Book Showcase/Excerpt: WHITE LIES by Susan Barrett

White Lies by Susan Barrett
Publisher:  Create Space (August 30, 2016)
Category: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction; Contemporary Fiction; Family Saga
Tour Date: April/May, 2017
ISBN: 978-1536806847
Available in: Print & ebook,  164 Pages

White Lies

The story is told from three perspectives: that of Beth, the natural mother of Tess, Liz, the adoptive mother, and Tess herself. The reader’s sympathy is engaged with each woman in turn, as the intricacies of the plot demonstrate how nature and nurture interplay in the formation of personality.

Beth is a guest at a wedding. The bride is Tess, her natural daughter, who’d been adopted as a baby. During the moments leading up to the marriage ceremony, Beth remembers the lifetime events that have led to her present state of sick fear. Recent revelations have made her suspect that the bridegroom is the first child she’d given up for adoption, and therefore Tess’s half-brother. Will she speak of this impediment to matrimony, as invited by the priest, or forever hold her peace?

White Lies gives the answer in a way that reveals the complexities of truth-telling in the context of parenthood and adoption. An entertaining page-turner, the novel also traces the social changes in family life over the last fifty years.

Read an Excerpt:

p.80 in Part Two, Liz (the adoptive mother)

“One thing you should certainly take into account,” said Penny Williams, from the far side of her colossal desk, surrounded by piles of books, lay-out pads and colour proofs, “your life will be taken over.”

Mine won’t be, thought Liz. Penny’s saying that because she’s finding her own life difficult. Fifteen years as an artist’s agent before becoming pregnant. Holding down her job while running her home and being a good mother. She’s speaking for herself. People see the world through the prism of their own experience.

“You mustn’t think,” went on Penny, “that just because you’ve the knack of appealing to children in your work you’ll find it easy to have your own.”  

Penny leaned back in her swivel chair and – happily, proudly – related the exploits of her toddler the previous day when she’d been on duty at home, it being the Belgian au pair’s day off.

Liz and and William, by way of contrast, would be working at home, sharing childcare. They’d take it in turns to be the one on duty. They would draw strict demarcation lines around their respective work areas. William’s carpentry room with all its terrifyingly sharp tools would be out of bounds as would her small studio full of spillable paints and coloured inks. The baby-to-be would lie in the sun on the terrace and when it was old enough, it would swim in the sea. A water-baby.  

One of the scenes Liz liked to conjure up featured the child – boy or girl, as yet unchosen – sitting on her lap, listening to her trying out a new story. With her arms around the child, she also held a sketch pad. In her imagination, she could smell the shampoo in the child’s hair. The child held a big fat blue – or green or red, it varied – felt tip pen and made wild marks on the pad. A creative environment, it would be, back on the island.

“There’ll be lots of village women,” she told Penny. “They’ll be only too happy to whisk the baby away. Greeks worship children.”

Penny let a humph sound emerge from the back of her throat. “So you’re going back?”

“Of course. As soon as the adoption’s through. Five months or so from the time we get the baby.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said Penny. “It seems to me –” She paused before going on. “It seems to me that you’re lucky to have the choice. Unlike most of us, you can actually make a rational, considered decision to burden yourselves – or stay free.”


“For you it’s not a natural happening,” went on Penny. “For us poor mutts, we can have children so we are expected to. Almost duty bound. We have our mothers breathing down our necks, longing to be grannies, trying not to ask when we plan to stop work and have endless babies. You can’t imagine the grief I had from Paul’s Mum.” Penny put on a different voice to imitate her mother-in-law. “There’s poor old Mrs So-and-so living on her own, never had children, no one comes to visit her, she hasn’t a soul in the world who’d be notified if she dropped dead one day in her own front room. Wouldn’t be found for weeks.  It’s such a comfort to me,” said Penny still being mother-in-law, “to know you and Paul are so close. You do so much for me. It’s such a blessing to have children, I can tell you, at my age when you’re widowed and poorly.” She changed back into being Penny. “It actually takes quite a brave person to say they don’t want children.”  

Liz wondered if Penny had been the brave person she had in mind, who had succumbed at last. “Do you regret it then?”

“No. You can’t regret it once it’s happened. Now.” Becoming efficient.  “Where are you with D, the D.B.P?”


Praise for White Lies by Susan Barrett

“A beautifully written study of motherhood, loss and what makes us who we are. The characters are deftly drawn and the writer clearly knows her subject. The narrative is expertly woven and fast-paced, delivering pain and joy blow by blow. Sharp and incisive, heartbreaking and so relevant to today.”-Vanessa de Haan

“A beautifully written, sensitive, yet amusing, and intriguing, tale around a subject that is rarely covered in literature. A delight to read.”- Amazon Customer

“This is a gripping read. It is not only relevant to those who have been involved in adoption but to all of us. It raises questions about families, about the fragility and power of maternal bonds, about love and disappointment. It charts with particular accuracy the difficulties of the tangled web of secrecy and complication that was characteristic of adoption in the mid-twentieth century. It keeps you guessing to the very end!”-Sally Woods

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the book group I belong to find this. I was quickly gripped by it, feeling for the central characters, all of them very real. I partly wanted to read slowly to enjoy it, confident there would be a satisfying, unfolding, but partly wanted to race to find out what happened. Will enjoy reading it again.”-Amazon Customer

About Susan Barrett

Born in Plymouth, Devon in 1938, Susan Barrett began writing fiction in the 1960s while living on a Greek island. Her first novel was published by Michael Joseph in 1969. Film rights were sold and renewed over several years. She went on to write six more novels which were published with mainstream publishers in hardback and paperback in UK and USA. A book on Greece’s landscapes, flora and fauna, illustrated in watercolours by her artist husband Peter Barrett, was published by Harrap Columbus in 1986. They have also produced many children’s books together, published in the US. In the 1990s she trained in humanistic counselling and gestalt psychotherapy and has practised as a counsellor for the last twenty years. Her latest two novels and a work of non-fiction are available as ebooks and in paperback editions.

Twitter @SusanBarrett192

Buy White Lies by Susan Barrett

Giveaway White Lies by Susan Barrett

This giveaway is for 2 print copies and 6 ebook copies of White Lies, for a total of 8 winners. The print giveaway is open to Canada, UK, and the U.S. only, however, ebook is open worldwide. This giveaway ends on June 1, 2017 at midnight pacific time. Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.

