First Line Friday: My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih #travelingsistersread #BookBloggers

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First Line Friday is hosted by Hoarding Bookswere we share the first line or lines of a book we are currently reading or going to start soon.

Our first lines are to a Traveling Sisters Group read that Lindsay and I are going to be starting soon.

I will say my real name to you for the first time. Hanna Slivka. Don’t be scared. I am still your mother.

Goodreads Summary

Inspired by real Holocaust events, this poignant debut novel is a powerful coming-of-age story that will resonate with fans of The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray.

Hanna Slivka is on the cusp of fourteen when Hitler’s army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Soon, the Gestapo closes in, determined to make the shtetele she lives in “free of Jews.” Until the German occupation, Hanna spent her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings, admiring the drawings of the handsome Leon Stadnick, and helping her neighbor dye decorative pysanky eggs. But now she, Leon, and their families are forced to flee and hide in the forest outside their shtetele—and then in the dark caves beneath the rolling meadows, rumored to harbor evil spirits. Underground, they battle sickness and starvation, while the hunt continues above. When Hanna’s father disappears, suddenly it’s up to Hanna to find him—and to find a way to keep the rest of her family, and friends, alive.

Sparse, resonant, and lyrical, weaving in tales of Jewish and Ukrainian folklore, My Real Name Is Hanna celebrates the sustaining bonds of family, the beauty of a helping hand, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

About the Author

Tara Lynn Masih is editor of the Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (a ForeWord Book of the Year), The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays (winner of a Skipping Stones Honor Award; a New England Book Festival award; a Benjamin Franklin silver medal award; and a ForeWord Book of the Year Award), and author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows, a National Best Books Award finalist in the short story category. She is the founding series editor of The Best Small Fictions, and My Real Name Is Hanna, her debut novel for young readers and adults set in WW II Ukraine, is due out Sept. 2018 and received a 2018 SKIPPING STONES HONOR AWARD.

Tara received an MA in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College, and has published fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous anthologies and literary magazines, and her essays have been read on NPR and translated to dance. Several limited edition illustrated chapbooks featuring her flash fiction, along with poet’s farthing cards, have been published by The Feral Press.

Awards for her work include first place in The Ledge Magazine’s fiction contest, a finalist fiction grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Lou P. Bunce Creative Writing Award, multiple Pushcart Prize nominations, and Best New American Voices and Best of the Web nominations.

Tara was the assistant editor for STORIES literary magazine, and a regular contributor to The Indian-American and Masala magazines. She divides her time between Andover, MA, and St. Augustine, FL.

Have you read this one?  Want to read it? Please add your first line to a book you have started or going to start.  We love to hear from you!!!


The Light-Keeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol @JeanPendziwol #travelingfriendsread #BookBloggers


This was a fabulous read and was quickly placed on my favourite reads shelf!

* Traveling Friends Group Read *

Norma’s review

THE LIGHTKEEPER’S DAUGHTERS by JEAN E. PENDZIWOL was an absolutely fantastic, charming, and touching novel that had me totally engaged and held dear right to the very last word.  I was mesmerized by how beautiful and heartfelt this story was.

I was immediately drawn into this story by the absolutely gorgeous storytelling here and totally intrigued by the storyline which had me feeling so much emotional warmth for this book.  This was one of those books for me that I had to have it close to me at all times even when I wasn’t reading it. I’d pick it up, smell it, and give it a hug. I was the proud owner of this book!  

JEAN E. PENDZIWOL delivers a complex, descriptive, and beautifully written story here that flowed absolutely perfect.  The characters, the setting, and the premise of this novel were all so captivating to me and had me totally fascinated in what I was reading.  I love books with dual storylines and the transitions between the two were done seamlessly and blended so well together.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover:  Love that beautiful and eye-catching cover!
Title:  Fits the story well and had me totally intrigued.
Writing/Prose: Beautifully written, eloquent and spellbinding.
Plot:  Interesting, held my attention, and loved everything about it.
Ending: Took me a little by surprise and loved how all the storylines came together. Moving, memorable and satisfying.
Overall: An outstanding read! Would highly recommend!

Rose’s review

I’m completely enamored of this book, partly because I didn’t read much about it beforehand. I left it sitting on my shelf for several weeks, totally unaware of the magic I was postponing. I went into this relatively blind, so the surprises never stopped. For that reason, I’ll give only a cursory summary.

“I knew enough of the Lake to comprehend their fate. Once someone was in her icy clutch, Superior was not inclined to let go. I could tell by the faces of the men perched on chairs in our humble dwelling, huddled beneath blankets, that they knew the same.”

