Q&A with Martha Conway, the author of SUGARLAND

Sugarland (Medium)

Major excitement around here, folks, as I am sharing with you today about a great new book AND I have an author Q&A to share with you, too!

SUGARLAND is billed as a “Jazz Age Mystery”and I am so excited to dive into this novel (it is at the top of my TBR pile – thank you for my review copy).

Here’s some background on the book:

SUGARLAND

A New Mystery by Edgar-Nominated Author Martha Conway

In 1921, young jazz pianist Eve Riser witnesses the accidental killing of a bootlegger. To cover up the crime, she agrees to deliver money and a letter to a man named Rudy Hardy in Chicago. But when Eve gets to Chicago she discovers that her stepsister Chickie, a popular nightclub singer, is pregnant by a man she won’t name. That night Rudy Hardy is killed before Eve’s eyes in a brutal drive-by shooting, and Chickie disappears.

Eve needs to find Chickie, but she can’t do it alone. Lena Hardy, Rudy’s sister, wants to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder, but she needs Eve’s connections. Together they navigate the back alleys and speakeasies of 1920s Chicago, encountering petty thugs, charismatic bandleaders, and a mysterious nightclub owner called the Walnut who seems to be the key to it all. As they fight racial barriers trying to discover the truth, Eve and Lena unravel a twisted tale of secret shipments and gangster rivalry.

SUGARLAND mixes the excitement of a new kind of music—jazz—with the darker side of Prohibition in a gripping story with “real suspense for anyone who likes a good mystery.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Find SUGARLAND on Amazon and Goodreads!

And here’s some info on Ms. Conway:

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Martha Conway is the author of Sugarland: A Jazz Age Mystery [Noontime Books], available via Amazon as of May 12, 2016. Conway’s first novel was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her second novel, Thieving Forest, won the 2014 North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has been published in The Iowa Review, The Carolina Quarterly Review, The Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Folio, and other journals. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program and UC Berkeley Extension, and is a recipient of a California Arts Council Fellowship for Creative Writing. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She currently lives in San Francisco.

Connect with Martha on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and her website: www.marthaconway.com

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Ms. Conway graciously agreed to answer some of the questions I had about her writing of SUGARLAND:

  1. How did you come up with this idea for the novel?

The kernel of the story came from a jazz song entitled “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” (“If You See My Mother”) with Sidney Bechet on saxophone. As I listened to it one day, I realized that I was imagining a story in the back of my mind: a woman walking along winter road looking for something or someone. The story that became Sugarland spun itself out from there.

BBNB: This is such an interesting answer — the novel writing process is so rooted in creativity and imagination. This answer just captures that sentiment!

  1. Have you always been interested in jazz? Chicago?

I’m from the Cleveland, and Chicago feels like a sister city to me. I have many friends and relatives who live there. I loved the fact that jazz migrated to Chicago early on from New Orleans, and then morphed (as jazz does) into a new sound. I’ve always loved jazz, especially the very earliest form of the genre. You can hear the excitement of a brand new form.

      3. What made you choose this time period for your story?

In 1921, the Great War was still just recently over, and men were coming home changed or damaged. This combined with a new form of music and the beginning of Prohibition just seemed too good a mix to ignore. It’s a perfect setting for drama, and for conflicting desires. Plus the 1920’s had this feeling of a world changing, of modernizing in an exciting way, which I find similar to the technical revolution we’ve been having lately.

  1. What was the most interesting fact you found while researching this novel?

In the earliest decades of jazz, there were many more female musicians—and not just singers, but pianists and horn players—who played professionally. Later, when jazz as a music genre was absorbed into the mainstream of American entertainment, women became less acceptable on stage, unless they were singers. Also there were quite a few female composers, who write and published songs under pseudonyms.

BBNB: Wow, that is something I did not know. I know there were many great female jazz singers but composers? Love this answer!

  1. What is your next novel going to be about (if you can say!)?

My next novel takes place on the Ohio River in antebellum America: A socially awkward costume designer takes a job on a riverboat theatre, and finds herself caught up in the Underground Railroad. The title, as of now, is The Floating Theatre.

BBNB: HF? Antebellum? Theater AND the Underground Railroad? Sign me up!

