thriller. I did guess one of the twists but it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment.

The end had a lot going on and felt somewhat overdone, but it fit well with the story and left me satisfied and eager to read whatever this author comes out with next!

BIO: 

Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 (Oct. 2020). With millions of readers worldwide and books published in twenty-six languages, Unger is widely regarded as a master of suspense. Her critically acclaimed books have been voted “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today showGood Morning AmericaEntertainment WeeklyAmazonIndieBound and others. Her essays have appeared in The New York TimesWall Street JournalNPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family.

SOCIAL:

Author Website: https://lisaunger.com/  TWITTER: @lisaunger FB: @authorlisaunger  Insta: @launger

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18445.Lisa_Unger 

BUY LINKS:

Harlequin Indiebound Amazon Barnes & Noble  Books-A-Million Target Walmart Google iBooks Kobo

We received copies from the publisher for the blog tour

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