A young girl named Morgan is doing community service at a retirement home after she left graffiti on its fence. She has angst. Elizabeth Livingstone, born in 1925 to a mother and father who manned a lighthouse on the nearby shores of Lake Superior, is one of the home’s elderly residents. She has spunk. Both have foggy pasts, but they find that they can help each other immensely. And that’s it. That’s the extent of what I feel comfortable giving away. The book does a better job speaking for itself than I ever could:

“I have learned that most of us…we are merely life’s spectators. Those who have allowed their demons to inhabit their lives – to sleep with them and wake with them and let them whisper in their ear – they are the architects of life, constructing the world as we know it.”

Every page of The Lightkeeper’s Daughers breathes as if very much alive. It wrapped me up so entirely that I’m having a hard time coping with the fact that it’s a work of fiction. For me, that’s one of the best things a novel can be: so damn visceral you can’t imagine the world without its characters. I NEED these people to have existed. They did. They do. Don’t tell me otherwise.

I also LOVE IT when an author does a lot with just a little. Pendziwol was brilliantly efficient, accomplishing in 300 pages what most authors would take over 500 to say. This was an epic story told on a very non-epic scale. It ebbed and flowed and flickered and crashed with so much force, I can’t believe it wasn’t longer.

“Who decides when they’ve crossed from tortured to talent, to be embraced and immortalized? When we like what our eyes see and our ears hear? Genius and insanity. Which brings the other?”

Seriously. The whole thing is like that. I could open up to any page right now and find a quote that would tug at your heartstrings or inspire introspection without ever coming across as pretentious. I read this with the Traveling Friends, and it’s safe to say it’s charmed us all.

I truly would recommend this to every reader. This book is for you if you are interested in any of the following: lighthouses, lakes, history, romance, family, foxes, flowers, violins, art, journals, coming-of-age, war, ships, mystery, and I could go on LITERALLY FOREVER JUST READ IT PLEASE.

Regardless of what you’re expecting The Lightkeeper’s Daughters to be, I promise it will become something greater. This is one of those novels that really gives verity to the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover.

From Debra’s review

I loved every single page of this book. From the setting, the characters, the descriptions, the art, the music, the mystery, the personalities, they all were quite perfect. I was instantly drawn in and captivated by this book. When I lived in Massachusetts, I visited several lighthouses and my family had one we visited every couple of months, it was quite easy to imagine the one in this book and I could see the family climbing the stairs to make sure everything was working and to protect the ships on Lake Superior. Being able to transport a reader to your setting, takes great skill and Pendziwol has it. Debra’s full review

Brenda and Lindsay read this a while back with our Traveling Sisters and this was also loved by all of the TS.

From Brenda’s Traveling Sisters review 

We were right away drawn into these strong and interesting characters and their relationship to each other as we are shown how a complex web of secrets are unraveled. The characters are so well-done and we came to really care about them and they brought out a few emotions that we shared with each other. We all love the strong sister bond between two of the characters and we could feel their love, commitment and unspoken understanding of each other that bonded them together.

We all really appreciated all the research Jean E. Pendziwol put into this story and so vividly gave us such a wonderful sense of place. We could visualize the lighthouse and the lake and it gave a good sense of how isolated it must have been.

From Lindsay’s review 

I’m blown away – loved every word of this beautiful story! This novel is moving right to the top of my 2017 Favourites list!

The characters, the atmosphere, the secrets – every part of this story was done to perfection! The author, Jean E. Pendziwol, created an unforgettable tale of family, love and hidden secrets all wrapped up in an intoxicating, mesmerizing and captivating atmosphere.  I highly, highly recommend this beautiful gem of a book!

Have you read this title?  Or want to read it?  Drop us a comment!  We would love to hear from you!

Throwback Thursday: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz #travelingsistersread

Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renee, Its Book Talk to share some of our old favorites as well as books that we’ve finally got around to reading that were published over a year ago.

Today we would like to share another favorite Traveling Sisters Group read that made for a great discussion where we shared many suspicions and theories.

Magpie MurdersGoodreads Summary

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.

Traveling Sisters Group review

Norma, Lindsay and I read Magpie Murders with seven of our Traveling Sisters and it brought out one of the best and most fun group discussions we have had yet. For this one, we tried to stay as close as we could to each other with our reading goals so we could play detectives together and discuss our suspicions along the way. For some of us, it was really hard to put this one down but it sure was worth it staying somewhat close together for the discussions.

Magpie Murders is a brilliant, hugely enjoyable, fun, and delightful well-plotted intriguing Golden Age style mystery inside a mystery that is done exceptionally well. A fantastic playful whodunit with satisfying twists and turns and many red herrings for us to ponder and discuss with our Traveling Sisters.