  1. What about your previous novels? Do you prefer writing historical fiction to other genres? What were they about?

My first novel was a mystery, and it took place in present-day San Francisco. After that I began writing historical fiction. I’m not sure why I didn’t start writing historical fiction right away, considering I was a Victorian Studies major in college! I love doing research about day-to-day life. What people ate, how they did their chores, what they were afraid of, and what their comforts were. Most of all, I love reversing stereotypes. My previous book, Thieving Forest, takes place in Ohio when Ohio was considered The West (early 1800’s). My friend describes it as “Gone Girl meets Little Women.”

BBNB: Readers, please know that I did not divulge my complete obsession with LMA and Little Women, nor did I interview while wearing my snood and hoop skirt! 

  1. Anything else you’d like to add – please know I’m open! 

Thank you for these excellent questions, Beth! I’m so happy you are showcasing Sugarland on your site. Writing it was a labor of love.

BBNB: Thank YOU for sharing your time, your info, and most of all your talent with us!

Readers, stay tuned for my review of SUGARLAND in the upcoming weeks.

Look for it an an indie, your library, or online!

 

HFVBTour and Giveaway for PROMISED TO THE CROWN by Aimie K. Runyan

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I’m part of the HFVBTour today for PROMISED TO THE CROWN, a historical fiction novel that I found so interesting and loved reading!

Here’s what the tour has to say:

Promised to the Crown (Daughters of New France, Book One)
by Aimie K. Runyan

Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Kensington
Paperback & eBook; 352 Pages

Series: Daughters of New France
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Bound for a new continent, and a new beginning.

In her illuminating debut novel, Aimie K. Runyan masterfully blends fact and fiction to explore the founding of New France through the experiences of three young women who, in 1667, answer Louis XIV’s call and journey to the Canadian colony.

They are known as the filles du roi, or “King’s Daughters”—young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their duty is to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens. Each prospective bride has her reason for leaving—poverty, family rejection, a broken engagement. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance of happiness.

Once in Quebec, Elisabeth quickly accepts baker Gilbert Beaumont, who wants a business partner as well as a wife. Nicole, a farmer’s daughter from Rouen, marries a charming officer who promises comfort and security. Scarred by her traumatic past, Rose decides to take holy vows rather than marry. Yet no matter how carefully she chooses, each will be tested by hardship and heartbreaking loss—and sustained by the strength found in their uncommon friendship, and the precarious freedom offered by their new home.

An engaging, engrossing debut.”—Greer Macallister, USA Today bestselling author of The Magician’s Lie

An absorbing adventure with heart.”—Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

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Aimie K. Runyan, member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Women’s Fiction Writers Association, has been an avid student of French and Francophone Studies for more than fifteen years. While working on her Master’s thesis on the brave women who helped found French Canada, she was fortunate enough to win a generous grant from the Quebec government to study onsite for three months which enabled the detailed research necessary for her work. Aimie lives in Colorado with her husband and two children.

For more information please visit Aimie’s website. You can also find her on Facebook,Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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This book introduced a whole new piece of history to me and I found it fascinating. I loved these women’s stories, even though they certainly each had her own share of struggle and hardship. I see that this is Book One – which thrilled me as I would love to read the next books in this series.

I had to ask myself while reading: could I have done this? Could I have travelled across the ocean to be the wife of a man I would scarcely have time to get to know and then face all the challenges of living in the New World? I’m not sure I could have been so brave!

There is a Giveaway associated with this tour – so enter and hopefully win a copy!

Giveaway

Two copies of Promised to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan are up for grabs! To enter, please use the GLEAM form below.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Link to Giveaway: hhttps://gleam.io/ZEMHo/promised-to-the-crown

Thank you so much for my review e-copy!

HFVBT Book Blast for GIOCONDA by Lucille Turner

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I’m excited to tell you today about a great new historical fiction title: GIOCONDA. I love reading about Leonardo Da Vinci!

There’s a Giveaway, too!

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Gioconda: A Novel of Leonardo Da Vinci
by Lucille Turner
Publication Date: August 1, 2012
Granta Books
eBook & Paperback; 304 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

In a world where everyone wants to tell you how to think, what do you do when you know that they are wrong?

Anchiano 1452. A boy is born to a father who will never understand him. Unless he finds the power to become what he could be, he will remain what he is, the son of a notary from a hamlet in the hills, nobody. As he grows up out of step with everyone around him, Leonardo must follow his instincts if he is ever to fulfil the vow he makes: to save people from each other — to save them from themselves. But the time will come when he will have to make a choice. Does he share his knowledge and pay the price for it? Or does he do what his hands have always told him to do? Hide it.

