My Rapid Review – Laurel’s Dream

my rapid review - laurel's dream

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Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins is uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom?

My Thoughts

A tale of determination, compassion, loyalty, and new beginnings wrapped in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Everything about this novel grabbed my heart, enthralled my senses, and wrapped me up in the beauty and trials of life in the Blue Ridge.

From the first page, I fell in love with the plucky heroine, Laurel, who had dreams bigger than the life she led, yet didn’t allow her desires to overcome her integrity. In fact, even her dreams weren’t about her. Laurel’s whole being vibrated with a love and compassion for others without crossing the line into too-perfect-to-be-real. Laurel certainly had her weaknesses, but the love in her heart outshined them all. It was no wonder the hero, Jonathan Taylor didn’t take long to recognize what a special woman she was. Still, their budding friendship faced many obstacles on its way to love.

Jonathan arrived in Maple Springs hoping for a chance at redemption — a way to prove his worth to his father and himself despite the physical limitations which prevented him from following his brothers into war and drove him from his home in England. Despite his uncle’s letters, he didn’t fully understand the cultural differences he’d face in Maple Springs and how significant they would be to his role as their new teacher. Jonathan faced an uphill battle if he wanted to become an accepted member of the Maple Springs community. As the reader, I loved taking on that battle with Jonathan through Pepper Basham’s well-written story.

Packed full of surprises that will keep you turning the page, this novel is more than a romance between a man and a woman. It’s a story of our Creator’s love, the ties that bind families and communities together, and the sins that threaten to tear them apart. I highly recommend this story to anyone hoping for an emotional journey that leaves them cheering in the end.

Overall Rating: 5 of 5 stars!

P.S. It’s no secret that I am a fan of Pepper’s writing, but this may be my favorite of all her stories. She really outdid herself. If you haven’t read anything by Pepper Basham yet (gasp!) this is a fantastic place to start!

P.P.S. For anyone wondering: I purchased my own copy of this book. Go get yours!

Available: Amazon

Let’s Chat! Have you read any of the books from the My Heart Belongs In ___ series? If you’ve read Pepper’s previous books, which is your favorite?

TWEETABLE:

A tale of determination, compassion, loyalty, and new beginnings wrapped in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. #BookReview

 

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First Line Friday – 01.11.19

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Hey Everyone! It’s First Line Friday. So grab a book near you and share the first line in the comments below!

Today I’m sharing the first lines from Time Will Tell by Anne Mateer, a book I’ve recently added to my Kindle and can’t wait to read.

time will tell

Here is the first line:

Toledo, 1835

“I don’t want to say good-bye,” Annis Jackson whispered as she clung to Hugh Hylton in a shadowed corner of a hallway on the steamship Cleveland.

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Returning home after two years at the Buffalo Ladies’ Seminary, Annis Jackson believes God has blessed her with the perfect homecoming: a whirlwind romance with a man she’s loved from afar during her time at school. Except the object
of her affections, Hugh Hylton, is related to her father’s most bitter enemy, a man determined to see Toledo firmly in the grip of the state of Ohio and the very one funding Hugh’s newspaper venture.

After several years of newspaper work in Buffalo, New York, Hugh Hylton jumped at his uncle’s offer of financial help to start a newspaper on the opposite shore of Lake Erie. And when he discovers during the steamship voyage to his new home that the woman he’s been dreaming about for the past year, Annis Jackson, loves him back, his future seems secure. He arrives in Port Lawrence, part of the newly named town of Toledo, ready to approach her father and declare his intentions toward her.
But Annis fears Hugh doesn’t understand the depth of the personal conflict over the positioning of Ohio’s state line and persuades him to conceal their relationship until she can prepare her father to accept Hugh in spite of his family connections. Then the Michigan militia arrives in the Toledo Strip, determined to prevent Ohio elections, and the situation gets out of hand, making their secret more difficult to guard. Suddenly the future of the newspaper—and their relationship—is as unstable as the fate of Toledo itself.

Will Hugh and Annis survive their feuding families? Only time will tell.

