Grand Finale Blitz: Through the White Wood


On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Book Tour Grand Finale for
Through the White Wood
By Jessica Leake

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops
you’ll find snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

Launch – Note from the Author

Hi everyone! I am so excited to share my latest book, Through the White Wood, with you. I have always loved Russian folktales—there’s just something about such fantastical (and often creepy) characters set against a winter backdrop of snow and towering trees that I’ve always found so compelling. . .

Caffeine Addled Ramblings – Review & Interview

TTWW is the kind of book that keeps you wanting more in the best ways possible.”

G: Speaking of the psychology of characters, we discover early on that Katya isn’t the only one in the book with powers, so how do you choose which powers belong to whom? And does that have anything to do with their personalities at all?

J: It does have a lot to do with their personalities. The reason I chose earth for Grigory is a bit of a spoiler, so I won’t mention it here, but Ivan has the power to negate others’ abilities because he’s sort of the “protector” of the group. For Boris, I thought it would be funny for this guy who loves cooking so much to be a fearsome fighter with superhuman strength. And Kharan was just made for the assassin/spy role.

Hallie Reads – Review

“A story of friendship, magic, romance, and danger, Through the White Wood is fast-paced, engaging, and fun. I love how Leake pulled me into the story and made me care about these characters and what would happen. It’s definitely an enjoyable read, and I highly recommend it to fantasy lovers.”

Wishful Endings – Review

“I thoroughly enjoyed this story from beginning to end! With the rich setting, magical aspects, character development, a motley crew, and romance, there’s not much more readers can ask for. I’m looking forward to more from this author!”

Adventures Thru Wonderland – Review

“Katya and Sasha are each so fun to read about, and I loved seeing them face the challenges and dangers in this story. Giving some strong ‘Ice Queen/Frozen’ vibes, but I loved the classic inspirations used in this story, and really enjoyed the direction Jessica takes [in] this one!”

Dazzled by Books – Review

“Jessica Leake did it again! Through the White Wood is absolutely amazing. This woman knows how to write. If you have not picked up her books, you totally should. She brings such a rich tale to her readers. I just can’t get enough.”

Bibliobibuli YA – Excerpt

There are countless monsters in this world. Some with fangs, some who skitter in the darkness just out of sight, some who wear human skin but whose hearts have turned dark as forest shadows.

And as my fellow villagers dragged me, bound by rough rope, from the cellar of the elder, I knew that these men and women I’d grown up with—they thought of me as a monster, too.

I wasn’t sure they were wrong.

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review

Through the White Wood was a beautifully written story with rich descriptions, a strong heroine and a storyline that is bound to sweep you away. . . . This story was thought-provoking and enchanting, keeping me entertained until the very last page. Ms. Leake is a very talented writer and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.”

The Reading Corner for All – Review

“In this impactful return to Jessica Leake’s imagination, prepare yourself for a journey. . . . Through the White Wood upheld the integrity of Russian and Slavic folklore through Leake’s narrative interpretation that transports readers to a time where legends flourished among men and magic was a means of unlocking the greatest triumphs of the human spirit. . . . this outstanding read must have a reserved spot on your reading corner.”

Bookwyrming Thoughts – Review

“I enjoyed Through the White Wood! I liked seeing Katya’s constant struggle of whether or not she’s a monster and her journey to discover who she is. . . . Jessica Leake’s latest novel is a solid story for those who enjoy a slower-paced book with historical and folklore elements woven together.”

Book Slaying – Review

“. . . I enjoyed Through the White Wood. . . . now that I know that Jessica Leake excels at world-building and folklore-researching. . .”

Bookish Looks – Review

“It is a read full of magic, romance, and friendships. I adored the folklore and just wanted more. I look forward to seeing what else Leake has in store.”

A Book Addict’s Bookshelves – Excerpt

Then, without another word, he climbed into the driver’s seat, gathered the reins, and pulled us away from the only home I’d ever known, of a prince they said was a monster.

But then, they said I was one, too.

I promised myself I wouldn’t look back, but I did it anyway, squinting through the snow at the thirty-seven villagers who silently watched me leave. It was easy to note the ones who were missing. While the ones who remained stared at me accusingly, I reached down to rub at my wrists where the ropes had once bound them.

onemused – Review

“. . . this was an engaging and fascinating read that consumed my YA fantasy-loving heart. This book is great for lovers of magic, YA fantasy and adventure, and fairytale retellings. I would definitely love to meet these characters again in future books.”

NovelKnight – Review

“. . . the blend of folklore with fiction, all while giving the feel of a magical history that our records forgot. On that front, I think this book excelled. This was a world I wanted to explore further, beyond Katya’s story. . .”

Read and Wander – Review

“I was absolutely captivated. Jessica Leake is such a wonderful storyteller and once again, she brings to life a magical world inspired by Russian mythology. . . . Through the White Wood was a breathtaking, mesmerizing and sometimes gut wrenching adventure. There were so many great characters, some twists and we even got to see our favorites, Ciara and Leif, from Beyond a Darkened Shore. I really hope that we get more stories in this world. I definitely recommend reading anything Jessica Leake writes at this point.”

everywhere and nowhere – Excerpt

After the horror of what had happened in the village, it was almost difficult to be afraid of what awaited me with the prince. Almost, but not quite. Rumors hammered at my thoughts as the sleigh traveled farther and farther into the deep woods that surrounded my home.

People disappearing into his castle, never to return. People with abilities beyond human limits. People like me.

Worse still was the knowledge that I went to him having committed crimes whose punishment was death.