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Guest Post: Vicki Righettini, author of THE BLUE HOUR

Good morning, my bookish peeps. Even though I’ve been blogging now for six years, I still have fangirl moments whenever an author visits The Book Diva’s Reads. Today’s fangirl moment is due to a visit by Vicki Righettini, author of The Blue Hour. I escape into books as a reader, Ms. Righettini will be discussing how she escaped into books as a writer.

Anywhere but here: how I escaped into a writing career 

What you are today and what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.  ~~ Twyla Tharp, dancer and choreographer

Reading is not just an escape. It is access to a better way of life. ~~ Karin Slaughter, novelist

I spent most of my childhood looking for a way to escape the chaos and emotional turmoil of my dysfunctional, alcoholic family. My coping method of choice was to invent alternate lives for myself: stories in which I was older and successful and no longer at the mercy of irresponsible adults with their inconsistent behavior. I had friends who escaped into books, but I wasn’t a reader as a kid. I could never find a book that interested me. The stories in the library weren’t anything I could relate to. Except for one summer I spent poring over books about dinosaurs, I was, for all intents and purposes, a non-reader.

Then one day between fifth and sixth grade, when I was too bored to live and whining as only an eleven-year-old can, my mom dropped a paperback in my lap and said, “This ought to keep you busy for a while.”  

That book was Gone With the Wind.

We won’t, for the moment, discuss the appropriateness of giving that book to a sixth-grader, but it wasn’t long before I was swept up in the world of Scarlett and Rhett, Melanie and Ashley, and the trials they faced. Why weren’t all books this interesting? This was a story! I lived at Tara. GWTW became my sanctuary, my second home.  

But I hated the books we were required to read in school: Kon-Tiki, Johnny Tremain, The Scarlet Letter. I couldn’t understand why Hester Prynne didn’t just refuse to wear the dang letter. I mean, who were these townspeople to tell her what to do? The only assigned reading that gave me the same thrilling escape as GWTW was To Kill a Mockingbird, which I devoured in one sitting, even refusing meals (if you know me at all, this is a huge deal). 

Then came Mrs. Rydeen’s senior English class. 

It wasn’t a class I wanted to take. My senior year schedule was filled with electives, which I felt I’d earned after front-loading my first three years and (literally) sweating through summer school every year. But a friend wanted me to take it with her. It’ll be fun, she said. So for whatever reason I signed up: English Literature and Composition, taught by the forbidding and formidable Mrs. Rydeen, whose reputation was for anything but fun.

When we started The Grapes of Wrath, I thought, “Here we go again.” But when Mrs. Rydeen showed us how to dig beneath the story to what was happening with the language, something clicked in me. The same thing happened when we studied Macbeth. She singlehandedly turned me from a Shakespeare hater into a life-long fan. 

But as the year progressed I began to struggle, first with eating disorders, then with depression. My parents had just been through an acrimonious divorce, and my mother declared there was no money to send me to college. Confused and in turmoil, and convinced I had no future, I started skipping classes (except for senior English), and engaging in risky behavior, certain no one would miss me if I disappeared. 

Then, as sometimes happens, a miracle occurred. I was packing up after class one day, slow to get out the door, and Mrs. Rydeen came up to me with a sheaf of papers. “I think you’ll learn a great deal from grading these,” she said. I looked at the papers: it was the latest creative writing assignment from the class before mine. This wasn’t multiple choice I’d be grading – these were people’s stories!  People I knew!  

But I did as she asked (when Mrs. Rydeen asked you to do something, it was not in your interest to demur). I took the papers home and I graded them. And she was right: I learned a lot. With a certain amount of shock, I saw that many of the people I thought were smarter than I was didn’t write half as well. I think that was the moment I knew I could write; the moment I knew that I was, indeed, a writer.  

I don’t know if any teacher today could get away with what Mrs. Rydeen did (I never told a soul about it). But she must have seen something in me – a passion or a connection – and she threw me a life line. She must have known I was struggling: I was a 4.0, Top-Ten, Honor student, yet I was skipping classes and hadn’t applied to college. She must have also known that if she’d asked, I would have lied and said everything was fine. So instead, she found a way to show me my worth. She gave me a place to run to, instead of from.

Now, whenever I escape into a book, or into my writing – even more when I’m revising, or when a literary diamond comes shining out of a story I’m reading – I know who to thank. And I know there’s no place I’d rather escape to than right here, right now.

Blue Hour by Vicki RighettiniBlue Hour by Vicki Righettini

Publisher: Mill City Press (Nov 17, 2015)
Category: Historical Fiction, Romance, Pioneer Woman, Strong Female Character, Western
Tour date Mar/Apr, 2017
ISBN: 9781634138291
Available in print & ebook, 560 pages

The Blue Hour

Description of Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini

IN THIS EPIC TALE of love, loss, and redemption, the year is 1861, a time when women are expected to be married by a certain age. At 26, spinster Emily Wainwright has no reason to believe her sheltered life will ever change—until the charming Samuel Todd unexpectedly crosses her path.

Samuel yearns to homestead and start a family in Oregon, but he first needs to find a wife. Blinded by Samuel’s good looks, and grasping at her final chance to have a husband and children, Emily accepts his marriage proposal. However, Samuel is not the man she thought he was, and her marriage becomes a cold, cruel prison, offering her no solace amidst the hardships of farm life.

When Samuel dies and a second chance at love and happiness arrives in the form of farmhand Cole Walker, Emily must overcome her bitter past—or risk losing Cole and the life she has always dreamed of having.

Praise for Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini

“All of Righettini’s characters are well-rounded, in particular Emily herself, whose personal growth throughout the novel is richly detailed and memorable.”-Historical Novel Society

“This novel is about second chances and the courage needed to take them.  The most compelling aspects of The Blue Hour are not the vivid, expansive descriptions of life on the vast (and seemingly never-ending) Oregon Trail or the well-drawn characters who dance (and often trudge) between hardship and hope. Instead, the brightest lights burst forth from nuanced moments tucked throughout the story.

