Review: The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch

The Vintners Daughter by Kristen Harnisch II

About The Story:

A captivating historical-fiction debut: ambition, betrayal and love take a spirited young woman from the verdant Loire Valley to turn-of-the-century Manhattan to the wide open spaces of California wine country

Loire Valley, 1895. When seventeen-year-old Sara Thibault’s father is killed in a mudslide, her mother sells their vineyard to a rival family, whose eldest son marries Sara’s sister, Lydia. But a violent tragedy compels Sara and her sister to flee to New York, forcing Sara to put aside her dream to follow in her father’s footsteps as a master winemaker.

Meanwhile, Philippe Lemieux has arrived in California with the ambition of owning the largest vineyard in Napa by 1900. When he receives word of his brother’s death in France, he resolves to bring the killer to justice. Sara has traveled to California in hopes of making her own way in the winemaking world. When she encounters Philippe in a Napa vineyard, they are instantly drawn to one another, but Sara knows he is the one man who could return her family’s vineyard to her, or send her straight to the guillotine.

A riveting, romantic tale of betrayal, retribution, love and redemption, Kristen Harnisch’s debut novel immerses readers in the rich vineyard culture of both the Old and New Worlds, the burgeoning cities of turn-of-the-century America and a spirited heroine’s fight to determine her destiny.

My thoughts:

I used to refuse to read Historical Romance for a long time. For many reasons I won’t go into here today but let me tell you, lately, I have been picking up some great ones. Vintner’s Daughter was the perfect choice for me. Though there are a few minor problems I had with the story that needs to be mentioned.

I found the story to be a bit overly predictable at times and I wanted some twist and turns to surprise me. In addition, I felt a couple of scenarios to the plot could have been a bit stronger and flushed out more.

Though I love a strong female heroine’s in a story. They need to be flawed as well to make them believable. There were at times I felt Sara was too perfect to be true. Though I liked her a great deal and admired her courage and steadfastness.

One of the themes in the story was about the Suffragette movement and although-in my opinion-it played a back seat in the story, I found it an interesting addition and I would have liked it to play a stronger role. I am hoping it will in the sequel. We will see I guess.

Another theme weaved into the story was about the looming prohibition to come and how Sara and Philippe explores way around the survival of the wine industry is quite fascinating and intelligent. I am looking forward to the outcome of that-if it will be explored in the sequel. I hope.

I could feel the attraction between Sara and Philippe coming from the pages as their relationship grew. I liked how this was told and glad the author did not push their relationship too hard and too fast. Harnisch’s gives the right momentum and gives the reader time to enjoy the interaction between them.

I enjoyed the story and I felt there was some really strong character development. I thought the supporting characters were marvelous. Not only that, the story flowed well and I found myself thinking about the characters long after I put the book down. There is also the fact that the main story takes place in Napa Valley and I always find that reading about Vintners and the life they lead are highly interesting.

Harnisch gives the reader a grasp of what the 1800’s was like for women and provides the reader with insight of the grape-cultivation of wine. This is a great debut and I am anxious to read, The California Wife.

I have rated this book three stars and received a copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins



The Love of a Good Thrill

A few fellow book bloggers and myself have started a new post series of books on our wish-list. This month I decided to list thrillers that I want to read. Who doesn’t love a good thrill? A few of these titles below I have recently acquired from NetGalley and I really look forward to reading them in the near future. What first attracted me to them was the book covers and the titles. Goes to show the importance of the over all layout of a book! Which thrillers books do you want to read?

No one knows II

In an obsessive mystery as thrilling as The Girl on the Train and The Husband’s SecretNew York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison will make you question every twist in her page-turning novel—and wonder which of her vividly drawn characters you should trust.

The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on; she wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious yet strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?

In No One Knows, the New York Times bestselling coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series expertly peels back the layers of a complex woman who is hiding dark secrets beneath her unassuming exterior. This masterful thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Paula Hawkins will pull readers into a you’ll-never-guess merry-go-round of danger and deception. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops…no one knows.

The Passenger

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it…

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless

The Forgotten Girls

In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick—the new commander of the Missing Persons Department—is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago. As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed—and hidden—in the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.

Hidden Bodies

In the compulsively readable follow-up to her widely acclaimed debut novel, You, Caroline Kepnes weaves a tale that Booklist calls “the love child of Holden Caulfield and Patrick Bateman.”