A Dream Within A Dream – Review

Through the White Wood is a thrilling young adult historical fantasy that will have readers begging for more. Although it’s technically the second in the series, you can read this without reading the first book without any problems or confusion. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in, but at the end it exceeded anything I could’ve hoped for.”

BookCrushin – Excerpt

We traveled ever farther into the woods, the trees towering above us, snow clinging to their piney branches. I watched animals flee from the oncoming sleigh—birds flitting from tree to tree, squirrels chattering reproachfully, even a fox and hare interrupted from a deadly chase.

I imagined myself jumping down into the snow and escaping into those woods, and I went so far as to shift closer to the edge of my seat. I glanced down at the ground, moving so quickly beneath us. I could jump now, but would I manage to stay on my feet? If I stumbled, I risked serious injury. Still, wouldn’t it be worth it to try rather than be brought before the prince like a lamb to slaughter?

I moved still closer to the edge, gathering my skirt in one hand. I glanced at Ivan, but he continued to face forward.

HelloJennyReviews – Review

Through the White Wood by Jessica Leake is the brilliantly told story of Katya and Sasha, an orphaned village girl and a prince. . . . after reading this book I can say I am absolutely adding her to my auto-buy author’s list. The author writes very vivid and beautiful stories with such amazing characters and worlds that it’s impossible to not fall in love.”

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post, if you haven’t already…

Through the White Wood
By Jessica Leake
Young Adult Historical Fantasy
Hardcover & ebook, 416 Pages
April 9th 2019 by HarperTeen

The Bear and the Nightingale meets Frostblood in this romantic historical fantasy from the author of Beyond a Darkened Shore.

When Katya loses control of her power to freeze, her villagers banish her to the palace of the terrifying Prince Sasha in Kiev.

Expecting punishment, she is surprised to find instead that Sasha is just like her—with the ability to summon fire. Sasha offers Katya friendship and the chance to embrace her power rather than fear it.

But outside the walls of Kiev, Sasha’s enemies are organizing an army of people bent on taking over the entire world.

Together, Katya’s and Sasha’s powers are a fearsome weapon. But as their enemies draw nearer, will fire and frost be enough to save the world? Or will Katya and Sasha lose everything they hold dear?

Inspired by Russian mythology, this lushly romantic, intensely imaginative, and fiercely dramatic story is about learning to fight for yourself, even when the world is falling down around you.

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Other Books in the Series

Beyond a Darkened Shore

By Jessica Leake

Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Hardcover & ebook, 384 Pages

April 10th 2018 by HarperTeen

The ancient land of Éirinn is mired in war. Ciara, princess of Mide, has never known a time when Éirinn’s kingdoms were not battling for power, or Northmen were not plundering their shores.

The people of Mide have always been safe because of Ciara’s unearthly ability to control her enemies’ minds and actions. But lately a mysterious crow has been appearing to Ciara, whispering warnings of an even darker threat. Although her clansmen dismiss her visions as pagan nonsense, Ciara fears this coming evil will destroy not just Éirinn but the entire world.

Then the crow leads Ciara to Leif, a young Northman leader. Leif should be Ciara’s enemy, but when Ciara discovers that he, too, shares her prophetic visions, she knows he’s something more. Leif is mounting an impressive army, and with Ciara’s strength in battle, the two might have a chance to save their world.

With evil rising around them, they’ll do what it takes to defend the land they love…even if it means making the greatest sacrifice of all.

Praise for the Book

Beyond a Darkened Shore is thrilling and romantic. This is a must-read for lovers of fantasy, mythology, and folklore.” – Kody Keplinger, New York Times bestselling author of The DUFF and Run

“With undead armies, flesh-eating spirit horses, and a powerful heroine, fantasy, romance, and historical-fiction readers will have a great time.” – Booklist

“While Morrigan and Odin are terrifying, raven-haired Ciara is the star. Beautiful, strong, and independent, she is the perfect warrior princess. Epic historical fantasy filled with deadly creatures, simmering romance, and nonstop action.” – Kirkus Reviews

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About the Author

Jessica Leake is the author of Beyond a Darkened Shore as well as the adult novels Arcana and The Order of the Eternal Sun. She lives in South Carolina with her husband, four young children, lots of chickens, and two dogs who keep everyone in line. Visit her at www.jessicaleake.com.

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Tour Giveaway

2 winners will receive a copy of Through the White Wood (US only)
1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon eGift Card (open internationally)
Ends April 17th

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The Key to Power

In my last time around, I argued that Mary Poppins Returns is not a retread of the original film but a second, rhyming verse. Today I will concede that it is still not as good as the first. Mary Poppins Returns never quite achieves the wit or the heart of its classic forerunner. The pathos of Mary Poppins is deeper and truer even while its tragedies are so much slighter; the film makes more of a father’s distraction than its sequel does of a mother’s death. It is worth examining why.

Paradoxically enough, Mary Poppins achieves its power because, and not in spite of, the fact that it scales its tragedy to the every day. For a mother to die while her children are still small is the tragedy of a lifetime; for a man to forget what is really important is the daily weakness of humanity. The sadness of Mary Poppins is the sadness of forgetting, of misunderstanding and being misunderstood, of suddenly realizing how time flies away. It’s not high tragedy. But it’s near to everyone’s life.