He looks at his aching hands. Runs them over his bony face and rough beard. How long before his body gives up, and when it does, what of it? If he stops now, what will happen – will he live more? What is more, more of what?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Book Depository | IndieBound
Praise
“Gioconda proposes an elegant solution to the problem of why the portrait of the wife of a silk merchant was never delivered … Gioconda is a qualified success, scrupulous with its sources, careful with its conclusions.” –Financial Times

“An elegant, historical debut novel… cleverly constructed and imagined … full of vivid characters and well-drawn incidents. Turner’s careful research and graceful prose style make Gioconda a pleasure to read.” –Tina Jackson, Metro

“Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci’s astonishing genius is brought to life in this vividly atmospheric novel. From his solitary childhood to the conception of his iconic masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, this richly imagined life story will inspire you to re-examine his ideas, drawings and paintings.” –Easy Living

“Lucille offers a fresh and intimate perspective on da Vinci’s life …From the first page she draws the reader in with such a natural easy style you feel you were observing Leonardo da Vinci as he really was.” –Bournemouth Echo

About the Author

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Author of Gioconda, a novel about the life of Leonardo Da Vinci, Lucille Turner is an international prize-winning novelist who lives between England and France. She has an MA in Comparative Literature and teaches part-time at university in France.

For more information please visit Lucille Turner’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Discover a New Blog!

Book Blast Schedule:
Monday, May 2
Passages to the Past

Tuesday, May 3
Back Porchervations

Wednesday, May 4
Book Lovers Paradise

Thursday, May 5
Book Nerd

Friday, May 6
Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Saturday, May 7
The Book Junkie Reads

Monday, May 9
The Never-Ending Book

Tuesday, May 10
100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, May 11
Broken Teepee

Thursday, May 12
CelticLady’s Reviews
With Her Nose Stuck In A Book

Friday, May 13
Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne

But wait! There’s more!

Giveaway:
To enter to win a paperback copy of Gioconda by Lucille Turner please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. Two copies are up for grabs!

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/tTaxf/gioconda-book-blast

 

 

Historical Fiction Virtual Tour for TAMING THE TWISTED by Jodie Toohey

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Here I am today as part of one of my favorite things – an HFVBT blog tour! Today we are featuring TAMING THE TWISTED by Jodie Toohey.

Here’s what HFVBTours has to say:

TAMING THE TWISTED
BY JODIE TOOHEY

Publication Date: August 15, 2015
Wordsy Woman Press
eBook & Paperback; 242 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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READ AN EXCERPT.

Taming the Twisted is written in a similar style to Laura Ingalls Wilders’ Little House books though updated for modern times. It might read as if she’d left in all of the juicy tidbits about things people didn’t talk about during the time when she was writing. Taming the Twisted is a story of destruction, romance, mystery, and deceit set against a back drop of an actual historical event.

In early June, 1860, Abigail enjoyed a peaceful home life with her parents, younger sister, and twin toddler brothers. Their home in Camanche, Iowa, where they’d emigrated from Pennsylvania, was almost complete and her beau, Joseph Sund, had recently proposed marriage.

That changes the evening of June 3rd when a tornado rips through town, killing her parents. At the mass funeral for the over two dozen people who perished in the storm, she learns Marty Cranson, with whom Abigail witnessed Joseph having a heated argument, died, but at the hands of a person rather than the tornado.

In addition to being faced with raising her young siblings, Joseph has disappeared without a trace and a stranger, Marshall Stevenson, appears, offering to help Abigail repair the families’ home and cultivate the newly planted farm crops.

Abigail, while developing romantic feelings for Marshall, tolerating the scorn of town woman Pamela Mackenrow, and working as a seamstress and storekeeper to support her siblings, becomes obsessed with finding out who killed Marty, hoping that and not that he no longer loved her, was the reason Joseph left without saying goodbye.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY

About the Author03_Jodie Toohey

Jodie Toohey is the author of four additional books, two poetry collections – Crush and Other Love Poems for Girls (2008) and Other Side of Crazy (918studio, 2013) – as well as two novels, Missing Emily: Croatian Life Letters (2012) and Melody Madson – May It Please the Court? (2014).

