Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Story Keeper

2015 Christy Award Winner

Lisa Wingate

The Story Keeper is a work of fiction written in the present tense but takes the reader back in time through a manuscript that editor Jen Gibbs should not be reading.

Although unrealistic that the editor, Jen Gibbs, would risk her career for an old manuscript that tells a common story of forbidden love, the book draws you into a tale of a woman on a mission. Jen believes the forbidden manuscript is written by a notorious author, which forces her to take it to her boss and show her the manuscript in order to get permission to pursue her unfounded wild goose chase. Her boss tells her to return it to the slush pile and never speak of it again. And what does she do? Jen takes it home! Who in their right mind would take such a risk for a hard to read story due to the language dialect used? Wingate uses this scenario to create a sense of urgency when switching between Jen’s life and the manuscript because the reader knows if anyone catches her reading a forbidden manuscript, then she could lose her new job as editor.

The transition between reality and manuscript was smooth and left you wanting for more. I didn’t want Jen to stop reading the story of Nathaniel and Anna. One part of me wanted her to keep reading because it was dangerous to her career. Another part of me wanted to know if love would prevail.

Wingate crafted the manuscript of Nathaniel and Anna’s love story in a unique voice that expressed the dialect and accents of the time era. This made it hard to read. For instance, “Send’em agin ya.” I am still not sure how to translate that into English. Also, in the manuscript dialogue was not labeled frequently enough for me to keep up with who was speaking, but Wingate did an excellent job writing and labeling dialogue between Jen and anyone she spoke to in present tense.

Of course, Jen is able to locate the suspected author of the forbidden manuscript and learns intimate details of his life and family. In literature, this is a fairy tale. In reality, it is an unrealistic work of fiction. The Story Keeper earns 4 out of 5 stars. I did like it, but wouldn’t read it again because of the hard to read language in the manuscript and predictable outcomes.

Wingate created a predictable tale that has the perfect ending for everyone. It will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. So, if you’re searching for a sweet love story, The Story Keeper is the book for you!

Happy Reading!



Successful New York editor, Jen Gibbs, is at the top of her game with her new position at Vida House Publishing -- until a mysterious manuscript from an old slush pile appears on her desk. Turning the pages, Jen finds herself drawn into the life of Sarra, a mixed-race Melungeon girl trapped by dangerous men in the turn of the century Appalachia. A risky hunch may lead to The Story Keeper's hidden origins and its unknown author, but when the trail turns toward the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place Jen thought she'd left behind forever, the price of a blockbuster next book deal may be higher than she's willing to pay.

Amazon Buy Link for THE STORY KEEPER


Praise for The Story Keeper:

"Not since To Kill a Mockingbird has a story impacted me like this." -- COLLEEN COBLE, USA Today bestselling author of Seagrass Pier

Wingate is, quite simply, a master storyteller. Her story-within-a-story, penned with a fine, expressive style, will captivate writers and non-writers alike. -- Booklist

Selected among Booklist’s Top 10 for two consecutive years, Lisa Wingate skillfully weaves lyrical writing and unforgettable settings with elements of traditional Southern storytelling, history, and mystery to create novels that Publisher's Weekly calls "Masterful" and Library Journal refers to as "A good option for fans of Nicholas Sparks and Mary Alice Monroe." 

Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of twenty-five novels. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol Award nominee, a multiple Christy Award nominee, a twotime Carol Award winner, and a 2015 RT Booklovers Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Award Winner for mystery/suspense. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. Booklist summed up her work by saying, “Lisa Wingate is, quite simply, a master storyteller.” More information about her novels can be found at


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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review of Dateline: Purgatory

Title: Dateline: Purgatory
Author: Kathy Cruz
Publisher: TCU Press
ISBN: 978-0-87565-610-6
Price: $22.96

Non-Fiction, True Crime

In the wake of more than 1,500 exonerations across the country (150 of which were for inmates on death row) and growing demands for reforms within the justice system, award-winning journalist Kathy Cruz uses a new lens to examine the controversial Darlie Routier case - and what may be a true Texas mystery.

In Dateline: Purgatory, Cruz enlists current day legal experts to weigh in on the shocking transgressions that resulted in one of the country's most troubling death penalty convictions. With the help of the infamous death row inmate and a former FBI Special Agent known as "Crimefighter," the veteran journalist would find that her journey through Purgatory was as much about herself as it was about the woman dubbed "Dallas' Susan Smith."

Under a starry sky on the snowy slopes of Purgatory, Colo., Darlie Lynn Peck linked her destiny with that of an ambitious young man from Lubbock, Texas named Darin Routier. Ten years later, a horrific crime known as "6-6-6" would thrust the couple into the national spotlight.

The brutal murders of young Devon and Damon Routier in the early morning hours of June 6, 1996, would put their mother - Darlie Routier - at the heart of one of the most notorious murder cases in modern Texas history - despite her own throat having been slashed to within 2 millimeters of her carotid artery.

The actions of a small town police department and Dallas County's justice system created a perfect storm that swept up the young mother and landed her on death row. There she has remained, in a 9-feet-by-6-feet cell, despite claims of her innocence by those who know her, findings about the alarming fallibility of bloodstain analysis - and her husband's admission that at the time of the murders he was soliciting help to stage a home burglary to commit insurance fraud.