The afflictions of the Banks family in Mary Poppins are more universal than those of the new Banks family in Mary Poppins Returns. But more important than the films’ basic ideas is their development. The writers of the first movie were more skilled and subtle in handling their material. Notice how gradual and inarguable is George Banks’ character progression: comically oblivious at the beginning; unexpectedly sympathetic in the second act, a grown-up with no one to look after him in his cage; and finally, at the climax, he becomes the very heart of the story, in his despair at his shattered ambitions and the courage of his lonely walk through the nighttime streets of London.

Nothing in Mary Poppins Returns entirely equals the power of that walk, or of Bert’s gentle admonition of both father and children. The film is not without its own power. There are moments of real tenderness in it, anchored around the family’s grief. Yet what resolution the story offers is artificial, and as such it neither satisfies nor finds its way into real depths. When the film attempts to create comfort in the wake of death, it simply pulls the standard Hollywood pieties off the shelf.

Now the essence of the Hollywood creed on death – at least when Hollywood wants to be heartwarming – is that the dead are not really gone. This is another way of saying that death is not death. It always feels so false. Mary Poppins Returns presents a great tragedy and denies that it’s really as bad as all that. The earlier movie, in its better wisdom, took a lighter grief and told the truth, and through the truth it found power.

Storytellers like to go for the heart-strings. All heart-strings are fair game, even the easy and obvious ones. Just don’t underestimate the potential of small griefs and mundane troubles. And whatever grief you choose, remember that the key to its power lies in telling the truth about it.

Mary Poppins, Second Verse

When Disney released Mary Poppins Returns – a sequel 55 years coming – I had such faith that I waited to see the film until it had been released on DVD. If I had realized how closely and consciously the sequel paralleled the original, my faith would have been even less. It is, then, with some astonishment that I report that the parallelism worked and was, in fact, one of the film’s best aspects.

You should understand that this is contrary to my instincts. Of all the things that make sequels a bore, the tendency to retread the original leads the pack. As for remakes, there is no point to their existence if they retell instead of revise. Yet Mary Poppins Returns built itself by the plumb line of Mary Poppins, and in that decision it succeeded. This unlikely success was, I think, made by two principal factors.

Crucially, Mary Poppins Returns threads the needle of paralleling the original without mirroring it. As you know, parallelism is the art of pleasing correspondence. There can be a fine line between that and repetition, especially in parallelism’s more elaborate forms. Mary Poppins Returns stays on the right side of that line, with much credit due to the fact that it has the flavor of emerging from the same universe as the original Mary Poppins. I don’t know enough of the P.L. Travers books to know whether Cousin Topsy, the leeries, and the adventure “in china” are inspired by them. But they feel as if they might have been. You feel, within the films, that they are similar because they belong to the same world, where London’s cobbled streets twist into nooks where relatives defy physical laws and proper Victorian nurseries contain worlds hidden in plain sight on the mantelpiece.

Emily Blunt’s delightful performance gives significant support to the movie’s cause. Wisely declining to imitate the inimitable Julie Andrews, Blunt offers a different interpretation of Mary Poppins: less sugar, more spice. Yet it is still Mary Poppins, more of the books than of the classic movie. Blunt adds the distinction, retains the similarity. Mary Poppins still glides through – and over – the world with command and self-possession. And if she is sharper now than when we first met her, still that sharpness was present before; if she was more tender then, that tenderness is yet found now.

The primary reason that the parallelism succeeds as it does is that it is an eternal part of the idea of Mary Poppins. In the first movie, Mary Poppins archly reminds Michael and Jane of all the children she has said good-bye to. Bert – ever canny in the ways of Mary Poppins – is no more surprised to see her go than he was to see her come, and he closes the movie with his farewell: “Don’t stay away too long.” This is simply what Mary Poppins does, simply who she is: alighting where she pleases, working magic and chaos, and all in the spirit of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. Bert assures us that what is about to happen in Mary Poppins has all happened before. Mary Poppins Returns shows us it all happening again.

Mary Poppins Returns succeeds in its imitation because it does not repeat the original film; it rhymes with it. In well-executed rhyme, the sameness of structure and certain sounds is a pleasing thing. We understand, moreover, that Mary Poppins doesn’t really end or begin. We have, in these two films, neither beginning nor ending, but two verses in a song that plays mostly outside our hearing.

News: Hidden Histories

It is my pleasure to announce that my story “The Fulcrum” will be published next month in Hidden Histories, a Third Flatiron Anthology (they’ve published many!). Hidden Histories is devoted to the fascinating theme of history changed, hidden, or forgotten. Twenty-eight stories will be published in the anthology, running the SFF gauntlet from science fiction to fantasy to horror – with some flash humor thrown in.

My contribution is “The Fulcrum,” which tells of a military operation to infiltrate the past and erase events that triggered a disastrous war. It’s an exercise of sci-fi geekery and history geekery, and I hope you all have as much fun with it as I did. I would love to delve into my speculations and research snags – but I will wait for the release date.

Hidden Histories is available for pre-order on Amazon. Those of you with an eye for a good bargain can consider pledging on Patreon, where you can get a yearly subscription to Third Flatiron for $1 a month (yearly subscription = 3-4 e-books). But if you like free books and you like to write about books …

I’ve got an offer for you. Third Flatiron is offering review copies. A personal blog is not necessary – you can post your review on Goodreads or Amazon (or both!). If you’re interested, contact me at info@shannonmcdermott.com, and I will put you in touch with the publisher.

Release date is April 15 – a dark day, I know, but here’s a ray of sunshine. See you then!