Hidden Bodies marks the return of a voice that Stephen King described as original and hypnotic, and through the divisive and charmingly sociopathic character of Joe Goldberg, Kepnes satirizes and dissects our culture, blending suspense with scathing wit.

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: truelove. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice…

the girl in the ice

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one.

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong… resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer deadlier than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?

A page-turning thriller packed with suspense. If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Karin Slaughter, discover Rob Bryndza’s new series today – at a special launch price.

Watch out for more from DCI Erika Foster

She’s fearless. Respected. Unstoppable. Detective Erika Foster will catch a killer, whatever it takes.

Check out these wish lists!

A Bookaholic Swede’s wish-list!

Flashlight Commentary’s wish-list

A Literary Vacation’s wish-list

2 Kids and Tired Books wish-list


Characters in Motion with Yancy Caruthers

Northwest of EdenII

Narrative Non-Fiction:

Turning Real People into Characters

Generating my characters was never hard, because they really exist.  I write narrative non-fiction, adaptations of true military stories.  The settings are predetermined, and the plots are part of history.  Some of the dialogue is invented, events reordered for clarity, and occasionally two or more real people are merged into an amalgam.  The goal is still to make the story as real as I can tell it.

My first book, Northwest of Eden, was my personal experience working as a trauma nurse in western Iraq.  I told it in first person, so I was the main character.  Each day after work, I would chisel the story based on the real happenings of the day and my reactions to them.  I didn’t know exactly how the story would unfold, but there were incidents that I knew I would write about.  For instance, I knew that some of the soldiers who came into the hospital would not survive their injuries.  I didn’t know when it would happen, but I knew it would, so I wanted to record it.

The witnesses to that event had such intense reactions that I had to force myself to notice.  Since I was also experiencing it, I had to articulate my own emotions onto the page as well.  These were some of the most intense feelings I have ever had – shock, sadness, fear of inadequacy, and even some of the most intense anger and hatred imaginable.  I had to write all of that for both me and for my supporting cast.

Here’s what I didn’t anticipate – ever have a character go in a direction that you didn’t plan?  That’s sort of what happened with Northwest of Eden.  I was experiencing emotions firsthand and trying to write about them, when I hadn’t yet processed them.  The story ended up revealing character traits that I wasn’t aware of at the time.  I didn’t realize until I was almost six years into the project that the story was about my own personal transformation, my crucible.

This epiphany triggered a 50% rewrite, which while frustrating, also allowed me to round out some of the other characters – bringing out emotions that I had glossed over.  But again, there was something that facilitated this – I knew these characters personally, so I knew how they would react to fictional situations, as I had seen them in real ones.

My current work in progress is a six-part collection of real stories of an Army medic from each of the living wars.  The protagonists are real people, so getting to know them before I write about them is paramount.  They are veterans, like me, so we have some similarities. We are also very different.  My oldest veteran is 87 and the youngest 21.  One has vivid memories of Pearl Harbor just as haunting as my generation’s 9-11.  Some went to war as parents, but most were children.  My World War Two vet was fifteen when he exited a landing craft at Omaha Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944.  To him it is not a movie.  It’s real.

Capturing that intensity and putting it into characters is easier in some ways and more difficult in others.  I can dive deeper to catch a feeling or a motive, but I have no control over the result.  The stories happened the way they happened, and while I can selectively include various scenes, there is seldom a traditional plot.  War is like that.  Few participants ever see any point beyond the myopic view of the battlefield of the day.  Tomorrow’s will be different.

The challenge as an author is to create characters the reader believes are real people, with real fears, goals, and emotions.  We write what we know, so often a protagonist is an autobiographical reflection.  The next level is being able to write a character substantially different than yourself – a single parent, a crime victim, or a victim of mental illness.  Imagine trying to write a character with opposing political views – he would have to think not the way you believe he thinks, but the way he actually thinks – to the extent that a member who shares those views would identify with him.

Go out and write those characters.  Make them real.  In the process, you might learn something about yourself.