Read this book if you want to immerse yourself in the wilds of western America in the 1860s or get lost in the even denser wilderness of love and loss. Maybe this recommendation needs to be simplified even further – read this book. It’s exhilarating to root for a character who is trying to navigate uncharted territory and make the greatest discovery of all.”-Underground Book Reviews

The Blue Hour is one of the finest historical novels I’ve ever read. You will love the author’s writing and the detailed historical references. The characters are vividly portrayed, and I felt as if I knew them well. Long after I’d finished reading, I still thought about the story. It’s part adventure, part love story, and part survival. Highly recommended.”-Ann Creel, Author

About Vicki RighettiniBlue Hour by Vicki Righettini

Vicki Righettini is an award-winning, nationally produced playwright, and her recently-published historical novel, The Blue Hour, was a badge winner and Pitch Perfect Pick at Underground Books. Originally from Los Angeles, Vicki lived in Oregon for over twenty years, where she developed an abiding love of the land and the Oregon way of life. Before turning to full-time writing, she worked for forty years as a singer/actress and performing arts instructor. Her blog, Between a Book and a Hard Place, focuses on the ups and downs of the creative process ( Vicki lives in San Diego with her software-developer, Jeopardy!-champion husband, and the world’s shyest cat.


Enter to win a digital copy of The Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini. The winner will have their choice of the digital (PDF, MOBI, or EPUB) version of this book. Books will be sent to winners by the publisher after the tour has concluded. This is an international giveaway. To enter use the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway ends on March 15th, 2017 at 11:59 PM ET. The winner will be announced on March 16th.

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Guest Post: Peter M. Parr, author of ESCAPE TO REDEMPTION

Good morning my bookish peeps. Today, the Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit from Peter M. Parr, author of Escape to Redemption. Mr. Parr will be discussing his writing and editing process. 

Writing is a mixture of inspiration and perspiration. Occasionally I’ll sit at the computer – or more often with a pen and notepad in my armchair – and the words will simply flow. Or I may be lying in bed at night and, unbidden, a sentence or a phrase will come to me… and (somewhat grudgingly!) I switch on the light to jot it down. More often, the going is a lot harder. It may take me a month to grind out a chapter… I’m talking here about a first draft. At this early stage, I have to remind myself that it’s important to get something – anything – down on paper. What daunts me is a blank page. Once I have the spine of a scene, it’s relatively easy to expand on and enhance. 

Every chapter of Escape to Redemption went through at least six drafts – and in some cases, many more than that. After I’d written a first draft of a scene, perhaps little more than an outline, I’d print it out and set to work on it with my red pen. It’s an eighty-minute train journey from where I live, on the south coast of England, to London… a perfect opportunity to do some editing. Each time I travelled to London for work, or to meet friends, I’d develop or improve a scene: putting meat on the bones of dialogue, honing descriptions, reading and re-reading to see how it flowed. Then, at home, I’d type up my changes and print off a clean version of the document to work on again. After three or four drafts I’d reach the point where I began to cut more than I added… pruning superfluous dialogue or descriptions until the pace felt right.

The novels I most enjoy tend to have compelling and rounded protagonists. I prefer a flawed hero or heroine; someone neither too perfect nor all bad. Even the minor characters should have depth to them. I spend a lot of time getting to know my own characters; gaining a sense of what makes them tick, their likes and dislikes, hopes and fears. When I write a scene from a character’s perspective, in my mind I become them. I’m aware of their history, and their motivation – even beyond what’s recorded in the novel. I attempt to think as they’d think and speak with their voice. One of the key things I look out for when I’m editing is whether I’ve portrayed the characters in an authentic way. Do the characters drive what happens next, as opposed to saying or doing something simply to conform to the plot? I’m not afraid to change the direction a chapter takes if the way I’ve initially planned it doesn’t feel true to how the characters would behave. 

Before submitting a book to a publisher, I put it aside for several months. The time gap means that, when I return to do a final edit, I can look at the text with fresh eyes. The homestretch of the editing process is what I call polishing. I’ve read a number of books, especially self-published ones, which had the potential to be good, but which in my view were let down by a lack of keen editing. It’s amazing what a difference small changes make; how much tighter and more professional a book can be made to feel. For example, I search for words or phrases which I may have overused. I have a checklist of suspects which I cut or replace unless there’s no alternative – words such as ‘seem’ or ‘just’ or anything ending in ‘‒ly’. In dialogue, I tend to stick with ‘he said’ and ‘she said’, rather than use alternatives like ‘interrupted’, ‘suggested’ or ‘screamed’. ‘Said’ is almost invisible on the page, whereas the other words stand out more and may slow the dialogue down. If it isn’t apparent from the context that a character has interrupted or screamed, I take it as a sign that I need to get my red pen out and refine that section of dialogue again.

Some writers can pen a great novel in six months. I’m not one of them. Trying to force out a book within a set amount of time would, to me, mean compromising on quality and depth. Everything in nature has its own rhythm and I believe the creative writing process does too. It’s important that we enjoy that process and engage in it wholeheartedly. If we can do that, I think we’re more likely to create a story that’s authentic – one that was uniquely ours to tell. 

Meet the author:

Peter M. Parr works part-time as a civil servant, which gives him time to indulge his passion for writing. He facilitates workshops to encourage people to reflect on what truly matters. He lives in Hastings, England, overlooking the sea. Escape to Redemption is his first novel.


Escape to Redemption by Peter M. Parr
ISBN: 9781785352270 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781785352287 (ebook)
ASIN: B01G2M4LYA (Kindle version)
Publication Date: June 24, 2016
Publisher: Roundfire Books

Josie only had the gun to frighten Curtis Rook, but his son disturbed her. One startled reflex and now he’s dead. Josie flees to Poland leaving her boyfriend Snaz to take the rap. A reformed criminal offers her refuge from the police and the chance to begin a new life, but she cannot hide from her guilt. As the stakes rise, Josie begins to realise that only her own forgiveness can set her free. 

Fast-paced and original, Peter M. Parr’s contemporary take on Crime and Punishment challenges traditional ideas about guilt and redemption, and the meaning of forgiveness. 

Read an excerpt:

Snaz caught up with Josie at the top of the staircase.