Leaving Michael Jackson

The HBO documentary Leaving Neverland recently made its splash in the culture, telling the stories of two men who were sexually abused by Michael Jackson as young children. It was not really a revelation; reasonable people have suspected that Jackson was a pedophile for decades. But the documentary stands as a vivid confirmation of those old suspicions. There are still MJ groupies out there who, demonstrating why predators sometimes succeed in victimizing children despite flagrant warning signs, huff that you can’t just assume Michael Jackson was abusing all those little boys he lured into his bed. Everyone else is facing the truth. So we have begun – too late, but better than never – our cultural reckoning of the fact that the King of Pop was a monster.

Many fruitful, if unhappy, avenues of discussion might be opened, not least how parents can so thoroughly fail to protect their children. Our normal focus on culture, however, leads us down another road. Michael Jackson is gone, but his music is still here. As we see with increasing clarity who Michael Jackson was and what he did, should we continue to listen to his songs?

This relates back to a larger question, and a larger debate: How much can – or should – we separate an artist from his art? There are no definitive answers; at least, I don’t have them. But there are several considerations that will clear our thinking and aid our decisions.

First, does enjoying the art fuel the wealth, celebrity, or power of the artist? A more targeted version of the question: Does it fuel the wealth, celebrity, or power of the artist in a way that enables his abuses? For example, Bill Cosby might get a little richer if networks played reruns of The Cosby Show, but he would be no more likely to assault another woman. But it might have been argued, twenty years ago, that because Jackson used his fame and money to manipulate his victims, contributing to either would be wrong.

Second, what is the nature and severity of the offense? Very few people would discard a book or song or movie because the creator was an alcoholic. But alcoholism, as terrible as it is, is in another category than the predations of abusers.

Third, how closely did the artist associate himself with his art? Some artists – generally those whose art is essentially performative, but writers have done it, too – craft a persona, wed it to their art, and sell the whole package to the public. If your celebrity is anchored to yourself as much as your work, there is cognitive dissonance and probably some shamelessness in instructing people to take your art by itself. Michael Jackson’s self-presentation was always bizarre; now it seems sinister. There is, too, self-reference in much art, including Jackson’s “Scream”. Such reference can, with greater knowledge, be intolerable.

Good art is often made by bad people. This is a revelation to no one. We have all enjoyed art while knowing, or at least suspecting, that the creator was a bad person. Maybe, then, the real debate is not at all abstract; we all agree that sometimes you should separate art and artist, because we all sometimes have. Maybe the real debate is all about particulars: Should we separate this artist from this art?

It can be hard, especially when the artist abused children.

Grand Finale Blitz: Daughters of Northern Shores

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Book Tour Grand Finale for Daughters of Northern Shores By Joanne Bischof

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops you’ll find snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

Launch – Note from the Author

…As I reflect on the beautiful land of Appalachia, and these beloved characters that first met readers within Sons of Blackbird Mountain, it’s my honor once again to tell an all new tale from this region: a place that’s rich in history and full of heart. It’s my prayer that this next novel will hold the same! It’s also my prayer that it will be a blessing to all of those who open the pages, meet the Norgaard family once again, and walk the rugged and redemptive path alongside them.

— Joanne

Bringing Up Books – Review

“Just know that this book is really good. . . . I may have cried a few times, but that’s a good sign that the author gets you emotionally invested in their story. Anxiously awaiting whatever Joanne Bischof brings us next!”

Cover Lover Book Review – Review

“This story is full, spiritual, and unique. . . Thor and Aven are memorable characters and their story will stay with you.

With themes of forgiveness and refinement, this story is sure to touch your heart and inspire you.”

Hallie Reads – Review & Excerpt

“The “lyrical writing, complex characterizations, and an exquisite, I-want-to-sink-into-this-story atmosphere” I found in the first book are equally present in Daughters of Northern Shores, and I heartily enjoyed it from beginning to end; it was a pleasure to journey with the Norgaards. I highly recommend it to readers of historical fiction…”

… the Virginia sun like melted gold through the treetops, brightening everything in its warm haze and piercing through the branches of the great maple overhead. A dance of light and childhood charm where nestled within the leaves sat the treehouse that had sheltered many an adventure for the Norgaard brothers.

While Aven’s climbing days were at a standstill, if she were to scale the makeshift ladder and settle against the rough trunk, she would see the three carved names. Jorgan. Thor. Haakon. Whittled into the living wood as boys when time and distance hadn’t changed them so. ’Twas just as well that she was land bound with child. She had no desire to see Haakon’s name, nor anything that reminded her of the man who had once been her friend but had proved himself anything but.

Heidi Reads… – Review

“The writing is beautiful and evocative, not flowery, but gently and subtly painting a picture of the setting, relationships, and growing tension as the Norgaard’s prepare again to fight for everything they hold dear. I loved seeing their family grow with the birth of Aven’s first child and Haaken’s unforgettable love. Highly recommend to fans of historical fiction and sweet romance!”

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Review

“This is a truly entrancing, at times poignant, saga. The brothers and the extended families is sure to “win one’s heart”. The story is told from shore to shore, yet smoothly flows and is easily followed by the reader.”

Getting Your Read On – Review

“Joanne Bischof has such an incredible ability to draw me right into her stories and feel as if I am actually there. All of my senses become alert and aware. It’s nuts. In the best of ways. Her characters feel solid, real. They pull on my emotions. . . . Haakon’s journey . . . . is a journey of healing, forgiving, proving and loving. . . . it was still so very good.”

