11 June 2015

Book Blitz: When Sparrows Fall by Diana Blackstone + Giveaway

When Sparrows Fall by Diana Blackstone
Publisher: Leap Books
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Synopsis: After her mother’s arranged marriage to her recently deceased father’s bitter brother, thirteen-year-old Susanna Stutzman faces a crisis of faith. Everything seems to be going wrong in her life. 

As if her new father’s nasty temper isn’t enough, her cousin Mary, now her stepsister, hates her, as does her new teacher. 

When Susanna’s discovery of a strange nighttime visitor at her mysterious neighbor’s home leads to the unveiling of secrets, Susanna is forced to make a choice between her conscience and her Mennonite community.

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Meet Diana, 
Diana has been a voracious reader since age nine when she discovered The Chronicles of Narnia after a librarian handed her the first book in the series. She credits hay fever for her interest in writing stories. Unable to play outside without misery from the age of ten, she spent half of every summer vacation inside reading and writing stories until the pollen count dwindled.
Diana serves as a high school English teacher and academic support coordinator. She originally chose to teach older students because she thought they would be able to manage their own bodily fluids better than little kids would. She’s discovered she was mostly right about that, and as a bonus, she finds teenagers a blast to spend her days with.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband Alan and youngest son Isaac. Her adult son Mitchell lives only a four-hour drive away, but Diana wishes it was four minutes instead. She has two cats. Her Maine Coon named Mister Mistoffelees weighs twenty pounds. He is as sweet as he is huge. The other is a feisty Siamese-mix named Sabrina.

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Sighing, I swung my legs out from under the covers and crept out of bed. The cool, wooden floorboards felt good on my hot feet as I tiptoed to the window. As had become my habit on these restless nights, I gazed out the window at our garden to the north and the chicken coop beyond it on our side of the weathered wooden fence. The grapevines along the fence line appeared silvery in the moonlight. On the other side stood the home and barn of our neighbor.
I spied a lantern hung in the barn loft’s window. That was curious.
I did not know much about this neighbor except that she was an older woman named Lydia Swartzendruber, who lived with her feeble-minded brother, Skip. They were at church every Sunday. Church members rarely spoke of her, but when they did, they referred to her as Aunt Lydia, as was customary with older, unmarried women in the church. She sat alone on the women’s side during the service and left right afterward. I had noticed church members nod politely when passing her, but I had never seen anyone speak with her. Uncle Jacob said she rented out fields her father had owned on the other side of town. He’d also given us children a strict command to never set a foot upon her property.
When I asked why, he thundered, “Do you need a reason to follow my orders? Never you mind why. Only see that you obey.”
Later, Peter told Leon and me that the mysterious neighbor was a witch. “If she catches you looking at her, she’ll turn herself into a bird and peck out your eyes at night.”
I didn’t really believe Peter, but remembering his words, I shuddered at the image and squeezed my eyes shut as if protecting them from a menacing bird.
When I opened my eyes, I looked out the window again, hoping to catch a glimpse of the doe I’d spied the week before. Instead, illuminated by a nearly-full moon, a wagon crept up the lane to my neighbor’s barn. It appeared to be loaded with straw.
The shadowy figure of a man climbed off the wagon seat and opened the barn door. After driving the wagon into the barn, he strode to the back of the house. A few minutes later, he returned to the barn carrying a large basket. The figure of a woman followed him. I could tell it was Aunt Lydia by her shape and the way she walked.
I watched the barn for what seemed a long time. What were they doing in there? It must have been something quite wicked if they were skulking about in the dark. No wonder Uncle Jacob would not have us associating with such people.
Finally, both figures emerged from the barn. Aunt Lydia walked toward the house, and the man drove away in a now-empty wagon.
They must have been unloading the straw. But why take a delivery in the middle of the night? Perhaps the straw hid something else. Something Aunt Lydia could get in trouble for. Something bad. Now I had a new mystery to puzzle over, but it would have to wait until morning. Yawning, I returned to bed, unable to keep my eyes open any longer.

The mood at breakfast was chillier than usual. After Mary’s flawless reading of Daniel chapter eight, the family – each member consumed with his or her own thoughts – ate the breakfast of bacon, fried eggs, and grits in silence.
Wishing to ease the stifling tension, I said, “I saw something that wondered me last night.”
“And what would that be?” asked Mama with a tired smile. Her face was pale.
“In the middle of the night, a wagon filled with straw drove into Aunt Lydia’s barn and came out empty.” I decided it best not to mention Aunt Lydia had entered the barn with a man.
“I will not have you spying on the neighbors,” snapped Uncle Jacob.
“I was not spying. I could not sleep. I…”
Mama shot me a warning glance.
“Do not talk back to me,” he ordered, the quietness of his voice even more menacing than when he shouted. “You are never to go there. Mind your own business. Whatever goes on over there has nothing to do with you. Do you understand me?”
“Ja, Uncle Jacob,” I whispered, resigning myself to unanswered questions and a silent breakfast. 


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