AMAZON

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Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

First Line Friday – 01.04.19

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Woohoo!! It’s the FIRST First Line Friday of 2019!! So grab a book near you and share your first line in the comments below!

Today I’m sharing the first lines from Ladies of Intrigue by Michelle Griep, a book I’ve recently finished reading. Currently available for pre-order, this book is set to release January 15th. My full review of this novel will be up on February 25th!

Ladies of Intrigue

Here are the first lines (I couldn’t stop with just one!):

1815 Port village of Treporth, Cornwall, England

Pretend I am courageous.
Pretend my heart still beats.
Pretend all manner of blissful things … and that I shall find him alive.

Recreasing a worn scrap of foolscap, Helen Fletcher tucked the paper into her valise, then snapped shut the clasp, wishing most of all she’d never received such horrid news. No one had ever warned her about the dangers of parchment.

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3 Page-Turners Under One Cover from Reader Favorite Michelle Griep!
Can truth and love prevail when no one is as they appear?

The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady
Cornish Coast, 1815
When a prim and proper governess returns to England from abroad, she expects to comfort her dying father—not fall in love with a smuggler. Will Helen Fletcher keep Isaac Seaton’s unusual secret?

The Doctor’s Woman (A Carol Award Winner!)
Dakota Territory, 1862
Emmy Nelson, daughter of a missionary doctor, and Dr. James Clark, city doctor aspiring to teach, find themselves working side by side at Fort Snelling during the Dakota Uprising. That is when the real clash of ideals begins.

A House of Secrets
St. Paul, Minnesota, 1890
Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, starting with the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam.

AMAZON

Click HERE to follow my blog and make sure you don’t miss out on any of my upcoming reviews and other fun posts!

Are you a Kathleen’s Readers’ Club member? It’s free (of course) and KRC members receive exclusive content, are eligible for exclusive seasonal book giveaways, and more! Join Today!

Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

First Line Friday – 12.28.18

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Hi Everyone! It’s First Line Friday, so grab a book near you and share your first line in the comments below!

Today I’m sharing the first lines from Laurel’s Dream by Pepper Basham – part of the My Heart Belongs in ____ series.  The ebook version is available now and the paperback is currently set to release January 1st, but you can pre-order your print copy today! My full review of this novel will be up on January 14th!

Laurel's Dream

Here is the first line:

September 1918

“He’s bringing nothin’ but trouble, Caroline McAdams. Make no bones about it.”

about-the-book-2

Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins is uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom?

AMAZON

Click HERE to follow my blog and make sure you don’t miss out on any of my upcoming reviews and other fun posts!

Are you a Kathleen’s Readers’ Club member? It’s free (of course) and KRC members receive exclusive content, are eligible for exclusive seasonal book giveaways, and more! Join Today!

Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

First Line Friday – 12.21.18

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Hi Everyone! It’s First Line Friday, so grab a book near you and share your first line in the comments below!

Today I’m sharing the first lines from The Rancher Takes a Cook by Misty M. Beller which I am currently reading.

The Rancher Takes a Cook

Here is the first line:

Columbia, South Carolina
February 17, 1865

The acrid air was thick and hazy as nineteen-year-old Anna Stewart struggled to sit up in bed.

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When their South Carolina home burns to the ground, Anna Stewart’s only choice is to move with her younger brother to the wilds of a Texas ranch. Their prospects are beginning to look better, until the rancher’s son, Jacob O’Brien, shows up with his alarmingly blue eyes to put a kink in Anna’s well-controlled plans.

When danger escalates in the form of a band of cattle thieves with deadly intent, can Anna learn to release control to God’s capable hands…and those of the blue-eyed cowboy who’s stolen her heart?

AMAZON

Click HERE to follow my blog and make sure you don’t miss out on any of my upcoming reviews and other fun posts!

Are you a Kathleen’s Readers’ Club member? It’s free (of course) and KRC members receive exclusive content, are eligible for exclusive seasonal book giveaways, and more! Join Today!

Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

First Line Friday – 11.16.18 – SPECIAL EDITION

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Hi Everyone! If you’re new here, First Line Friday is a post where we get to share the first line from whatever book is nearest us or on our minds lately. It’s a great way to discover fantastic new reads. However, today is an extra special edition of First Line Friday because today I not only get to share the first line from one of my favorite books with you, but I also get to tell you that you can own the entire book for FREE!!! Yes, really! (ebook only)

So what is this fabulous book? It’s One Plus One Equals Trouble by Sondra Kraak, one of my favorite authors.

one plus one equals trouble

Here is the first line:

Pine Creek, Washington, 1891

Killing Edward Stevens was beyond her proper ways.

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The one room schoolhouse isn’t big enough to hold thirty-four students, let alone the egos of two teachers. He can’t afford to lose the position, and she refuses to lose her heart.

Washington, 1891

Humiliated after her broken engagement, Claire Montgomery flees her comfortable life in San Francisco for a teaching position in Pine Creek, Washington, a dot of a town nestled in the rugged Cascade Mountains. She’s determined to succeed—for once in her life—only to discover, upon her arrival, that success will have to be won. Thanks to a school board error, two teachers have been hired.

When scandal forces professor Barrett Clarke from his position, he returns to Pine Creek where his uncle, chairman of the school board, sets forth an irresistible offer: teach one year in return for ranchland. For this would-be rancher, nothing is more tempting than resurrecting his childhood dream, and nothing can deter him from earning that land.

Except perhaps Claire Montgomery. Losing the battle for the classroom means losing the ranchland, but winning may mean losing Claire’s heart.

With large doses of humor and romantic tension, this Christian historical love story offers a picture of grace, forgiveness, and finding true worth.

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So what are you waiting for? This fabulous book is only free for three days: November 16, 17 & 18!

Click on the link below or the picture above to grab your FREE copy!

AMAZON

New here? Like what you see?

Click HERE to follow my blog and make sure you don’t miss out on any of my upcoming reviews and other fun posts!

Become a Kathleen’s Readers’ Club member! It’s free (of course) and KRC members receive exclusive content, are eligible for exclusive seasonal book giveaways, and more! Join Today!

Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

Author Interview – Tara Johnson

Author Interview Blog Header - Tara Johnson

Hi everyone! Let’s give a warm welcome to Tara Johnson who has kindly agreed to join us for an interview today! Her debut novel, Engraved on the Heart was released July 1, 2018 and I have to tell you, I have read it and absolutely loved it! In fact, that is exactly why I asked her to do this interview. I wanted to know more about the woman who could create such a beautiful story.

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engraved on the heart cover photo

Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines―until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

AMAZON

A Little about Tara

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Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and passionate lover of stories. She enjoys traveling to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.

Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, as well as numerous other accolades. She has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television and podcasts. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She, her husband, and children live in Arkansas.

Website: www.TaraJohnsonStories.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraLynnJohnsonAuthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tarajohnsonministry/

 

the-interview

Welcome, Tara! I always like to start with something a little fun and what’s more fun than being a kid? 

Can you share with us which is your favorite childhood book?

When I was nine, my parents bought me the entire Little House book set. I read it through a dozen times. After that, it was the entire eight-book set of Anne of Green Gables. I still have all of them. They have been read so often, the spines are held together with duct tape. Looking back, Little House and Anne Shirley taught me more about life than I realized. And of course, like a true eighties’ child, I also had a big collection of Sweet Valley Twins, Nancy Drew and Mandie books too.

Little House & Anne Book Sets w Watermark
A very small part of Kathleen’s Classic Books Collection

As you can see in this photo, Tara, we have a lot in common. (I sold my SV collection a few years back.) You can also see that my children have had access to the Little House Collection which is the same set my dad read to my sister and me when we were in elementary school. Can I borrow your duct tape? 😉

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I never have. I understand why many people do. Privacy is so incredibly important, especially in this day and age when personal information is at everyone’s fingertips. Still, I’ve always desired to just be myself.

That’s a really interesting way of looking at it. I know some authors also use it as a way to branch into different genres without confusing their readers.

How many unpublished and/or unfinished books do you have?