The Power of Words – Review

“Daughters of Northern Shores is another outstanding epic by Joanne Bischof, one for my “best of the best” list, and impossible for me to adequately review with any words of mine. This novel is filled with exquisite romance, emotion, poignancy, suspense and adventure. Anything that Bischof writes is excellent, but for me, she shines best in Appalachian settings. . . . Very highly recommended.”

Hearts & Scribbles – Spotlight

Faithfully Bookish – Review & Guest Post

“Story after story, Bischof masterfully captures the work of the Maker’s hand in the essence of life’s fullness, depth, and frailty. . . . The Blackbird Mountain series is saturated with culture, knowledge, and awe-inspiring landscapes but it’s the heart of the stories that make these books unforgettable and precious. I cannot recommend these books highly enough.”

Titling a Novel

Whenever anyone mentions this book, I immediately reflect on how it was my most challenging novels to date. From the difficulties in penning the story, to trying to get a few of the characters to behave (I won’t mention any names [HAAKON!]) to coming up with just the right title – every phase was quite an adventure!…

Remembrancy – Review

“With a slow build focusing on the relationship dynamic amongst this group—from the brother’s to Thor and Aven to the friends surrounding them—the story is engaging . And that building leads to some intensity near the end of the book that keep it going. Bischof’s beautiful prose, immersing readers in the setting, conflicts, and suspense that draw me to her books time and again.”

All-of-a-kind Mom – Review

“Just as touching and heartwarming as the first book, the reacquaintance of this sweet family is such an enjoyable read. . . . The setting and the characters are exceptional and you leave this book feeling as though you are leaving your friends.”

The Green Mockingbird – Review

I have come to expect a story from the pen of Joanne Bischof to be one that slices straight to the heart with its truth and tenderness. Daughters of Northern Shores is no exception. With its return of beloved characters and a message of trust at its center, it is one I will cherish upon recalling (and REREADING!). . . . Daughters of Northern [S]hores is a novel to treasure and one to make you think of the impact just one person can have. It is an encouraging story that reminds the reader to hope when there is no clear path ahead. And, to hold family and friends dear, always extending grace.”

Christy’s Cozy Corners – Review

“I didn’t want Daughters of Northern Shores to ever end! . . . The characters in this book are some of my favorites ever, so I will absolutely go back to book one. They are so well-written that you miss them when you reach the end. I love the way that Joanne Bischof weaves themes of remorse, reconciliation and forgiveness throughout the story. Daughters of Northern Shores made me laugh, and it made me cry. Only the best books do that.”

Wishful Endings – Guest Post

From the Blackbird Mountain Kitchen: Apple Cider Soup

Within the Blackbird Mountain novels, the heart and soul of the Norgaard family home is Ida’s kitchen. A kitchen this former-slave now shares with her “daughters-in-law”, Fay and Aven. Fresh from the kitchen of these three women springs loaves of hot bread, jars of orchard-fresh apple butter, and hearty stews that the men help provide for from wild game in the surrounding woodlands….

Beauty in the Binding – Review

“Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof engaged my attention immediately and my interest continued throughout reading the novel. The author’s flowing prose is beautiful and it carries this tale through much brokenness, struggle, and healing. As with it’s predecessor, the character development is heart-deep and avoids simplifying difficult issues. The relationships between the Norgaard brothers are complex and rich. The epilogue was stunning, a truly perfect ending.

I highly recommend Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof to anyone who loves deeply-layered fiction with complex issues and authentic characters.”

By The Book – Review

“Fans of Joanne Bischof’s Sons of Blackbird Mountain will not be disappointed in the return visit to the Norgaard family farm in Daughters of Northern Shores. . . . there is much, much more of the story left to told, and as always, Bischof does it with beautiful prose that sets the scene and reveals the fears, sorrows, hopes, and dreams of her characters. This book is another winner!”

Fiction Aficionado – Review & Excerpt

“…this story held me in its thrall from beginning to end. If you’re looking for a compelling family saga with well-developed characters, lyrical storytelling, and a whole lot of heart, I have no hesitation in recommending this series.”

…Haakon didn’t keep a journal. If he did, he would write that they’d hoisted sail and caught a breeze from west-southwest. A gust that was shouldering them away from southern Norway. He’d try to find the words to described how hard it was to see that shoreline grow fainter. If they lingered, they’d watch the birches begin to open their leaves. He was yet to see Norway in the summer and had only heard of its splendor.

The practical side of him would note that there were eight hundred tons of crystal ice in the hold bound for London. That’s if they survived the North Sea. If so, they would land in England four days from now.

It would take great effort to cap the inkwell then, but if he lost the battle with himself, he would add that it was getting harder and harder not to think of home.

Genesis 5020 – Review

“The setting for this book is beautiful and the I loved the character development of Thor and Aven. . . . I really had no idea what was going to happen or how things would play out and I think that is what I loved about it most of all.

If you enjoy historical romance that is more than that you will enjoy this book.”

Colorimetry – Guest Post

Setting Sail with the Prodigal Son

…At the very end of Sons of Blackbird Mountain, Haakon Norgaard sets sail on an all new adventure. One all his own. As the youngest of three brothers, it’s the first time he is ever outside of their shadow—a freedom he’s certain he’s ready for, yet many lessons and matters of the heart await him during Daughters of Northern Shores

Being Brooke Capper – Excerpt

Aven watched him through the window as he stood there, speaking to Sigurd, who was helping. In this moment, she could see a trace of the kindness she’d once known was in him.

“It be trust he need to earn, and that’s what sin does. Forgiveness . . . it pure and good, but it just the start of it. Offering one don’t mean the other be remedied as well. When a person be hurt, there need be a minding to both hope and sense.”