‘Sorry for my mum’s comment about reading the meters. She’s a bit of a racist, I’m afraid,’ Josie said.

‘Is that what it is?’

‘My mum and I share a mutual antipathy. When I go up to Oxford next month I’ll be out of her hair and she won’t need to worry. You look shocked, Snaz. I bet you’re really sweet to your mother.’

‘I never see her,’ he said.


‘She… It’s a long story. My aunt brought me up.’

Josie looked like she might say something, but didn’t. After a pause she went into her bedroom. ‘Make yourself at home,’ she told him, closing the door and then perching on the chair by her dressing table. He marvelled at the clutter of perfumes and make-up bottles.

Snaz saw no chair to sit on, only her single bed. He meandered to the window and looked out onto the back garden. ‘You’ve got a tennis court!’

‘Do you play?’ she asked.

‘Never have.’

‘Pity. I’d have given you a game.’

Snaz kicked himself for missing out on a chance to see her in a skimpy tennis outfit. ‘I play football,’ he said, the first thing that came to him. When she showed no interest, he changed the subject. ‘Is that photo of your dad?’

Josie nodded.

‘You get on better with him than with your mum?’

‘He’s alright, when he’s actually here. He’s always off on business trips. The States, usually. I think he’s in Poland this time.’

‘What does he do?’

‘He runs his own business putting buyers in touch with sellers. Sometimes it’s property. Sometimes it’s art. I don’t think he cares too much if there’s money in it. One day he might stop and enjoy what he has.’

Snaz groped for something else to say. He noticed a higgledy-piggledy stack of CDs on the chest of drawers and was about to ask her what music she liked.

‘I wanted to thank you again for what you did,’ she said.

‘That’s okay. Anyone would have done the same.’

‘Not anyone would have seen that man spike my drink. I’m lucky you were watching me so closely. I saw you.’ She smiled.

Snaz felt himself blush. ‘You’ve got to be careful in clubs. Some blokes try anything.’

‘It’s my friend’s fault for dragging me there, then leaving with the first man she set eyes on.’

‘Did you get home okay?’ Snaz asked.

‘You saw me into a cab.’

‘I mean, you felt alright, did you? You weren’t shaken up?’

A lock of her hair fell across her face and she brushed it to one side. You couldn’t call her a redhead, but her hair was redder than blonde. There must be a word for hair that colour, Snaz thought.

‘Is it true what you told him, about being a boxer?’

Snaz smiled. ‘I’ve boxed as many times as I’ve played tennis. He didn’t know that though. But I can handle myself. I could’ve dealt with him.’

‘Why don’t you sit down? I want to ask you something. It’s kind of a favour.’

He sat on the edge of her bed.

Josie picked up a birthday card from her dressing table and held it out to him. She had tiny dainty hands. ‘What do you make of this?’

He pulled his eyes away from her to the picture of a kitten, all fluffy fur and ribbons. Sickeningly cute.

‘Read inside.’

Happy birthday. From Erin, a friend. Call me if you want to know the truth. And underneath, the sender had written a phone number. ‘Who’s Erin?’ he asked.

‘That’s the thing. I haven’t a clue. I rang her, and she wants to meet me. She says there’s something I ought to know, but she can’t tell me over the phone. Her accent is ghastly, like she finds it too much of an effort to pronounce her t’s.’

‘It sounds dodgy. What’ll you do?’

‘Dodgy,’ Josie repeated, and Snaz wondered if she considered his way of speaking ghastly as well. ‘That’s what I thought. Will you come with me, to go to meet her? I’m going on Saturday.’

‘Sure. I mean, if you want me to.’ It sounded odd; not exactly a date, but at least he’d see her again.

Enter to win a copy of Escape to Redemption by Peter M. Parr (winner’s choice of PDF, EPUB, or Print). This giveaway open to residents of the US, Canada, and UK. The giveaway ends on Friday, August 26th and winner will be announced on Saturday August 27th. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter:

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2015 Book 129: PLEASANT DAY Review and Excerpt

Pleasant Day by Vera Jane Cook
ISBN: 9781937327613 (paperback)
ISBN: 9783958306691 (ebook)
ASIN: B00TUALPS2 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 19, 2015
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC


In the town of Hollow Creek, South Carolina, two separate murders, fifteen years apart, unite fifteen-year-old Pleasant Day and sixty-year-old Clarissa Blackwell. As Pleasant Day struggles with her mother’s distance, her father’s infidelity and the death of her best friend, she draws closer to Clarissa, an older woman with the secrets to heal her. But Clarissa has struggles of her own as she faces betrayal and seeks to come to terms with old wounds. With her unpredictable psychic ability to ‘read people’ Clarissa uncovers the answers to a deadly crime and to Pleasant’s true identity. In the end, both Pleasant and Clarissa’s worlds are transformed by the truths they’re forced to accept, and both find solace and strength in the histories that have shaped them. 

Pleasant Day is an atypical teenage girl living in a somewhat atypical family in rural South Carolina. Pleasant is an intelligent and well-read girl with a penchant for profanity when speaking. Her father is her idol, but he likes to go out drinking and he’s having an affair. Pleasant is a witness to both as her father generally takes her along on his evening “drives” to the bar and rendezvous with his lover. Her mother comes across as a kind and gentle woman that is emotionally distant from Pleasant. Pleasant’s brother, Sawyer, more concerned about his appearance than anything else, feels that Pleasant may be spending too much time reading. Pleasant’s life is turned upside down one summer when she learns that one of her best friends has been found dead in unusual circumstances and her other best friend is implicated in that death. Pleasant’s summer is about to spiral completely out of control with a chance encounter with Clarissa Blackwell.