When Jodie is not writing poetry or fiction, she is helping authors, soon-to-be-authors, and want-to-be authors from pre-idea to reader through her company, Wordsy Woman Author Services.

WEBSITE | BLOG | FACEBOOK | TWITTER |GOOGLE+ | GOODREADS | PINTEREST

 

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Here I am again!

While I enjoyed this story I did have a few issues with it. For me, personally, I find it challenging when books jump around in time (unless it’s a clear flashback/telling of a story for the majority of the book). The beginning of this book moved around from the tornado then backstory then back to the tornado. I think it could have built to the tornado without starting there. That said, I also have some issues with the “mash-up” genre, which is quite popular now and which most people find exciting, especially as it relates to YA/kids books. Is this historical fiction? Romance? A problem novel? A mystery? All of the above? To me at least, I like my books (and my theater, too) to commit to a genre and stay there! I know that many would disagree.

All that aside, I enjoyed reading this book and liked the characters. I was rooting for the main characters as life was not easy for them. I also love a good clean read, and a happy ending! I found it really interesting that this book was based on a real tornado that occurred in Iowa and which wreaked much havoc.

Thank you for my review copy!

Review: VANESSA AND HER SISTER by Priya Parmar

I saw this come up on Net Galley and realized how little I knew about Virginia Woolf so I requested it. This was a truly fascinating account of Virginia and her sister Vanessa and their lives in London in the early 20th century, along with their highly gifted friends. This group came to be known as the Bloomsbury Group.

Please note the following may have some plot SPOILERS.

Parmar does an excellent job of portraying Virginia’s genius intellect, coupled with her extreme emotional neediness and her mental instability. Both women had suffered severe loss in their family and were quite devoted to each other. However, Virginia’s connection to her sister bordered on the unhealthy and was almost obsessive. At times reading this novel, I felt so sorry for Vanessa. Virginia pretty much worked to take over anything she had, and then she usually destroyed it (including Vanessa’s marriage). Vanessa herself was a gifted artist, but her life and relationships and talents were hindered, in my opinion, by her sister’s overpossessiveness.

Throughout the book we are treated to glimpses into the social interactions of their partners in the group of intellectuals (writers and artists mostly) that became the Bloomsbury Group. The story is told from Vanessa’s point of view but also through telegrams, letters, diary entries, etc. I really enjoyed this book, though it was a bit depressing. I could have kept reading for about another 10-15 years of their lives! Kudos to Ms. Parmar on what I believe is her debut novel.


Find Vanessa and Her Sister at an Indie (I am an Indie Bound Affiliate)

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HF Virtual Tour: WHITHER THOU GOEST by Anna Belfrage

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Today I am taking part in the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour for Anna Belfrage’s WHITHER THOU GOEST, the seventh book in the Graham Saga. This series focuses on time traveller, Alex Graham, as she goes back to the 1600’s to be with her soulmate, husband Matthew, and their trials, tribulations, and adventures.

In this installment, there is no lack of excitement! Alex and Matthew start off with the issue of their pregnant daughter, Sarah, the victim of an earlier gang rape by the deplorable Burley men. Trying to help Sarah cope with her feelings and emotional scars, along with what to do with a new baby, are all-consuming tasks, second only to tracking down what remains of those Burleys, previously thought dead but maybe not…

Then Matthew receives a letter from brother-in-bad-blood Luke, begging him to help with his son who has been taken as a slave to the West Indies. Matthew decides blood is thicker than water and, along with Alex, they head out to the Caribbean to try to locate and help their nephew.

This book is a steady stream of events and excitement, along with a big dose of romance, similar to the Outlander series (which I love) but not as lengthy. I really connected to the character of Alex, who is smart and plucky but not perfect. She loves her husband but also gets jealous. She is attractive but not ridiculously so – in fact I think her confidence and integrity are her most appealing characteristics. I have not read the earlier books and while this one can certainly stand on its own, having the earlier books would have made my understanding of characters a tad easier as I would have the backstory as it happened. I enjoyed Belfrage’s writing which has an easy flow to it. I think I will go back and read A RIP IN THE VEIL which is the first novel in this series.

Thank you for letting me take part in this tour and for my review copy!

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HFV Blog Tour: SELDOM COME BY by Sherryl Caulfield with GIVEAWAY link!