Yancy Caruthers BRAG II

Yancy Caruthers (1971- ) is an Iraq war veteran, registered nurse, and retired Army Reserve officer.  After 9/11, he was mobilized to active duty three times, two of which were in a war zone.  While he wasn’t off doing something with the Army, he worked on a helicopter ambulance service in southern Missouri, where he grew up.  After leaving the service in 2008, he continued to serve his country as a diplomat assigned to tours in Peru and The Bahamas.  He retired and returned to Missouri in July 2015, but is currently looking for things to keep himself busy.

Author Links:  


Facebook: Northwest of Eden 

Twitter: @yancycaruthers


Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree with Maria Grace-Part II


I’d like to welcome back, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Maria Grace to talk with me about her book, Mistaking her Character. Though Maria has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six novels in in the works, attended seven period balls, sewn eight Regency era costumes, shared her life with nine cats through the years published her tenth book last year.

Please tell me about your book, Mistaking Her Character.

Mistaking her character

 Mistaking Her Character is a reimaging of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It began with the premise: What if Mr. Bennet was a second son and not the heir to Longbourn? In that case, he would need a profession. In the era, there were only a few options to have a profession and remain a gentleman: military officer, clergyman, barrister, and physician. In this book, I made Mr. Bennet a physician and the personal physician for Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her sickly daughter Anne. Mr. Darcy meets Elizabeth Bennet in this context, at Rosings Park.

For those who are not familiar with the notorious Lady Catherine de Bourgh, could you please tell your audience about her and what you think of her?

Lady Catherine is the widowed daughter of an earl. As Jane Austen wrote her, she is proud, entitled and controlling. Her daughter Anne is weak and sickly and easily managed. Depending on how one images her motives and mental state, Lady Catherine can be a sympathetic character or a really horrible one. In this re-imagining, she became a major antagonist. Most reader love to hate her.

Please tell me a little about the medical research you had to do for this era?

Writing both a physician and a sickly character proved to be interesting. First, I had to do some sleuthing to figure out what Anne’s illness was. It had to be something known in the period, chronic, with symptoms that would fit Jane Austen’s original work. After some time, I settled on Rheumatic Fever as the most appropriate illness for Anne.

At that point I had to take up two lines of research. First, I had to use contemporary sources to understand the disease and how to write it accurately. Then I had to go to period references (which, by the way, did not call it rheumatic fever…) and try to decipher what they would have called it and what they would have done. I also looked for what controversies in treatment might have been prevalent to allow several medical men to come into conflict about the way to progress in treatment.

In the process of the research, I came across a medical journal case study on a laudanum overdose. It was fascinating and dramatic, and it informed a major plot point in the story. It was great fun to dramatize the account and see it come to life with my characters.

What appeals to you the most about writing stories of Jane Austen characters? What have you learned about the development of creating your own interpretations of them?

 Jane Austen wrote timeless characters, people who are recognizable even in our contexts today. I love to change the circumstances and see how her story-people react.

In the process I’ve learned that readers have some very decided opinions about Jane Austen’s characters and plot line. If you push those boundaries too much, they can be very vocal in their dislike. In this story, Mr. Bennet is not just a weak father, but a pretty awful one. Some readers were willing to go with it, but others found it a very difficult change to cope with.

What are you working on next?

I have finished a sequel of this story focusing on Lydia. At the end of Mistaking Her Character, Darcy has intervened and Lydia does not marry Wickham. ‘The Trouble to Check Her’ is the story of Lydia’s future. It will be out in April 2016.  Elizabeth’s largely forgotten sister Mary is the subject of the next sequel that I am drafting right now.

Can you keep a secret? I’m also working out a science fiction series right now!

Will you continue to write stories that take place in this era?

I will, at least for a while. I have at least three or four more Regency stories bubbling around in my head right now. But I hope to branch out in the next year or so into science fiction and fantasy. I have two series, possibly three in development at the moment.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Given the prominent place Lady Catherine figures in this plot, I searched Pride and Prejudice for quotes related to her and settled on ‘Mistaking her Character’ as a very fitting picture of what was going on in my story.

Who designed your book cover?

Jane Dixon-Smith. Her work is fantastic!

Be sure to check out my interview with Maria for her book, Remember the Past  




Google +


Random Bits of Fascination

Austen Variations

English Historical Fiction Authors

Twitter @WriteMariaGrace


A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to Maria Grace who is the author of, Mistaking her Charcater, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Mistaking her Character, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money


Confessions of a Book Blogger with Colleen Turner!