Anthony Horowitz does such a fantastic job here with all the characters and they are so well developed. Some quirky, some cunning, some likable, and some not so much and some we grew to like. All very interesting and compelling to read.

We all loved the setting and the atmosphere of the small, quaint English Village where everyone knows everyone and everyone has a secret.

We really enjoyed sharing clues, our suspicions, red herrings and keeping track of the suspects. Two sisters really doing a great job keeping us on track with the suspects. We all tried to pay close attention to one another to pick up on those clues and information to piece this mystery together. One sister picking up a clue not knowing for what and we all were very surprised at how that fitted into the mystery. We were discussing the clues without even realizing they were clues. We suspected everyone and no one with all the red herrings in this one. This made for such a fun and delightful reading experience.

The ending like every good whodunit which was wrapped up nicely with no loose ends and we all were satisfied with it in the end. However, one character did have us discussing how we felt about how the story wrapped up for her and we were split on how we felt about that and it brought out a bit of a discussion for us.

This is such a good choice for a group read or works really well if you so choose to read it on your own. We suggest grabbing your favorite beverage and curling up in your comfy chair and getting lost in this brilliant absorbing golden age mystery within a mystery for a few hours. It will be a favorite for some us and a favorite sister read for Brenda and Norma. We all highly recommend.

The Traveling Friends Group are now reading The Word is Murder and really enjoying it and the discussion.

The Word Is MurderGoodreads summary

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz


New York Times bestselling author of Magpie Murders and Moriarty, Anthony Horowitz has yet again brilliantly reinvented the classic crime novel, this time writing a fictional version of himself as the Watson to a modern-day Holmes.

One bright spring morning in London, Diana Cowper – the wealthy mother of a famous actor – enters a funeral parlor. She is there to plan her own service.

Six hours later she is found dead, strangled with a curtain cord in her own home.

Enter disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, eccentric investigator who’s as quick with an insult as he is to crack a case. Hawthorne needs a ghost writer to document his life; a Watson to his Holmes. He chooses Anthony Horowitz.

Drawn in against his will, Horowitz soon finds himself a the center of a story he cannot control. Hawthorne is brusque, temperamental and annoying but even so his latest case with its many twists and turns proves irresistible. The writer and the detective form an unusual partnership. At the same time, it soon becomes clear that Hawthorne is hiding some dark secrets of his own.

A masterful and tricky mystery that springs many surprises, The Word is Murder is Anthony Horowitz at his very best.

Have you read these titles?  Want to read them?  Drop us a comment!  We would love to hear from you!

Random Book Musings: How do you start or prepare to start to read a book? #travelingsistersread #BookBloggers


We are going to start something new here for us and see how it goes and hope a few of you will join in on the discussion with us. Norma always has these random questions she is curious about so she has asked our Traveling Sisters a weekly (sometimes more) book related question. We thought it would be fun and interesting to take some of those questions to our blog and see what you all think or do.

So the following question was a joint collaboration between Kristin & Norma while they were chatting about how they choose their books to read.

Norma’s random book question:

How do you start a book or prepare to start a book? Do you go in completely blind or read just the blurb or read reviews or read everything you can and research the heck out of a book before starting the book?

Norma’s answer

So I go in completely blind and choose my books by cover first and then the title of the book. I very rarely read anything about a book before starting. A book is like a present to me – I want to peak so bad and open it up but I don’t actually want to look inside the package until I am ready to open it up. The surprise for me is on those pages and I love being totally oblivious of what is inside. The only way I will read the blurb is if I am about 5 or so chapters in and I don’t get the feel of the book then I’ll read the blurb.

Brenda’s answer

I think one of the reasons Norma included research the heck out of a book in her question is because that’s what I do sometimes, not always though. lol, I hardly ever go into a book blind because I get lost and need to know a bit about what the story is about.  I read a few reviews and then the blurb before I start reading.

Lindsay’s answer

I like to read the blurb and a few reviews prior to choosing or starting a book.  I don’t do to much research, but like to have a bit of an idea what to expect.

Kristin’s answer

I’m always amazed by readers who go in 100% blind because I NEED to know *stuff*. Anything, really lol. No spoilers, but a general idea.

So, YES, I read the crap out of blurbs and non-spoilery reviews—full immersion. But my memory is as shoddy as my patience, so by the time I read the book I’ve forgotten half of what I’ve read! Win!

Please join in our discussion and let us know your answer.  We would love to hear from you!

graphics by Lovelytocu

Traveling Sisters in a Coulee with our Traveling Friends: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld #travelingfriendsread

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The Child Finder was a Traveling Friends Group read with three of our Traveling Sisters joining in on this read.  Norma and Lindsay read this one quite a while back and then Kaceey and I read it together.  We all loved it, and so did The Traveling Friends group.