Other than the two books set to release with Tyndale in the next two years, I have seven more unpublished fiction stories, another one that I’ve just started and ideas for three more. I’ve written an unpublished Bible study for young teen girls entitled Beyond the Fairytale, and another incomplete nonfiction work about understanding pastors and their families.

Wow. You’ve been busy! I am so excited that you have two more books coming out in the next two years!!!

How do you select the names of your characters?

Picking names appropriate for the time period is important. I always do a census search of names for the time period. There were some pretty creative names in the 1800s! Sometimes when I’m stumped on a name, I turn to my social media friends for help. Their creativity is astounding!

You’re so right about the unusual names. I’ve come across some in those census records that made me think, “If I used this my readers would never believe it was a period accurate name.”

What is your research process like?

Once I have an idea for a story, I spend a month or two learning as much as I can about the subject. I’ll read a ridiculous number of books about the event, time period or person, watch Youtube or Netflix documentaries and search up as many podcasts as possible. When I feel fairly confident in the subject matter, and know the characters well, I begin writing, but continually have to look up more research as the story unfolds.

Our processes sound very similar.

What was the most challenging part of your research for Engraved on the Heart?

Researching the Civil War is tough. There is so much blood and gore. Having to immerse myself in that world for weeks on end is probably the most challenging part of the research process. When I start writing a new book, my dreams resemble horror movies. Some of the most bizarre research I encountered were oddities like Secesh goods—bowls and goblets made from Yankee skulls. Confederate tradesmen actually sold them on the streets of Southern towns.

Harper's Weekly June 7 1862 - Full Page not full edition
A cartoon depicting secesh goods appears at the top of this Harper’s Weekly page taken from the June 7, 1862 edition.
Click this image to read more of the Harper’s Weekly editions printed during the Civil War. Harper’s Weekly is in the public domain in the United States. 

Despite the harshness of this period in history, to forget it would be tragic. Who we are, what we’ve learned, the inventions, innovations, cultural changes and broken barriers are because of the Civil War. Though the research can be grueling, I won’t allow myself the luxury of looking away. To look away is willful ignorance, and ignorance always breeds fear.

Very wise words.

Why this setting?

The spark of the idea for Engraved on the Heart began when our family visited Savannah, Georgia several years ago. I was entranced with the history and charm of the town. Secrets seemed to ooze out of every corner.

My family opted to take a historic riding tour of the city. I was especially intrigued by a fact rattled off by our tour guide. “Many of the older homes and buildings in and around the outskirts of Savannah were built by slaves. In fact, if you look closely, you can find some of their fingerprints in the bricks.”

Later that day, we walked down the cobblestone streets, admiring the elaborate iron fences guarding beautiful homes trimmed with colorful flowers. As I passed a home, a darkened impression molded into the crumbling brick snagged my attention. I sucked in a surprised breath over the precious detail. There it was, staring back at me. The fingerprint of a slave.

I ran my finger over the scarred impression, marveling that such a small mark could tell such an exquisite story. Running my fingers over that precious print linked me inextricably to the past, binding an invisible cord between the nameless slave and me. God slowly unfurled a story in my heart. I’ve loved Savannah ever since.

I love that story!  

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I don’t really hide any secrets, but I do have a secret way of building each story I create. I can’t give you the details though. It’s a secret! 😉

Oh, come on. Not even a hint? 😉

Are there any deleted scenes from this book that you can tell us about without giving any spoilers?

There was a major scene my editor and I struggled to delete. We went back and forth trying to decide if we should leave it in or cut it. In the end, we thought the story would be much more realistic, and a bit poignant, to leave it out. I won’t say where the scene was placed for those who haven’t read it, but I had originally intended for Hiriam to be reunited with his long-lost daughter. Cutting that scene was extremely difficult.

Having read the book and loved that character, I can imagine how painful that decision was. While I can understand and can’t really argue with the reasoning behind the decision, I have to admit I’m curious to know how it would have played out. Maybe you could share it someday. It would be like the deleted scenes they sometimes give as bonus material for movies. 🙂 

What do you want readers to expect when they read Engraved on the Heart?