Uplifting Reads – Excerpt

While words were potent, a man’s caring ran through deeper waters. It dwelled right there in what he was willing to do. Haakon knew all too well that Peter had once taken a beating for Tess. A way to protect her from his own kin. If anyone was ready to face an uncertain future against Jed and Harlan, it was Peter.

Haakon belted his knife sheath around his hip. “Come an hour before dark.”

“I’ll be here.”

Peter ran a rough hand up and down his forearm, chafing at an old scar. “I also came to tell you that my sister . . . Sibby . . . She’s married.”

A Baker’s Perspective – Review

“I was so happy to be back at Blackbird Mountain. The setting, the characters, the plot lines – I could go on and on. Joanne Bischof has created a beautiful series here, with a lovely picture of forgiveness – something we could all learn from. Highly recommend reading this book, but make sure you read Sons of Blackbird Mountain first!”

Tell Tale Book Reviews – Excerpt

The air inside was dim and stagnant. Ripe with the scent of musty wood. A fresh leak had blossomed in the far corner, and sunlight hadn’t been kind to the curtains hanging on the windows. Aven stepped to them and fingered a hem just as she’d done when Haakon had stood beside her. He’d raised the curtain rod into place, giving her that boyish smile as he did. Just before the back of his hand had touched her arm. A coaxing—a pleading—for her to choose him.

A would-be lover who had lost her to Thor, losing his own way in the aftermath.

With a shuddering breath, Aven set the map on a wobbly table and turned away. Not wanting to linger, she stepped out and bolted the door before pressing the key back from sight.

The Becca Files – Review

“…I was more intrigued with Haakon’s character. In the first book he was easily my least favorite character, but I appreciated seeing him mature more in this story and express genuine remorse for the actions in his past. . . . I still consider it worth the read.”

Labor Not in Vain – Review

“Ms. Bischof manages to always find the right words to elicit the heartaches and pain of the characters, painting a picture with words one of the best examples of showing rather than telling. . . . Daughters of Northern Shores is an appalachian epic of family, the bonds of blood, the ties of friendship, anchors of love, and the human condition. . . . Highly recommend, and an absolute must read if you enjoyed Sons of Blackbird Mountain.”

Kelly Goshorn @ Romancing History – Review

“Daughters of Northern Shores is so well-written that the Norgaard’s Appalachian farm comes to life with beautiful descriptions the reader can see and smell vividly. Filled with the type of rich historical details, my history-loving, nerd girl heart was filled to the brim. The author’s beautiful prose sing like the melody of a well-written symphony and will leave you desperately wanting more from this writer and the story world she has created for us.”

Locks, Hooks and Books – Review & Guest Post

“Daughters of the Northern Shores is a powerful story of forgiveness and grace. It is full of faith and inspiration. I know so many readers will relate to the characters and will find that it is okay to forgive yourself and move on.”

Pinterest Story Boards for a Historical Romance

One of my favorite aspects of the writing process is storyboarding. There’s something about an image that can bring a scene or character to life in my mind. For both Sons of Blackbird Mountain and Daughters of Northern Shores, I created two boards for each novel—one private and one public…

Britt Reads Fiction – Review

“Daughters of Northern Shores was a beautiful, captivating tale that, once again, reminded me of how much I love the characters from this series. . . . The author does such an amazing job of writing in a beautiful style that captures the pace of life on the mountain. I loved seeing what was happening in all of the brothers’ lives and witnessing again the deep love between Thor and Aven. This book left me feeling a deep happiness as I turned the last page.”

Jorie Loves A Story – Review

“This series is #unputdownable and is going to stay inside your heart long after you put down the pages you’ve just read. Her characters are as real as any of us and their story is such a realistic account of life being lived through grace and leant on faith it is a refreshing glimpse into the past with a bridge of hope for our futures.”

Among the Reads – Review & Guest Post

“Daughters of Northern Shores is a riveting continuation of the story of the Norgaard family of Blackbird Mountain that was difficult to put down. . . . I was again swept away as author Joanne Bischof poured out her heart on these pages with tender and hopeful melancholy. . . . Daughters of Northern Shores is a story of changed lives, of love of family, of good versus evil, and of forgiveness. Though I classify it as a romance, it is so much more…”

A Heroine and Her Home

Having grown up within a workhouse in Ireland in the late 1800’s, Aven Norgaard, one of the heroines of the Blackbird Mountain novels, has never known open spanses and freedom. Now, having voyaged to rural Virginia, she’s discovered a whole new world of wonders. While her days in this new and rugged land are far from easy, they’re rich with blessings that she savors with her whole heart. And now as the bride of one of the men of this mountain, a Deaf cider-maker by name of Thor Norgaard, she’s discovering all new facets of life only once dreamed of….

Redeemed Hope Dweller – Review

“With Daughters or Northern Shores, be prepared for heavy emotions, heavy thoughts, heavy situations, but know there’s a steadfast hope and quiet beauty in each one. I still feel as though I haven’t accurately captured this book with my words, but I’ve done the best I can, and I hope you’ll take the time to read it for yourself and find the beauty in it.”

The Barefoot Reader – Review

“Daughters of the Northern Shores was everything I was hoping it would be and more. The characters were raw and real, the bond of brotherhood was inspiring, the themes of grace and forgiveness were beautiful, and the deep trust they all had in God through their trials is something I hope to have. . . . this book was absolutely amazing.”