I found Pleasant Day to be a fast-paced read. I did have some difficulty getting into this story because my inner prude kept rearing its head with the mild profanity spouted by Pleasant. The more I read, the better I understood Pleasant and began to see her usage of profanity as a shield. Pleasant’s family life isn’t abusive nor does she live in abject poverty, but her family life is sorely strained by her father’s habitual adultery, her brother’s “effeminate” qualities, and the passive-aggressive behavior of her mother. Struggling to deal with the impact of learning of one friend’s death by murder, she literally runs into a woman that will bring the devastating effects of another murder into her life. This story is told in the alternating voices of Pleasant and Clarissa. As Pleasant and Clarissa become better acquainted, secrets are revealed that may have devastating results (no, I won’t tell you what the secret is . . . read the book!). I thought Pleasant Day was part coming-of-age, part family drama (trust me, there’s plenty of drama), and part mystery. If you’re looking for a unique read for this spring or summer, you’ll want to put Pleasant Day on your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the author via Virtual Author Book Tours. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Chapter Three Clarissa Blackwell 

Everything had to be put in its perfect place. Everything had a perfect place, forks to the left of the spoons, brooms to the right of the vacuum cleaner and toothpaste always hidden away in the medicine chest, not bludgeoned to death with all of its exposed white blood. Clarissa thought that was the problem with toothpaste, it always wound up looking like it had a drunken binge the night before and was spitting up all over itself. Whenever possible, she purchased toothpaste powder. Life had to have order. Wayward toothpaste and shapeless tubes did not belong in a perfect world. In a perfect world, days had purpose and toothpaste tubes had spines. Clarissa Blackwell was the creator of purpose. Life had a driver’s seat and she was in it. Turmoil was unbearable and caused her too many visions she couldn’t explain. 

Her house was her pride and joy. Nice expression, pride and joy. It didn’t matter who entered her lovely Victorian home, it only mattered that she could read on their faces how they envied her. How perfectly comfortable everything looked. That’s the thing about fine things, they couldn’t alienate, they had to invite, as hers did. Her garage sale finds had to whisper their desire to be picked up. Her paintings had to demand pleasing stares and the cushions on her chairs had to long for a derrière to deflate their puff. Nothing could utter pretension or scream ‘Go Away.’ 

Clarissa Blackwell was very much like her house. She demanded notice, as well. Though she was soft spoken and never did anything out of the ordinary, people stared at her. They assumed she must be somebody, like a movie star or surely someone they’d seen on television, like a famous female sports figure. Maybe something or other to the president? A newscaster? They were always a bit distressed to learn that she was no one, no one famous that is. 

Clarissa had the look of a woman who grew up well, the look of confidence, poise, flair, even though the way she felt inside was often a contradiction to her external presence. She was grateful that her intelligent face made her appear worldly and wise. She would have preferred being beautiful to looking as if she were perpetually sucking on sour drops. She would have welcomed a very straight aquiline nose to the one she had, it naturally turned up, nothing she could do about it. But it gave her a condescending demeanor as if she were constantly sniffing something foul. But when Clarissa smiled, she became approachable, like her house and all things in it. Clarissa made a point to smile often. 

She was approaching sixty-six, a little secret she kept from others. Well, why shouldn’t she? She believed that the body was a temple one should treat with respect. She looked much younger, she was sure, because her temple of a body had not been abused for years. She ate foods that did not oink or go moo, and she power walked the distance between Summerford and Edgefield two or three times a week, a good mile and a half. Well, she power walked in between stopping at garage sales, visiting a friend or two, and lunching at her favorite coffee shop in Edgefield. 

Clarissa rarely ever went into Hollow Creek. It was another half mile or more out of the way but she’d read about a new health food store opening over there called The Fine Fettle. She assumed she could get almond milk and fish oil and other absolutely fabulous things like pure goat soap and organic face creams. As wonderful as the Edgefield Café was, it was just a café and it was more prone to BLTs and burgers than soy milk shakes and protein bars. 

The Fine Fettle did not disappoint. Clarissa was quite content sitting there in a nice, large comfortable booth with the sun streaming in the window. She’d treated herself to the whole wheat spiced pumpkin pancakes and organic coffee all the way from Maine. She was thinking, as she stared out the window at the picturesque town, that it was worth walking the extra half mile to get into Hollow Creek more often. She’d definitely want to return to The Fine Fettle. As she took a napkin to her mouth to wipe off the remaining homemade maple syrup, she happened to look out the window. A scream immediately caught in her throat and she held her breath—to her absolute horror, there was a girl on a bicycle riding straight toward the little café looking like a demon on fire. She was maybe fifteen or sixteen years old, old enough to know better, Clarissa thought. The girl made a sharp left at the curb and Clarissa breathed a sigh of relief. If she hadn’t made that sudden turn she might have gone through the plate glass window and landed right in her lap. 

It was only for a second that Clarissa had gotten a glimpse of the girl’s face. In the glare of the sun the girl had looked just like Chloe Rappaport. It had to be an apparition because Chloe Rappaport had been dead for years, but Clarissa could have sworn she’d just seen her on a blue bicycle racing down the main street of Hollow Creek like a wild savage. Of course, Chloe had died at twenty-three, not at fifteen. But Clarissa had known Chloe at the age of fifteen and this girl could have been her double. 

Clarissa’s body shook, as if cold, as if she’d been frightened by something. The girl on the bike had startled her so much. It was like seeing Chloe again. It wasn’t the familiarity in the girl’s face altogether but something about the attitude of that girl, nothing cautious about her, no sensitivity to the speed at which she was going. She appeared so cocky, just like Chloe had been at that age. How close had she been to the girl, at least twenty feet away? It must have been the glare from the sun. It had made some remote resemblance appear familiar, chillingly familiar.

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Excerpt: JONAH by Vince Lane

Jonah by Vince Lane
ASIN: B00QQOX00Q (Kindle edition)
Publication date:  December 7, 2014

An elderly black hobo “Jonah” shows up begging at the door of two ladies humble shotgun shack. Though they are poor, they feed him. So he returns the kindness doing a couple of odd jobs to repay them. They take a somewhat mystical trusting, and immediate liking to Jonah and offer him a job. 

Throughout their time together many amazingly good outcomes happen for the ladies and their families as they are touched by turmoil after turmoil. The story unfolds a murder and cover up involving a prominent Judge who turns out to be responsible for the hit and run death of one of the ladies husbands. 

There is tragedy and death involved, but in the end, the human spirit is triumphant when they realize, only after Jonah has left their midst, that he had been an angel sent to help them through some otherwise horrible times. 


     I’m certain that what the sheriff was about to have to tell Mandy was a part of being Sheriff that Reggie Perk must have hated. Especially with him being old friends with her and Carl. But at that juncture, Mandy had no Idea yet what Carl had done, and what Sheriff Perk’s secrecy was all about. 