Great question! My main purpose in writing Engraved on the Heart was a spiritual one. I grew up with a seizure disorder, just like my heroine Keziah did. All of us face hardships of some kind or another, whether physical or emotional, but if we aren’t on guard, the enemy will tell us we have no worth.

A lie is only harmful if we believe it. The truth is Jesus thought we were so valuable, He died to keep us. I want my readers to know they are loved. They are wanted. They are cherished by the God of the universe. The scars in His hands prove it.

Amen. I love how you shared that message through the story without a hint of preaching.

Can you share with us a new or new-to-you author whose book you read this year and are excited about?

Two new-to-me authors are Carrie Turansky and Cynthia Roemer. I recently read Carrie’s novel Across the Blue and was struck with how tenderly she addressed tough issues. I’m currently reading Cynthia Roemer’s Under This Same Sky and am having a hard time putting it down. Such engaging characters!

Across the Blue Under this Same Sky

Which writers’ conference would you most recommend to writers in your genre?

There are several excellent ones, but two of the best are Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and American Christian Writers Conference. Both have deepened my understanding of the craft, connected me to amazing industry professionals and allowed me to forge lifelong friendships with other authors. Best of all, both conferences point my heart to Christ for creativity and direction.

I agree. Both great conferences!

What other authors are you friends with and how did they help you become a better writer?

Wow. There are so many. Too many to name, but I’ll mention a few.

Francine Rivers and Allen Arnold have taught me my relationship with God is more important than anything else. Without that life-giving connection, writing is an empty endeavor. Laura Frantz is kindness personified. She has loved me into the writing community with such grace. I think kindness is a hallmark of all her relationships. Jennifer Major has taught me laughter is not just a gift for the journey…it’s vital. Savanna Kaiser and Cara Grandle are my critique buddies, but more importantly, they are my spiritual warfare partners and prayer warriors. We lift each other up when the enemy throws his tough stuff our way. Though I haven’t known Tamera Alexander long, she taught me something invaluable. Her gentle reminder that “My books aren’t my babies,” was deeply profound in helping me understand these creative things we produce are just that…a product. They have no affect on our worth, our relationship with God, or anything else. And it greatly takes the sting out of any criticism that comes when I keep that simple fact forefront in my mind.

There are so many others. Sweet friends like Jocelyn Green, Karen Barnett, Kim Sawyer, Robin Lee Hatcher, Sarah Sundin and more who have shown me incredible kindness as a newbie. They were willing to offer reviews, critiques and encouragement when they had nothing to gain. I’m forever grateful to them.

Often the writer’s journey is depicted as a solitary one, and sometimes I suppose it is, but for most of us, we need the support of others to help us along the way. I’m so glad to know you’ve found those people. 

Tara, thank you for taking the time to share so much about yourself and how Engraved on the Heart came to be! I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better. Please keep us updated on your writing journey – particularly when you know the release dates for your upcoming books! 🙂

giveaway-5

engraved on the heart cover photo

I loved this book so much that I want to share its wonderful goodness with more readers! So I have decided that in celebration of getting to know Tara a little better today, I will giveaway an eBook copy of Engraved on the Heart to one of you! All you have to do to enter is:

  1. Sign up to become a member of Kathleen’s Reader’s Club,
  2. Share this post on either Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook (share must be public & tagged @KathleenDenly), and
  3. Leave a comment on this post telling me which part of Tara’s interview you enjoyed the most!

 

DEADLINE TO ENTER: Midnight, November 16, 2018

 

New here? Like what you see so far? Enjoy reading Christian romance?

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Author Interview - Engraved on the Heart Instagram
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TWEETABLES

“A lie is only harmful if we believe it. The truth is Jesus thought we were so valuable, He died to keep us.” Read the rest of this #AuthorInterview here: https://bit.ly/2Plew8d 

“There was a major scene my editor and I struggled to delete.” Find out what it was about. Read the #AuthorInterview! https://bit.ly/2Plew8d

“I ran my finger over the scarred impression, marveling that such a small mark could tell such an exquisite story.” Learn the rest of the story in this #AuthorInterview! https://bit.ly/2Plew8d