Note: All excerpts referenced above were taken from “Daughters of Northern Shores” by Joanne Bischof. Copyright © 2019 by Joanne Bischof. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post, if you haven’t already…

Daughters of Northern Shores (Blackbird Mountain #2) By Joanne Bischof Christian Historical Romance Paperback & ebook, 368 Pages March 12th 2019 by Thomas Nelson

“The Norgaard brothers and their families will steal your heart.” —Catherine West, author of Where Hope Begins

Heartache and regret, boldness and sacrifice. What will restoration cost the beloved Norgaard family?

Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.

Having fled the farm after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s which is already at stake through a grave illness brought to him as the first prick of warfare.

Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.

From Christy Award–winning author Joanne Bischof comes Daughters of Northern Shores: the highly anticipated sequel to her moving novel Sons of Blackbird Mountain.

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Bookstagram Tour

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Other Books in the Series

Sons of Blackbird Mountain (Blackbird Mountain #1) By Joanne Bischof Christian Historical Romance Paperback & ebook, 339 Pages July 3rd 2018 by Thomas Nelson

From the bestselling award-winning author of The Lady and the Lionheart

“Beloved author Joanne Bischof doesn’t disappoint with her latest beautifully written, heartrending tale . . . a quick favorite for historical romance readers.” —Elizabeth Byler Younts, author of The Solace of Water

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of Nineteenth-Century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

Praise for Sons of Blackbird Mountain:

“Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a quiet gem of a historical romance. Refreshingly real and honest in its depiction of flawed but lovable individuals, it introduces characters readers will want to meet again.” – CBA Market

“. . . the novel provides an interesting glimpse of the time period and some complex social issues among neighbors in an area still recovering from the Civil War.” – Historical Novels Review

“VERDICT Christy- and Carol Award-winning author Bischof (The Lady and the Lionheart) creates endearing characters and a heartwarming story line in this unforgettable novel about the power of family, love, and the true meaning of home. Fans of Kristy Cambron, Julie Klassen, and Susan Meissner will love this one.” – Library Journal

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About the Author

Picture courtesy of https://joannebischof.com.

Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children.

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One winner will receive a print copy of DAUGHTERS OF NORTHERN SHORES and a Thomas Nelson/Zondervan custom tote bag (book and bag shown are examples, not actual prize) US only Ends March 20, 2019

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Favor the Franchise

If you pay attention to Hollywood today, you have probably noticed that western civilization is in the latter stages of spiritual and intellectual degeneration. You will also have noticed, by the by, that most of Hollywood’s output these days consists of (a) franchise movies, (b) movies based on pre-existing cultural artifacts, such as books, comics, other movies, theme park rides, and decades-old Disney cartoons, and (c) franchise movies based on pre-existing cultural artifacts like books, comics, etc. The percentage of such derivative works in Hollywood’s modern oeuvre has been estimated as high as 99 percent, but it might be as low as 96 percent.

So Hollywood is not terribly original these days. But the reliance on franchise is not a phenomenon isolated in Hollywood. The adventuresome reader seeking out a new book by a new author must be careful – careful that he doesn’t end up picking book 3.25 in an eleven-book series, finale coming out next spring. (By the way, decimal books: a thing.) (Decimal movies, too.) It is possible, with sequels and spin-offs and a faithful public, to make an entire career of one story. A standalone book is an increasingly rare bird.

Movie studios favor the franchise for the same reason that book publishers do: money. It must be admitted that this is a sensible reason, particularly in the case of movie studios. When you’re pouring out money in the tens of millions for a single film, you want a sure thing. How do you know people will like your newest project? Well – they liked the last one, didn’t they? It is a well-worn axiom that the sequel is never quite as good, but that does not prevent the sequel from inheriting the audience of its predecessor.

That truth brings us to another significant fact: People do not seem to easily tire of the franchise. Publishers and studios are looking for a profit, and audiences give it to them. Diminishing quality ultimately ends in diminishing financial returns, perhaps even in the death of the franchise – but along that road a great deal of money is given up to mediocre and even poor installments. Franchises depend on the powerful attraction of effective stories. You never want your favorite story to end, and the characters who have inspired more emotion than half of the real people you know – it is hard to let them go. The desire for the story to go on, the curious attachment to non-existent people, sustains the franchise.

And yet maybe it all is a little too much. Beyond the bankruptcy of individual franchises, we have been trained to a certain insouciance regarding the endless sprawl of connected films. Of course they’re making a sequel. There is, too, a downgrading of regard for those who seem too inclined to revisit old ideas; Pixar toppled from the creative heights when it discovered the sequel, and no one counts on Pixar’s annual offering being one of the film highlights of the year anymore. This, then, is what I would like to know: Does the paying public want more standalones and more variety, or are we content with franchises as long as they are well-maintained?

According to the Label

There is nothing categorically wrong with labels. Labels are short-hand descriptions, a fast and easy method of classification – much like words. There is nothing wrong with labels just as labels. But labels, like everything else in this world, can go wrong. Some labels are active lies; others (not nearly so bad) are so insufficient they create more confusion than clarity, or so vague they are almost useless in conveying information.

Which brings us to the label “a creative”. As you know, this word (recently converted from an adjective to a noun) has become a popular self-label in recent years. It’s thrown out in blog posts, claimed in profiles. It appears to be roughly synonymous with “artist” – not by definition but by use (one senses that the “creatives” are not accountants).