Colleen Turner

Today on Confessions of a Book Blogger, I interview fellow book blogger and friend, Colleen Turner! To find out more about her, please be sure to visit her amazing website!

 Hi, Colleen! What is your blog’s name and address?

Hi Stephanie!

A Literary Vacation

When did you start a book blog and why?

I started A Literary Vacation on January 1st, 2015. I had been contributing reviews to a few different blogs for a number of years before then and thought “hey, why don’t I try creating my own blog?” It seemed the next logical step, and here I am!

What kind of posts do you feature?

I like to do as many reviews as possible but I’m not as fast a reader as I would like. So I also love to do guest posts and interviews with authors as well as spotlights on their books. This year I’ve started interacting more with some fabulous fellow bloggers (hi ladies!) and have gotten some great ideas for posts I’d like to do in the future, such as a monthly wish list post and cover crush posts on covers I can’t get enough of.

How often do you blog?

It varies month to month. I try to have a post go live everyday Monday-Friday but that doesn’t always happen. If I can’t make that I really shoot for three posts a week.

What are some of the positive feedback you have received?

I have been very lucky that I’ve had nothing but positive feedback and experiences so far as a blogger. I’ve had people compliment me on my reviews or the interviews I do, and have had a lot of wonderful authors, PR people and tour organizers be very gracious and thank me for working with them.  It has been a total win-win for me!

On average, how many books do you review a year?


What is your favorite genre?

Historical Fiction

What is your least favorite?

Westerns or pure Romances

How do you feel about negative reviews?

I think if the reviewer is being honest and respectful then I think they are important. Not everyone is going to love every book, and as a reader I want to know the good AND the bad that other readers found when reading a book I’m considering picking up. This is not an excuse to be intentionally rude or hurtful to an author and I will completely disregard a negative review that doesn’t explain what they disliked or just says “I hate this book” as quickly as a review that just says “great book”, but if it is well thought out and balanced it will hold more weight in my opinion.

When considering a book to review what do you look for?

I look for a catching synopsis, whether or not I’ve read and enjoyed a book by the author before, who they have endorsing it, and whether or not readers I know and respect have read and enjoyed it. And I can’t lie, I love an eye-catching cover!

What are three book covers you love?

Oh great question! Also a hard one as I’ve enjoyed so many. Recently I’ve loved the covers of…

Flight of Dreams

The Conqueror’s Wife II

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

I adore these cover!

How do you feel about authors using social media to speak out badly of reviewers who did not give the author’s book a glowing review?

I think that is just as bad as a reviewer leaving a rude or unhelpful negative review. For me, any author openly bashing a reviewer simply because they didn’t like their book is classless and a turnoff for me. I will typically make a point of not reading their books in the future as I don’t want to support that sort of behavior.

Have you had any negative experience with blogging?

Believe it or not no (at least not yet J ). I’ve had an author or two email me asking for a review and then not respond when I’ve offered to do a guest post or spotlight on their book instead, but nothing beyond that.

Do you read more than one book at a time?

I try not to. I like to give my full attention to whatever book I’m reading at any given time. However, sometimes I’m not really enjoying a book, so I’ll set it aside for a while and read bits and pieces between other books just to see if it will improve.

Do you read self-published books?

If so which ones have you read this year so far? I do sometimes, but not too often. I don’t believe I’ve read any yet this year. There isn’t any real reason for this, other than the covers and synopsis for the books I gravitate towards seem to be from traditional publishers.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a blog?

Make sure you have the time and love to devote to it. It takes time to not only set up – and change up – the design of your blog but it takes a good amount of time to write posts, format them, and get them just right (at least for me…I tend to want to keep playing with it till it’s “perfect”!). You’re going to need time to share your posts around social media, respond to comments and author enquires and to of course read. So, long story short, you’ll need time. And if you are anything like me that is in short supply, so you want to make sure you’re spending it doing something you enjoy.

Thanks Stephanie!!

You’re welcome, Colleen! A pleasure! 

Good Reads by Ruta Sepety

Okay, so I will admit, sometimes I read young adult books when it has something of value to offer. Before you gasp in disgust over that statement, I do believe there is a variety of quality in young adult books out there. I am just particular in what I read in that age group. Here is two that really stands out to me and is sitting on my shelf at home patiently waiting to be read. I am really looking forward to getting to these two. My daughter has read, Between Shades of Gray and highly recommends it.