Dateline: Purgatory follows author Kathy Cruz on her journey to investigate the Darlie Routier case. Cruz takes the reader with her as she visits with multiple people to hear about their experiences with Darlie previous to the murders and during the trial. I found myself skimming over the descriptions of Cruz's drive through Texas to meet her interviewees and through multiple pages of reminiscent tales of Darlie's life and experiences previous to the crime. The reason I read this book was to hear the facts and for Cruz to present the proof of Darlie's innocence. Cruz states, "As for me, I realize I have not proven Routier innocent. If anything, I have merely given a voice to those who know her best and have held the justice system to the same harsh scrutiny to which she was held."

This book was not what I expected. It was hard to stay focused as the author included personal accounts of Darlie's life before the crime interwoven with factual evidence from the crime and trial along with random stories of other cases unrelated to Darlie Routier. For example, an entire page described the author standing in line at a haunted house before her phone rang only to spend another page describing how she played phone tag with the true-crime author, Barbara Davis. When the chapter finally started presenting information concerning the Routier case, it was left open-ended suggesting an exciting detail only to leave the reader frustrated. For instance, Barbara Davis mentions she got to read Routier's nurse's notes from the hospital. She stated, "I’ve learned so much that I didn't want to know." This created a hook with expectation, but Cruz never told the readers what Davis found in the nurse’s notes.

This book was more an account of a reporter's experiences as she interviewed people about Darlie Routier along with some accounts of actual court proceedings and evidence used in the case. I did not find an overwhelming amount of evidence to persuade me Darlie was wrongfully convicted, but there was plenty to deem an appeal. Cruz presented multiple facts within her chapters of personal accounts from interviews that did cause concern such as: a sock from the crime scene was found down the road, the judge continuously fell asleep during the trial, her husband admitted to soliciting help to stage a robbery to commit insurance fraud, detectives interviewed Darlie when she was still under the influence of medication right after surgery, and some of the detectives pled the fifth on stand.

In order to persuade the readers of Darlie's innocence, I feel that the text should have followed a chronological timeline of the crime and trial with a clear outline of facts. I did appreciate the truths told about Darlie's experiences in court and the letters she wrote to her aunt. Also, I would love to hear more from her son, Drake, concerning his feelings toward his mom and how he has handled the loss of his family due to this tragedy. His opinions and memories are of far greater worth than pages of Routier history. I feel for Drake and the Routier family. This was a horrible crime that cost the lives of two innocent children and continues to hurt their family and friends.

I applaud Kathy Cruz for taking on this case and giving a voice to those involved. I give this book three out of five stars. You should read Dateline: Purgatory and put yourself inside of the case. Consider the facts and I am sure you will agree. Darlie Routier deserves an appeal to present her case to a judge and jury willing to listen and make a decision without a doubt before convicting her to death. Everyone deserves a fair trial. 

Kathy Cruz is a former reporter for The Dallas Morning News, now working as a staff writer at the Hood County News in Granbury, 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth. She has won numerous Journalist of the Year honors from Texas press associations, as well as many other awards from regional, state and national press associations. She is the co-author of You Might Want to Carry a Gun: Community Newspapers Expose Big Problems in Small Towns. Cruz is the recipient of five awards for excellence in legal reporting, including a Texas Gavel Award and four Stephen Philbin Awards from the Dallas Bar Association – two of which were grand prizes.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Taken From Home

“You call CPS right now and tell her to take me back to my mom!” screams a big brown eyed little girl.

She’s hurt, confused and just wants to go home. It wasn’t her choice. She didn’t want to leave her real family in the first place, but Child Protective Services swooped in and took her anyway, leaving a trail of tears in their wake.

I was a foster parent for four years in Texas. I can vouch for CPS, they want to protect children. According to DFPS regional statistics for, 15,924 children ages 0-18 were taken from their home and placed in a Texas foster home just this month!  Regardless of intentions, it still hurts the kids caught in the cross hairs. Within the first hour of being taken from their home, the foster child is with people they don’t know, heading to live with more people they don’t know. A million questions are funneling through the mind of the foster child. Where am I going? Why do I have to leave? Are these people nice? Will they like me? What about my real family?

Over the next few months, the confused foster child will be moved into a foster home, enrolled into a new school, and taken to weekly visits with their real family only to be torn away again once time is up. The emotional roller coaster is never-ending. Isn’t it hard enough to be a teen living at home with your parents who never understand you and are way too strict? Imagine being taken. Everything changes and you don’t have any control. Life is turned upside down. Did I mention foster parents can call CPS and have you sent to another foster home if anything goes wrong?

The main character in One Prince, Two Kingdoms knows the challenge of foster care. He’s been in five foster homes since CPS took him. He’s always trying to protect the weak and be the man his parents taught him to be, but no matter how hard he tries, trouble haunts him. It would be easy to give up, but Johnny refuses. He continues to search for his parents and face the heartache at each dead.  With each mistake, he learns there’s power in his choices. They can lead him further into the light or take him into the darkness.

You may be in a place where everything feels completely out of control, but remember there’s power in your choices. No one can tell you how to feel, talk, act, or treat others.

The choice is yours!