The primary failing of this label is that it lacks a clear and specific definition. If you tell me that you’re a creative, I believe you, but I don’t know what you mean by it. Are you a musician, a writer, a painter, an actor? Or is it less a single talent or pursuit and more a way of thinking? Let me put it this way: An artist is defined by what he does (art). Is a creative likewise defined by what he does, or is he defined by what he is (creative)? I don’t know. I don’t understand the label.

I’ve poked around the Internet and discovered eloquent and elaborate definitions of what a creative is; these people aren’t pulling definitions out of a Dictionary. Some people understand the label. But they don’t always understand it the same. If they were operating out of a Dictionary, we would have a simple and reigning definition. But since they are instead spilling four hundred words to define a creative as they understand one to be, the meaning of the label is fluid. And the usefulness of a label is inversely proportional to the fluidity of its meaning.

While the label of “a creative” is in one way too vague, it is in another too exclusive. The label is generally applied to people who are creative in an artistic sense, but there are a thousand other ways to be creative. A person who can take a recipe off the Internet and make it twice as good is creative. People who come up with new and better operating procedures, that engineer or programmer or CEO who can see the way around the obstacle – they are all creative. Whoever first invented the assembly line was very creative. By God’s many and marvelous gifts, the world is overrun by creative people. A label for creatives that acknowledges only one kind of creativity is flawed; it encourages a false distinction, an unhelpful delineation between us and them.

Labels matter – because they are categories, because they are descriptions in brief, because they share the fundamental purpose of all words: to build a bridge. It is important, then, to choose your labels carefully. Before adopting, or bestowing, a label, we must consider what information the label conveys, and what judgments it implies.

Blog Tour: Mind of Darkness

Emily Rogers is ready for a summer that doesn’t involve being cast away on islands or being chased around the globe. So when she’s invited to an elite pre-college class along with her boyfriend, she jumps at the chance. But things are not all they seem at the Yin Program. Students are disappearing, and someone seems to be toying with their minds…

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Charsia O’Dell is anticipating a summer of romance and adventure with her crime-fighting partner. But she never expects that they’ll be kidnapped and taken to an underground bunker to be guinea pigs to a mad scientist named Jin Yin. Most shocking of all, she learns that they are not the only super humans in the world…

Somehow, Emily and Charisa have to break out of the prisons imposed upon them to decipher the conspiracy before their minds are enslaved by the darkness within… 

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Jes Drew is the author of the Ninja and Hunter trilogy, the Howling Twenty trilogy, the Kristian Clark saga, the Castaways trilogy, and Mind of Darkness. She lives with her mom, dad, younger sister, four younger brothers, and two dogs, obsessing about her true love, Captain Steve Rogers. There is a possibility that she may or may not be a superhuman, but she hasn’t discovered her powers. Yet. Also, she might be a spy, but that’s classified.

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Blog Tour Links

Kitty’s Book Spot! Author Interview, Friday, February 1st

Author and Character Interview, Sunday, February 3rd

Blog Spot, Monday February 4th 

Review, Monday February 4th

 Review and Author Interview, Saturday, February 9th 

A Time For Generosity

The Authors Guild has announced that, as a curative to writers’ falling incomes, it will champion a national Public Lending Right program. The President’s Letter didn’t lay out the details, and PLR programs vary in their particulars (thirty-five countries already possess some version of it). The essential idea, however, is that public libraries will pay authors for the loaning out of their books. It’s a kind of royalty payment: a little money every time a book is checked out, with a cap on how much any one author can receive. For a factual examination of PLR, drop by the Steve Laube Agency blog. For a strongly-worded opinion, stay here.

Now, the benefit of this program is that authors make more money. The downside is that that money has to come from somewhere or, rather, from someone. The Authors Guild proposes the classic solution to this age-old problem: a federal government program. They are advocating (I must quote this) “creating a new government entitlement program.” The idea that Congress would create an entitlement program solely for published authors is touchingly ingenuous. The Authors Guild should consider – I suggest it with gentleness – that it is not a national issue that authors would like to make more money. Everyone else would, too.

The point of a federal PLR program is to shift costs from local governments, which are often poor, to the federal government, which is also broke but possesses nuclear weapons and therefore can be trillions of dollars in the red. This is unlikely to happen, but even if it does, it is still only shifting the cost. The inevitable result of any PLR program will be to increase the cost of public libraries. The ALA estimates that Americans check out an average of eight books per year, a number we can extrapolate to 2.6 billion books checked out per year. If public libraries must pay a fee every time a patron checks out a book – even a fee measured in pennies – the annual cost will be tens of millions. At the princely royalty of four cents per loan, the cost will top 100 million. (This will be multiplied again if – and why shouldn’t this happen? – Hollywood and musicians decide to get in on the game and libraries must make payments for CDs and DVDs, too.)

People talk glibly of raising taxes and government entitlement programs. But you cannot charge the public library system millions to loan out their existing collections and expect that library services will never be reduced.

So the costs of the PLR will be borne by the public. But there will be costs for authors to pay, too. Make libraries in general, and library books in particular, more costly, and it’s only a matter of time before someone lights upon the expedient of fewer library books. The least established authors will find the raised bar hardest to clear, and the consequence of making the system more profitable for some authors may be to push others out of the system entirely.

I am sympathetic to writers struggling to make their work profitable. It’s certainly true that readers should have a spirit of generosity toward writers. But there is also a time for writers to be generous to their readers. Public libraries exist for the public, especially the less well-off public: seniors on fixed incomes, families with small children, adults getting by, voracious young readers whose parents can’t afford all the books they want. It is already profitable for authors. Even authors should have concerns beyond making it even more profitable yet.