     Mandy was back out in no time, and soon she and the sheriff were on their way into town.

     “How’s Bernice an them boys these days Reggie? I ain’t seen them since the Labor Day picnic.” remarked Mandy lighting a smoke.

     “Aw they’re just fine Mandy.” he answered staring straight ahead.

     She could tell that Reggie seemed nervous and not very comfortable about something, but Mandy was just a little gun shy to ask what Carl had done. Carl had a habit of drinking too much and having too much fun. Sometimes Reggie would lock him up just to keep him out of trouble, and let him sleep it off. But the whole situation felt different that morning.

     As they drove passed the old cemetery Mandy saw a funeral going on and wondered who had died.     

     “Who you suppose died Reggie?”

     “That’s ole Merle Lachney. He had a heart attack. They found him slumped over the wheel of his pickup truck the other day. Hell I went to school with him; he wasn’t but forty years old. That’s too damn young to die.” 

     After saying that, there was a bit of a pause. Then, Reggie looked over at Mandy with a strange look on his face as though he wanted to say something. But then he simply looked straight ahead again and just kept driving.

     “I gotta tell ya, you are in one strange mood today Reggie. What’s Carl gone an done this time? Yo attitude’s startin to scare me now.”

     The sheriff passed the police station and continued driving. 

     “Reggie, you juss passed the station. Where the hell you takin me?”

     Still not answering, the sheriff just wheeled the car into the Hospital parking lot, and drove around to an area in the back that was unfamiliar to Mandy.

     She just couldn’t understand why Reggie was being so secretive about what had happened. “My God Reggie don’t tell me Carl’s been hurt. Why we at the hospital?” Mandy was really becoming worried.

    Again Reggie looked at her with that same strange look on his face. He parked the car and said, “Come on in Mandy. I’ll take ya to him.”

     As they walked to the door and Mandy saw the plaque that read Coroner’s Office and Morgue, her heart jumped up into her throat, and suddenly she became very frightened.

     “My God Reggie Perk, you tell me right now what the hell’s goin on here, an I mean right now!” she insisted.

     “Now Mandy, I didn’t want to tell ya till we got here. There’s been a bad accident. We fished Carl’s body out-a Rapides Bayou this monin.”

     Mandy stared a blank stare in disbelief as Reggie continued.

     “It looks like he got run down by a car when he was crossin that ole one car bridge on Veterans Drive; you know, off-a Rapides Avenue? We suspect it was some drunk leaving the VFW, so that’s where we’re startin our investigation.”

     As his words echoed in her head, Mandy panicked. “Where is he Reggie? I want to see him!”

     “Are ya sure you want to see him Mandy? He’s pretty messed up. It was a hit and run. He must-a got caught between the car and the bridge, cause we found a lot of blood at the scene. He was damn near cut half in two.” 

About the author:

Vince Lane has been writing most of his life, he first began seriously writing literary material around 1980. At the time he was a musician, singer/songwriter, poet, and professional entertainer living and working in Los Angeles, California.

As a writer Vince Lane has always maintained an unabashed style, paying little if any attention to convention. Unlike many writers, he has never settled down into any particular genre having written sci-fi, horror, supernatural, literary, mystery, action adventure, justice, and experimental fiction in iambic pentameter.

“I have enjoyed writing what I like, what I want, the way I want, and I stay true to that artistic freedom to this day.” Vince Lane

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WATCH THE SHADOWS Excerpt and Giveaway

Watch The Shadows by Robin Winter
ISBN: 9780986326509
Publisher: White Whisker Books
Publication Date:  April 20, 2015

In the college town of Isla Vista, California, small, odd things start happening. Science-geek Nicole notes the crows are leaving.  Meg Burdigal can’t find her tabby cat, Schrand. Brian the postman feels uneasy at the rustlings, the shadows he’s seen at the edge of his vision on his delivery route in town. Now Nicole sees fewer and fewer homeless in the park. Using her knowledge of biology and forensics, Nicole searches for answers—but will anyone take the horror she finds seriously?

Read an excerpt:

Chapter Thirteen, p. 41

“You’re bending the covers,” a voice said. “I could tell on you.”

Nicole jumped, looked up. Did she know this man? He coughed, a hoarse deep cough, and she thought she smelled something rank on his breath. A big guy with slightly stooped shoulders, as though he wanted to look smaller or younger than he was inside his greatcoat. Smooth shaven. She’d seen him before; yes, she had. One of the homeless ladies had been throwing some stones at him as if she were really mad. 

Nicole stood up and stepped back, angry, but decided that not answering him was her best choice. She knew how to treat a book, and she’d decided before she sat to read that she was going to buy this one.

“Princess, you’re an arrogant bitch; that’s what’s wrong with you. Had your way paid all your life, I bet. It won’t be like that forever. Things happen—even to the best of us.”

He continued talking after her as she strode toward the cash register.

Mr. Gorham took a moment to realize she was waiting, and Nicole fidgeted, not wanting the big man in the back of the store to follow her. It was growing dark outside, and she knew she was expected at home.

“Oh, Nicole,” he said, and Nicole wished he hadn’t said her name in case the man was listening. “Is this all for you tonight? Better get yourself along home. Your dad still off in DC?”

“No,” she lied. She liked Mr. Gorham, but he had no business tattling her private life in public like that. In the dull glow of the green shaded desk lamp, he looked like a skinny gnome from a children’s book as he counted her change. She assumed he’d never get a cash register. He always figured everything down to the last fraction of tax on a pad of paper with a gnawed pencil stub.

“You win on the tax today, young Nicole. Comes out to .344. Bingo.”

He always joked like that. Nicole thanked him and checked back over her shoulder, but she couldn’t see the big man. Maybe he was looking over the back shelves. Nicole ducked out the door and ran the first three blocks, cutting, after that, across the corner of the park. Slowing down, she felt much better. That was probably the sort of guy her mother would have told her to counter-aggress. Some people needed to be swatted back, or they would keep leaning in on you. But it was hard to tell sometimes, and she hadn’t wanted to engage with him in any way. It was a choice. This part of the street was better lit, and she slowed down even more, patting her book. 