On to their reviews…..

From’s Jan review

This is a beautiful, atmospheric, and haunting story. The remote Skookum National Forest in Oregon provides a chilling backdrop and is a character in itself. The author’s knowledge of sexual predators, her work as an investigator, and her role as a foster parent adds to the authenticity of the story.

I like my investigators to be complicated and flawed, and Naomi Cottle, aka The Child Finder, is all that and more. Because of a past trauma, she keeps people at a distance as a self-protective mechanism. I have to add that Naomi’s foster mother is depicted as warm, kind, and nurturing, which I found refreshing.

Naomi’s mission in life is to find missing children, and she has an impressive success rate. As Naomi works the case in this story, bits and pieces of her past and current life are slowly revealed. It’s fascinating to me to explore how the human mind works to protect itself from painful memories.

Madison, the Snow Child, is the missing child in this story and the book alternates perspectives between Naomi and Madison. Madison is being kept by Mr.B and she has a self-protective mechanism of her own. It’s innocent and touching how she interprets what is happening to her in the only way she knows how. I appreciate how the author doesn’t give too many details but filters it through Madison’s childlike fantasy world. The story is a disturbing and heartbreaking one but the subject matter is dealt with sensitively, without explicit details.

I am usually not a fan of flowery writing or fairy tales, and while it detracted from my enjoyment a bit, it was fitting for the story, so it gets a solid 4 stars. I was glad to see this is a series featuring Naomi and I’m looking forward to #2.

From Rose’s review  

Rose recently joined the Traveling Sister and the sister can write reviews.

This book is relatively short, but it’s jam-packed with all the things that’ll make your spine tingle and your breath catch in your throat. Naomi Cottle is a private investigator who specializes in finding missing children, and this passion grew out of her own experiences. When she was younger, she was kidnapped and held captive. Afterward, she forgot who she was and lived with a foster mother, Mrs. Cottle, and a foster brother, Jerome.

f you couldn’t tell, Rene Denfeld can craft some seriously exquisite sentences. The narrative is supposed to be reminiscent of a fairy tale, so it’s no wonder everything’s illustrated in such a mystical and supernatural way. I’m impressed with the way Denfeld manages to maintain the suspense despite having to mix such a tragic story with an almost-magical realism. This creates an atmosphere that is at once innocent and sinister, like holding a mirror to a little girl and her captor.

While the plot itself is intriguing, I’ll admit that a lot of what drove my 4-star rating was the fact that the writing was so freaking beautiful. However, it might have been a little too beautiful. Denfeld made each paragraph so acrobatic that I could hardly take a breath between lofty allegories and heightened prose.

From Bern’s review

We have read a few Traveling Friends reads with Bern but she just recently joined the Traveling Sisters.

The story unfolds from various perspectives giving us different insight at various points in the story as it switches from the past to the present. We get a first-hand account of Madison’s captivity and it was heartbreaking. It literally broke my heart to read those parts. Denfeld wrote with sensitivity, her words almost poetic in their blending of Madison’s nightmarish reality with her magical fairytale like fantasies. Yet there was no mistaking the imagery – the moments were still dark, terrifying and horrible. She endured horrors no child should ever have to endure.

It feels almost impossible to explain how a book seeped with such darkness and sorrow was also full of love, hope and bravery. Yet it was. I look forward to reading more from Rene Denfeld and seeing what happens with Naomi in the future.

Norma and Lindsay’s thoughts

Have you read this one?  Want to read this one?  Drop us a comment!  We loved to hear from you!

We Can’t-Wait to Read: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas @KateMascarenhas @crookedlanebks #travelingsistersread


Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about and that we have yet to read.  It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

We can’t wait to read The Psychology of Time Travel an upcoming Traveling Sisters  Group Read.  Thank you to Sarah from Crooked Lane Books for providing all of us an early access sneak peak to this title and thank you so much for suggesting to us that this one would make for a great group discussion. We are all looking forward to diving into this one.

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Goodreads summary 

1967: Four female scientists invent a time-travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril.

2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future–a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady.

2018: When Odette discovered the body, she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when the inquest fails to answer any of her questions, Odette is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

Published by Head of Zeus UK August 8, 2018

Published by Crooked Lane February 12, 2019

About the author

Born in 1980, she is of mixed heritage (white Irish father, brown British mother) and has family in Ireland and the Republic of Seychelles.

She studied English at Oxford and Applied Psychology at Derby. Her PhD, in literary studies and psychology, was completed at Worcester.

Since 2017 Kate has been a chartered psychologist. Previously she has been an advertising copywriter, bookbinder, and doll’s house maker. She lives in the English midlands with her partner.

Have you read it? Want to read it? Drop us a comment!  We would love to hear from you!