Between the shades of Gray

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.


Salt to the sea

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lynnda Pollio


I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lynnda Pollio to Layered Pages today. Lynnda was born in rural New Jersey, she grew up surrounded by trees. She communicated to insects, raised baby birds that fell from their nests, and wandered through a childhood feeling like she belonged somewhere else…like there was always some other time, some other place that was waiting for her. As an adult, Lynnda moved to New York City and began experiencing life from many perspectives. After her father died, she heard a voice tell her to go to Sedona, AZ, and that began a journey into spiritual awakening. She immersed herself in raw foods, spiritual disciplines, energy work and levels of awareness.

Lynnda has always been deeply committed to elevating human consciousness. This life purpose guided her as an accomplished senior advertising executive, as a consultant and thought leader in conscious business practices, and as the world’s first Chief Consciousness Officer, supporting Fortune 500 companies by helping them engage the human technologies of wisdom, intuition, compassion, empathy, forgiveness and gratitude. Currently, as a New Consciousness Educator and Author, Lynnda continues to connect people with the universal truths that lie within their hearts, so that we all may reach a more sustainable, caring future. Lynnda never expected to be a writer until she heard the mystical voice of Addie Mae Aubrey, a Southern, African-American woman asking to tell her story. Together they shared an amazing journey through space and time that transformed the author’s life forever.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I discovered IndieBrag online, as I stumbled around looking for a platform to promote Trusting the Currents. As an Indie-published author, it is difficult to find ways to illuminate your book. I loved how authentic they were. I wasn’t looking for anyone to tell me the book was good. I wanted honest insights. I felt I got that from IndieBrag…lucky for me they loved Trusting the Currents and awarded me a medallion.

Tell me about your book, Trusting The Currents.

Trusting the Currents

 I never expected to write Trusting the Currents until I started hearing the voice of a Southern, African American woman, Addie Mae Aubrey. I began writing what she told me and two years later I had the first draft. I wrote stream of consciousness. I never knew the story until I wrote it, and she always picked up where she left off. It took me another 10 years to finish the book, (It was quite a journey) and Indie publish it. It’s an interesting novel in that it has three layers to it. The first is the story itself, of a teenage black girl in the late 30’s/early 40s rural South, the second are inspirational life messages woven through her story. And the third is an energetic frequency that helps to bring the reader deep into their own heart and story while they read about Addie Mae.

Tell me about Mae Aubrey.

Addie Mae has been the most important person in my life. She changed everything I became. Through sharing her own life experiences and struggles, she brings readers into their own struggles and opens their heart to find answers. She came to me as an old woman but she told me the story of her teenage years. Though I was told Aubrey was her last name, I was writing the book for a year before she gave me her first name. She explained I had to discover it for myself. I kept changing it but nothing felt right. Then, while watching TV one day, on the anniversary of the Birmingham church bombing that killed 4 little girls, on the screen was a picture of each of the girls. As soon as I saw Addie Mae Collins, I knew that was her name, Addie Mae. It became my way of honoring those girls. For the rest of the writing of the first draft, I kept a picture of Addie Mae Collins taped to my computer. Addie Mae sort of shape shifts and becomes each reader.

Will you tell me a little of what life was like for her in 1930’s rural south?

The emphasis of the story is not on her location, her race, her age, or her gender. These are just place marks for a more universal theme of sharing the human experience. In Addie Mae’s mind, she just happened to be living in the South at that time, just happened to be black and female. While I was writing, I had to keep these structures as loose as possible. (I actually just guessed when she was living, by the story itself). I did not know why at the time. But now I realize it was because everyone can see themselves in Addie Mae, regardless of race, gender, age, religion and culture. By keeping the details of her life loose, the readers’ mind does not create judgment about who she is and they can see themselves in her easier. But, she lived a small, simple life in the South at that time.

What is one of the things she learns about the spiritual world?

Two things define Addie Mae’s journey and the person she becomes at the end of the book. Reading and spirituality. The spiritual center of the book is her cousin, Jenny. It is through Jenny’s guidance that Addie Mae experiences the magic of nature and of the journey of self-discovery. She learns to trust her own inner guidance, even when she does not quite understand it. Unlike Jenny, who is connected to “The Invisibles” and is steadfast in her beliefs, Addie Mae stumbles through her spiritual growth. But ultimately, she learns to “trust the currents.”