But it was gone.

“No; oh shit,” she said out loud and the sound of her own voice surprised her. She looked back down the street. Twilight and past. Mom might not notice if she were late. She thought about leaving the book lost, and the idea hurt. Silly though it seemed, she felt as if the book would miss her, feel deserted. Dropped in some gutter with the stale beer and coke cans, meaning nothing to anyone but her. 

She began to retrace her way.

“Shit shit shit shit shit,” she said, and the word soothed her with repetition. She kept imagining she saw the flutter of pages just there, under the bush, or no, over in the shadow of the verge by the Volkswagen with rust spots. She’d spent her own good money on that paperback right down to the tax. She wasn’t going to let it lie abandoned somewhere in the street. She jogged through the park, straining her eyes, then let herself walk again. That’s what you got for being a nerd. If she were a track star, she wouldn’t run out of breath this easy.

Two blocks from the bookstore on Sabado, she saw it, and she swallowed in relief. Right smack in the middle of the pavement. She was so focused on it that, when another shape bent down and another hand reached for it, she almost blurted thank you.

It was the big man from the back of the bookstore. He was holding his coat closed with one hand, awkwardly, and her first thought was —he’s a flasher. I can scream for Mr. Gorham, but he’s probably reading.

“Someone lost her book,” the big man said. He looked like all the bullies she had ever seen coming up through school. He had that expression with the eyes narrowed in anticipation, dandling the book as if to tempt her to snatch it back. He laughed, and she wanted to hit him.

Be smart, Nicole; getting involved with this guy isn’t worth it. You know that, don’t you?

Then two things happened. A sound came from Mr. Gorham’s shop, probably nothing more than a dropped book, but it made the big man jerk, and when he did a magazine fell out of his coat. Without a plan, Nicole leapt forward, swept the book from his fingers, and was off in a start that would have done the track coach credit. She had never run so fast. She heard a shuffle, felt the movement of air as if he grabbed after her, but Nicole knew better than to hesitate. Or look back.

About the author:

Robin Winter first wrote and illustrated a manuscript on “Chickens and their Diseases” in second grade, continuing to both write and draw, ever since. Born in Nebraska, she’s lived in a variety of places: Nigeria, New Hampshire, upper New York state and now, California. She pursues a career in oil painting under the name of Robin Gowen, specializing in landscape. Her work can be viewed at Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara or on-line at

Robin is married to a paleobotanist, who corrects the science in both her paintings and her stories. She’s published science fiction short stories, a dystopian science fiction novel, Future Past, and Night Must Wait, a historical novel about the Nigerian Civil War.

You may contact Robin or read her blog at:, or on her website:


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The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit today by James Zerndt, author of The Korean Word for Butterfly. Mr. Zerndt will be discussing likeable characters. Please welcome James Zerndt and scroll down to enter the giveaway for a copy of this wonderful book.

Likeable Unlikable-Characters

  Some of my best friends are unlikable characters. They talk too much. Drink too much. Laugh too loudly. Make mistake after stupid, lovely mistake. They fall in and out love with the wrong people. In short, they live. But they are far more interesting people than most “nice” people I know. And maybe I have an affinity for these people because I, too, am one of the flawed.

I recently read an article by a woman gushing over an author she recently met at a reading. I won’t mention the author’s name, but he was congenial, friendly, good-looking (of course) and outgoing with his fans. That, this woman wrote, was exactly how she wanted to be when she finally made it big: confident. And who wouldn’t want to be that? I know I sometimes would, but I also know that confident is not me. And, well, most confident people annoy me. Usually because their confidence is hugely unwarranted. Not that this particular author’s was.

Personally, I’m more drawn to the person sitting in the back row, the awkward ones, the nail biters and mumblers of this world. In my experience, more often than not, those who are the most reluctant to speak usually have the most to say. And so it is with the characters I find myself wanting to read and write about. They are gloriously imperfect, which only makes them all the more beautiful. Who wants to read about the air-brushed, the flawless? Better yet, who wants to write about them? 
But what makes an unlikable character, likeable? Or at least readable? Most would say that they have to have some redeeming qualities about them. They have to, at the very least, want to be better even though they may constantly get in the way of themselves. In my last book, The Korean Word For Butterfly, there is one character, Billie, who some readers have found “unlikeable.” And that’s totally fine. She is a bit unlikable. But, then, a lot of truly interesting people are a little unlikable. But Billie isn’t just unlikable. She’s young. And having to make some hard decisions, decisions she may or may not regret at a later date. But what makes Billie so likable in my eyes is that she is obviously in a lot of pain during this process. If she wasn’t, she probably wouldn’t make the decisions she does in the book. If she were older, chances are she would have acted differently, seen that the situation wasn’t necessarily all or nothing. But at that age, just out of high school, how many of us have that kind of perspective? I know I certainly didn’t. 

So I look forward to the next reading I go to where a shy, nervous author takes the stage and beads of sweat fall from her forehead as she struggles through reading her own words, wishing no doubt that she was safely back home in front of her computer or notebook doing what she loves best: writing. And I look forward to failing as a writer, too, knowing full well that Orwell was right when he said Every book is a failure.

In the end, well, I guess I love failures. 

In fact, I’m going to call one up right now and go have a drink. 

So we can celebrate our mutual failings. 


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The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to offer one lucky reader a print or digital copy of The Korean Word for Butterfly by Mr. Zerndt. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States. Thanks are offered to Mr. Zerndt and to Teddy and Virtual Author Book Tours for this tour and giveaway opportunity. To enter please use the rafflecopter form below; winner will be chosen on Monday, February 17, 2014.

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Author Interview: Lisa Ellis

Finding Lily by Lisa D. Ellis
ISBN:  9781619351639 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00B4Y331E (Kindle edition)
Publisher:  Soul Mate Publishing
Publication Date:  January 22, 2013

When her newborn baby Lily dies suddenly, Claire Edwards runs away to live in a lighthouse she had fallen in love with as a young child. The lighthouse is reputed by some to have magical powers, but Claire isn’t looking for a miracle. She just wants an escape from her husband Jim’s colder way of grieving, and from their apartment filled with the tiny clothes and stuffed animals they had collected over the past few months. But once Claire is situated in the lighthouse, it begins to illuminate things for her in a new way and she’s suddenly forced to rethink her views on life, death, and her marriage. 