I’m thrilled today to be taking part in the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour of SELDOM COME BY – Book One in the Iceberg Trilogy – by Sherryl Caulfield.

SELDOM COME BY tells the story of Rebeca Crowe, a teen living in Newfoundland in 1914, and Samuel Dalton, the nineteen-year-old shipwrecked boy she saves and comes to love. This beautifully written story covers almost thirty years, starting with Rebeca and Samuel and their burgeoning love. Rebeca’s family is harsh (particularly her father) and she fears that her sister Rachel loves Samuel, too. When she realizes that he does indeed care for her, they then have to face her authoritarian and strictly religious father, who does not support them. Samuel is actually from Toronto and his family is there; eventually he leaves to go home. Then the war intervenes as he joins the forces for WWI. WIll their love survive the forces pulling them apart?

As I already mentioned, this book covers about thirty years in their lives (in over 500 pages), and with it comes all the tragedies and joys of real lives lived. These characters are drawn so clearly and seem so believable. You get wrapped up in their story! Yet, this book was so realistic that you knew while reading it that you couldn’t count on it being all happiness and light.

Beautifully written, and just the first in a series about these people and their families, this is a beautifully written story that captures the imagination.

Thank you for my copy and for making me part of this blog tour!

Here’s a bit of info on Sherryl and how she came to write this novel:

Australian-born Sherryl Caulfield is a marketer, writer and traveller. After twenty years working for some of the world’s leading technology brands and a stint with Outward Bound, she longed to write about the human experience and the redemptive qualities of nature.

In 2006, haunted by an encounter with a woman she met in Canada, Sherryl started what has now become known as The Iceberg Trilogy. From her home in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand, she distilled the lives of three generations of women – Rebecca, Evangeline and Lindsay – over the course of a century. In the telling of their stories she crafted a series rich in landscapes – of sea, land and the human soul.

Here’s the scoop on the GIVEAWAY!

Giveaway

To enter to win an Autographed copy of Seldom Come By, please follow the link and complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on December 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Audiobook Review: THE DRESSMAKER by Kate Alcott

I had heard of the novel THE DRESSMAKER but never read it, so I took it from the audiobook shelf at the library. In this book, set in 1912, Tess is a young seamstress who wants to make her way in the world. She has a wonderful opportunity when she signs on to be part of the famous designer, Lady Duff Gordon’s, household.They sail for America, but unfortunately on the Titanic! Well, of course we all know what happens, but Tess and Lady Duff Gordon and her husband survive, though there is a question about The Duff Gordons’ actions and if she and her husband kept people out of their lifeboat. Tess is thrown into the spotlight of the hearings after they reach New York (which are based on the actual trials and evidence given by Titanic survivors). She must decide what is the truth and how she can be true to herself even if it means not being faithful to her employer (and there’s a little romance thrown in there, too!)

Interestingly, there really was a designer named Lady Lucile Duff Gordon whose experiences were like those of the book, and she was the inspiration for this novel. Susan Duerden is the narrator and she does a nice job with the different and has a lovely English accent. That said, the one voice I didn’t care for was Tess’ as she sounded to high-pitched and a little vapid, when the character was actually quite smart and strong.

I enjoyed listening to this one (kid-friendly as well for those drives to school!).

Historical Fiction Blog Tour Review: A LITTLE WICKED by Janet Macreery

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Hello! I’m happy today to be part of HFVB tour’s A LITTLE WICKED blog tour, hosting Janet Macreery’s YA novel about a young, resilient Scottish girl in the 1600’s.

In A LITTLE WICKED, young Dory’s clan is murdered by a rival clan, and she is sent by her uncle to America. Dory first poses as a boy in order to get passage on a ship (where she works as the bird boy). Upon arriving in Massachusetts, she finds her uncle and aunt and joins their household – in Salem. It is 1692 and that is definitely NOT a year to be living in Salem, Massachusetts! Dory is drawn in to the hysteria over witchcraft. Will she have the wits to once again survive?

I enjoyed reading this short and entertaining book. I loved the character of Dory, who was resourceful and strong and sensible. This poor girl had one tough time after another, yet she never gave up. I also liked the little twist at the end!

Recommended for older elementary readers and middle school, it should also be engaging for reluctant readers.

Thank you, Amy of HFVBT and Ms. Macreery, for my review copy!

Here’s a You Tube book trailer (love the bagpipes!):