Who is Jenny?

Jenny is Addie Mae’s beautiful, bi-racial cousin who comes to stay with Addie Mae and her mother after her own mother is killed in a fire. She is brought there by her shadowy step-father, Uncle Joe. Jenny lives by her own rules, which cause her to be a bit of an outcast. But she is the wisdom keeper of the family. Throughout the struggles and tragedy in the story, Jenny is always Jenny. She is my favorite character.

Why did you choose to write this story?

I did not choose to write this story. It chose me. I never expected to me a writer, particularly write a book. But here I am, an Author, having won 10 book awards and garnering beautiful reviews. When I first wrote Trusting the Currents, I did not know if it was meant for anyone but me. At first, I just HAD to write it. I was reluctant but Addie Mae was insistent and I could not do anything else during the day if I did not write some of the story. Once the first draft was completed, Addie Mae left and the rest of the book—the years of editing, giving up, editing more, giving up again (because why was I doing this?) and then deciding to Indie publish was all mine. Trusting the Currents has defined my life in many ways. And I hope it helps others in their own journey through life.

Who designed your book cover?

Vanessa NoHeart from Sacramento, CA. She did an amazing job. I wanted a cover that would help people experience the same feeling while holding the book that they do when reading it. And she succeeded. Everyone loves to hold the book! People tell me they can feel the energy of the story within it. Particularly the paperback.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Trusting the Currents took 10 years to complete because I kept giving up, then would be called back by Addie Mae, the narrator. She would not let me surrender. For most of the book’s writing, it was called Soulseeds. I was very attached to the name. But much happened in my life during those ten years. I struggled. It was when my mother fell and I had to care for her 24/7 for months on end, that I went back to the book one long, sad night. While I wrote another edit, I felt a new energy come into the story. When I finished that edit a couple of months later, I just knew it wanted to be called something else. I actually cried giving up the title Soulseeds as it had become part of my identity. Then I asked the book what it wanted to be called. A couple of weeks later after continued asking, I heard Trusting the Currents. So, I read the book through again with that title in mind. And I realized that Trusting the Currents is what the book is all about. It was perfect. Now I love it and can’t imagine ever having another title.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I write mostly in bed, mostly in the morning before the day’s events begin to clog my mind with the past and the future. For me, writing is very much about being in the present and allowing it to take me deeply into the moment. I write what I feel first, whatever wants to be heard. Later, I go back and find better words and work on the structure of the writing so it flows. But if I don’t have the initial resonance with what is trying to rise from me, the writing never works. The resonance is everything.

When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?

I was never stuck during the initial writing. Listening to Addie Mae, I wrote stream of consciousness. I never knew where I was going. It was a year before I knew I was even writing a book. I just had to write! She always picked up where she left off, so the first draft (which took about 2 years) was only dependent on me willing to listen and write and follow her direction. During the long years of editing I got stuck often because I had no idea what I was doing. Sometimes I gave up for months. Sometimes days later the words would come to me. Sometimes I would work on one sentence for hours because it had to sound a certain way. I think, in the end, it was always about not giving up. Even when I was stuck. Just give it some time and wait. The answer is always there.

Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?

I am very immersed in the work of consciousness. It’s not so much a hobby as a calling. I believe we are experiencing a major shift in global consciousness. Understanding what that is and how to engage the energies to lead us all to better lives and a more sustainable future is a life-long quest of learning and helping. I practice intuition, resonance training among other energy practices. And I love connecting to people who share this inner drive. I guess seeking in my hobby.




Awards Trusting the Currents has won

2015 B.R.A.G Medallion
2014 Nautilus Book Awards Gold Medal in Fiction
2015 IPPY Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction
2015 National Indie Excellence Awards Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction
2015 International Book Awards Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction
2015 Readers Favorite Gold Medal in Inspirational Fiction
2015 USA Book News Best Book Awards top Winner in Visionary Fiction
2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist in Inspirational Fiction
2015 Los Angeles Book Festival, Honorable Mention in Spirituality
2015 Writer’s Digest Book Awards, Honorable Mention in Inspiration

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to Lynnda Pollio who is the author of, Trusting the Currents, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Trusting the Currents, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag team member


Confessions of a Book Blogger

Keep calm and blog on II

On February 2nd I blogged about how Authors should support Book Bloggers and gave some tips of the trade. Blogging isn’t always easy and takes a lot of time and effort. I am a firm believer it takes both the author and the blogger to work together for support of each other’s medium on social media.