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a Q&A visit with Lisa Ellis, author of Finding Lily. Welcome to the Book Diva’s Reads Ms. Ellis and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your writing and writing career.

Have you always known that you wanted to be a writer or is this something that you only realized later?

I think I was born with some very specific traits, including my love for chocolate, an affinity for collecting elaborate dresses for places I want to go (and usually never get to), and the need to write! (Not necessarily in that order…)

I remember how, long before I was old enough to put pen to paper, I was fascinated by the words my parents read to me and loved how the sounds strung together into beautiful sentences. Throughout my childhood, I also spent lots of time in my head, crafting my own stories and putting together all of the pieces to try to make all the little details add up into something bigger–usually involving chocolate and ball gowns when I could fit them in.

As a journalist you’ve had articles published on health and fashion, but what was your initial reaction upon learning you were going to be published as a fiction author?

I want to say ecstatic…think “winning the lottery” type of excitement. But in truth, it was a quieter victory, although perhaps more rewarding because I had earned it and it wasn’t just luck of the draw. The reality is that my smaller works of fiction (poetry and short stories) have been published in various small literary journals and magazines throughout my journalism career, so I’ve been working up to being a published fiction writer for a very long time. Therefore, it felt like more of a natural evolution. Still, it’s amazing to be able to talk about my published NOVEL finally!

It’s also interesting to note that the short stories and poetry are more reflective of my inner self and my experiences, while the novel seems to have a life of its own. In Finding Lily, I wrote about things I didn’t know about, and this was a neat way to explore the world and grow. 

Is your fiction ever influenced by your non-fiction writing?

That’s a great question. I was a newspaper reporter for a long time and I got to meet so many people and hear about their experiences that I think this has helped me to be better at character development. It also has sparked my curiosity about so many topics. As a journalist, I am also expected to become a mini expert on so many subjects, and this makes it easier to step in and out of different fiction scenes. In truth, though, I haven’t written about anyone specific that I’ve encountered in my career, but I have found many details that have intrigued me during interviews that are tucked away in my “mental file cabinet,” just waiting for the right opportunity to use them in my fiction. One example in particular that comes to mind is a man I did a feature on a few years ago, who collected hundreds of bees in his home and invited me over to meet them. He was one of the most interesting characters I have met, and I am sure he will find his way into one of my novels eventually. (Although I am afraid of bees myself, so I will explore him from a very safe distance!)

In general, I find that the actual processes of writing fiction and writing non-fiction are totally different for me and it can be difficult to make the transition between the two creative states. With non-fiction, I am very present and alert throughout the writing process, sifting through details and molding the information, while with my fiction, I have to take a step back and let the story find me and unfold at its own pace. 

What authors do you consider to be your inspiration?

So many authors have inspired me over the years, but there’s one in particular that I want to mention. When I was working on Finding Lily, I was stuck at one point in the revision process, so I went to a book signing for Karen Peterson, PhD., author of The Tomorrow Trap and Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block. Period. Her presentation really sparked a chord in me and I lingered to chat with her. I learned she was also working on a novel and we decided to exchange manuscripts and help each other. This was the luckiest day for me. She really helped me take Finding Lily to where it is today. More than a decade later, we continue to critique each other’s work, but much more important, she has become one of my closest friends, too, and she is an ongoing inspiration for me. 

What are some of your all-time favorite fiction reads? 

Anne of Green Gables is my all-time favorite because I love the rich language and flowing sentences and I am entranced by Anne’s point of view: we are definitely kindred spirits! I also love The Distance by Saborna Roychowdhury, because she does an excellent job of taking me to new places physically and mentally and developing well-rounded and thoughtful characters who feel like friends. I also enjoy all of Chitra Banjaree Divakaruni’s novels, including The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart and her latest, Oleander Girl. Her books are so delicately crafted and every word and image shines. For a lighter read, I love everything by Madeleine Wickham. She has such a talent for bringing her characters together in the most awkward situations to see what will happen next, and this intrigues me. I also am crazy about her Shopaholic series (published under her pen name of Sophie Kinsella), although if my husband reads this interview, I officially deny any resemblance to the main character, even if I do have a thing for collecting clothes, shoes, and handbags much like she does!

What do you hope readers will take from your book Finding Lily?

I hope that many readers will relate to Finding Lily on a personal level because at one time or another, most of us have grappled with the emotional differences in our relationships, even if the line isn’t as clearly drawn as it is for Claire and Jim. I also hope that Claire’s perspective will make people think about what it means to see with the heart and not the head. I would love for readers to step into the rhythmic language and let it gently sweep them into the storyline for a simple but meaningful ride. I have heard from some reviewers and readers that they related deeply with Claire as they read my book, and her pain became theirs. But for me, there isn’t any sadness in her story. It’s meant to be a very enlightening and very honest book and although it does center around a loss that occurs before the first chapter opens and is recounted after the fact, for me the book is really about Claire finding herself and finding a new balance to her marriage… So I hope readers will ultimately feel some resolution and peace when they come full circle with Claire on her journey to the lighthouse and back again. 

Can you tell us anything about your next book, The Rasa-Lila? 

The Rasa-Lila is another book about marriage and motherhood but its style is very different. In this one, my narrator Faith Parker, a new mother, can feel her husband Andrew slipping away from her. She is so caught up in her new role that her marriage seems to have lost its momentum. Desperate to regain his attention, she concocts a tale about their conservative married neighbor, Pramila, having a heated affair with a stranger. The first time Faith tells the lie, she is just trying to shock Andrew and get him to look at her again. She promises herself that she won’t do this again. But her plan works so well that she finds herself elaborating on the story and adding new parts over time to help her and Andrew continue to reconnect. What Faith doesn’t bargain for, though, is that in the process she and Pramila will become good friends. In the end, she is forced to take a closer look at herself, her marriage and her friendship in order to decide what to betray and what to protect.

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About the author:

Lisa Ellis is a writer whose short fiction has appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines. Finding Lily is her first novel. She has a Master’s degree in Journalism from Boston University and provides health content regularly for hospitals and websites in New England and the tri-state area.

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