Today, I am going to talk about how book bloggers should support authors in their endeavors. Bloggers and Authors lead such busy lives and it’s not always easy to be in contact with each other. We are always pulled in so many different directions. In many ways, I like to think that bloggers and authors have like minds in creativity and structure. We are in constant need of nurturing that creativity. But before I get carried away on that thought, let’s get back to bloggers supporting authors.

Check list for supporting authors:

  1. This is the most important so I’m adding this first. DO NOT troll an author. Do NOT. I’ve seen bloggers use their platform to bash and harasses authors-for whatever reason-and I have zero respect for that. Like I said on my other post to the authors, if you have a disagreement, do not further engage. And that means, do not smear their name on a public platform. Now, I don’t need to go into the reasons why you should not harass authors. You should be smart enough to figure out why. I hope.
  2. When an author sends you books or bookmarks, be sure to give them your thanks. I even blog about it at times or share on Facebook what I received. Not only do authors like that but so do readers!
  3. I get flooded with so many request from authors to be featured on Layered Pages. Sometimes, emails get lost or there are just too many to get to. This year I made a promise to myself that I would do my best to respond to everyone. Now, I know there are authors who send out spam emails and we have learned to ignore those. But really try to be gracious in answering emails.
  4. Reviews: It’s a bloggers job to give an honest analysis of books we review. It does not mean that you down right insult the author. Give constructive reasons why you did not care for the book. Don’t just say, “I did not like this book, I don’t recommend it.” If you are going to write a review stating you did not care for the book, state why but be respectful.
  5. I like to come up with creative ways in supporting authors on Layered Pages. Every year you blog, try to come up with some new ways to feature the authors you love. This year, I have come up with a few new series. Stay tuned for those. Authors are jumping on them! Its going to be exciting!
  6. Follow and interact with your favorite authors on social media. This helps attract more attention to their books and what can be more exciting than getting to know the writer of your favorite stories?!
  7. We are not the author’s every day readers. We are a book reviewers and professional readers. Most of us are anyways… Let’s behave accordingly.
  8. Authors put their heart and soul into their stories, lets show them our gratitude and keep encouraging them to bring us more wonderful stories. Without them, we would be lost.

Check out my good friend and fellow book blogger’s post on The Author/Blogger Relationship!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Spotlight: The Renegade Queen by Eve Flynn

02_The Renegade Queen

Two Renegades So Controversial, They Were Erased From History

Discarded by society, she led a social revolution. Disgusted by war, he sought a new world.

She was the first woman to run for President, campaigning before women could vote.

He was the Hero of Vicksburg, disillusioned with the government after witnessing the devastating carnage of the Civil War.

Their social revolution attracted the unwanted who were left out of the new wealth: the freed slaves, the new immigrants, and women.

Who were they?

This is the true story of Victoria Woodhull and the love of her life, James Blood.

Adored by the poor, hated by the powerful, forced into hiding during their lifetimes and erased from history after death, the legend of their love lives on.

It’s 1869 and Victoria has a choice to make. She can stay in an abusive marriage and continue to work as a psychic, or she can take the offer of support from handsome Civil War general James Blood and set about to turn society upside down. Victoria chooses revolution.

But revolutions are expensive, and Victoria needs money. James introduces Victoria to one of the wealthiest men in America—Commodore Vanderbilt. Along with her loose and scandalous sister, Tennessee, Victoria manipulates Vanderbilt and together they conspire to crash the stock market—and profit from it. Victoria then parlays her fortune into the first female-owned brokerage firm.

When her idol Susan B. Anthony publishes scandalous rumors about Victoria’s past, Victoria enters into a fierce rivalry with Susan to control the women’s movement. James supports Victoria’s efforts despite his deep fears that she may lose more than the battle. She might lose part of herself.

Victoria starts her own newspaper, testifies to Congress, and even announces her candidacy for President. But when Victoria adopts James’s radical ideas and free love beliefs, she ignites new, bruising, battles with Susan B. Anthony and the powerful Reverend Henry Beecher. These skirmishes turn into an all-out war, with Victoria facing prejudice, prosecution, and imprisonment. Ultimately, Victoria and James face the hardest choice of all: the choice between their country and their love.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | RJ Julia

03_Eva Flynn

Eva was raised on bedtime stories of feminists (the tooth fairy even brought Susan B. Anthony dollars) and daytime lessons on American politics. On one fateful day years ago when knowledge was found on bound paper, she discovered two paragraphs about Victoria Woodhull in the WXYZ volume of the World Book Encyclopedia. When she realized that neither of her brilliant parents (a conservative political science professor and a liberal feminist) had never heard of her, it was the beginning of a lifelong fascination not only with Victoria Woodhull but in discovering the stories that the history books do not tell. Brave battles fought, new worlds sought, loves lost all in the name of some future glory have led her to spend years researching the period of Reconstruction. Her first book, The Renegade Queen, explores the forgotten trailblazer Victoria Woodhull and her rivalry with Susan B. Anthony.

Eva was born and raised in Tennessee, earned her B.A. in Political Science from DePauw in Greencastle, Indiana and still lives in Indiana. Eva enjoys reading, classic movies, and travelling. She loves to hear from readers, you may reach her at, and follow her on Goodreads and Twitter.

Hello New Books

Hot Milk

Pub Date Jul 12, 2016

I have been sleuthing my mother’s symptoms for as long as I can remember. If I see myself as an unwilling detective with a desire for justice, is her illness an unsolved crime? If so, who is the villain and who is the victim?

Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant–their very last chance–in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.

But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia’s mother’s illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sophia’s role as detective–tracking her mother’s symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain–deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.

Hot Milk is a profound exploration of the sting of sexuality, of unspoken female rage, of myth and modernity, the lure of hypochondria and big pharma, and, above all, the value of experimenting with life; of being curious, bewildered, and vitally alive to the world.

Deborah Levy writes fiction, plays, and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, widely broadcast on the BBC, and translated into fourteen languages. The author of highly praised novels including Swimming Home (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012), The Unloved, and Billy and Girl, the story collection Black Vodka, and the essay Things I Don’t Want to Know, she lives in London.

Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray

Pub Date Jun 14, 2016

Mary Anna Custis Lee is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, wife of Confederate General Robert E Lee, and heiress to Virginia’s storied Arlington house and General Washington’s personal belongings.

Born in bondage at Arlington, Selina Norris Gray learns to read and write in the schoolroom Mary and her mother keep for the slave children, and eventually becomes Mary’s housekeeper and confidante. As Mary’s health declines, Selina becomes her personal maid, strengthening a bond that lasts until death parts them.

Forced to flee Arlington at the start of the Civil War, Mary entrusts the keys to her beloved home to no one but Selina. When Union troops begin looting the house, it is Selina who confronts their commander and saves many of its historic treasures.

In a story spanning crude slave quarters, sunny schoolrooms, stately wedding parlors, and cramped birthing rooms, novelist Dorothy Love amplifies the astonishing true-life account of an extraordinary alliance and casts fresh light on the tumultuous years leading up to and through the wrenching battle for a nation’s soul.

A classic American tale, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray is the first novel to chronicle this beautiful fifty-year friendship forged at the crossroads of America’s journey from enslavement to emancipation.

The Midnight Assassins

Pub Date Apr 5, 2016

A sweeping narrative history of a terrifying serial killer–America’s first–who stalked Austin, Texas in 1885

In the late 1800s, the city of Austin, Texas was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But beginning in December 1884, Austin was terrorized by someone equally as vicious and, in some ways, far more diabolical than London’s infamous Jack the Ripper. For almost exactly one year, the Midnight Assassin crisscrossed the entire city, striking on moonlit nights, using axes, knives, and long steel rods to rip apart women from every race and class. At the time the concept of a serial killer was unthinkable, but the murders continued, the killer became more brazen, and the citizens’ panic reached a fever pitch.

Before it was all over, at least a dozen men would be arrested in connection with the murders, and the crimes would expose what a newspaper described as “the most extensive and profound scandal ever known in Austin.” And yes, when Jack the Ripper began his attacks in 1888, London police investigators did wonder if the killer from Austin had crossed the ocean to terrorize their own city.

With vivid historical detail and novelistic flair, Texas Monthly journalist Skip Hollandsworth brings this terrifying saga to life.