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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Who She is by Diane Byington - Book Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Faye's used to moving a lot. Her parents are farm workers and they go from place to place. It's 1967 and Faye is about to start over once more. Every time she has to begin at a new school. Faye loves running and would like to be part of a track team, but her school doesn't have a program for girls. There might be a solution to that problem, but Faye's parents don't approve of running. They want their daughter to go home directly after school and do chores. Faye's mother is afraid the running will trigger Faye's epilepsy and therefore she isn't allowed to exercise. However when Faye meets Francie, another fan of running, she decides she will disobey her parents' orders and give it a shot anyway. Faye would love to earn a scholarship, so she can finally be free of her oppressive home environment.

Francie has a lot more freedom than Faye. Because of the strict rules at home Faye has never had any friends before, but Francie's mother makes sure Faye's parents allow their daughter some liberties. This means Faye can finally have a job and earn money. Francie would love for them to take part in the Boston Marathon. Women aren't officially allowed to run yet, but there are ways to participate. Unfortunately Faye's parents aren't happy with this plan. While Francie and Faye are training for the event of their lives Faye keeps struggling with each rule she has to follow. At the same time strange memories are coming to the surface, are they real and what do they mean? Will she stay somewhere long enough to run the marathon and get that scholarship and can Francie help Faye to find out what her parents are keeping from her?

Who She Is is a great gripping story with a fabulous strong heroine. Faye is determined, brave and fierce. She works hard and fights for what she believes in. Her parents just allow her to work and go to school. She's such a sweet and loving girl and the cold atmosphere at home put tears in my eyes. Faye isn't supposed to have friends and her parents want to deny her what she loves doing the most, running. Faye doesn't give up though, she perseveres and slowly her parents are losing a bit of control over their daughter. It was fascinating to see how she becomes her own person and chooses her battles. She keeps going, even if the situation seems too daunting to continue. I admired her spirit and was incredibly curious to find out more about the strange memories she has.

Diane Byington has a fantastic engaging writing style. She slowly builds up the suspense and kept me on the edge of my seat. I love how she combines Faye's passion for running with complex family relationships and intriguing secrets. I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough to find out more and love it when a story captivates me so much that I can't put it down and have to read it in one sitting. Who She Is is set in an interesting time, in 1967 women weren't allowed to officially partake in the marathon yet, but there were some very talented ones who earned to cross that finish line and reading about them was amazing. I loved how everything comes together, connections become deeper, the truth comes to light and Faye and Francie reach their full potential. Who She Is is a mesmerizing journey filled with surprises. Diane Byington has written a terrific story that I really enjoyed.

Advice

If you love gripping stories about friendship and family secrets you don't want to miss Who She Is.

About Diane Byington


I wrote my first “book” in the fifth grade. It was an updating of Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations. Pip was now Smitty, and so forth. I received an “A” for the project, and that encouraged me to keep writing. When I was 13 I spent the summer writing a book about meeting my fantasy loves, the Beatles – which made me so embarrassed that it ended up in the trash. But I couldn’t stop writing. I was the editor of my high school literary magazine and won an award for one of my essays.

I tried to major in English as an undergraduate at the University of Florida, but reading Pilgrim’s Progress stopped me cold! I couldn’t make it through that classic, and decided to switch gears. I got my undergraduate degree in psychology, and eventually earned my M.S.W. and Ph.D. in social work at Florida State University. After working for a while in the health field, I decided to be a college professor so I could, among other benefits, have summers off to dedicate to writing. Eventually I moved to Colorado to teach at the University of Denver.

Those years resulted in numerous professional and academic articles that gained me tenure and some status in my field, but I also wanted to write fiction and essays. So, toward the end of my twenty years in academia, I published a short story, several essays, and even a poem.

After leaving academia and moving to Boulder I burst forth into a multiplicity of occupations. I taught yoga and chi kung classes, earned a certificate in chi kung healing and practiced energy healing, used my license in social work to start a private psychotherapy practice, and made a relaxation CD. These were fun, but not very lucrative, so I eventually ended up as a management consultant, working with 360 feedback. I like using my skills to help people succeed in their careers.

Yes, I’ve enjoyed an eclectic work history.

I enrolled in a two-year creative writing program through Stanford University and received my Certificate in Novel Writing. Since then, I’ve been writing full-time.

Links

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Valencia, Florida -- The Setting for Who She Is
Guest post by Diane Byington

I set my novel, Who She Is, in a small, fictional town in Central Florida. The book is about a teenage girl, Faye Smith, who decides she wants to run the Boston Marathon. She faces a number of obstacles in reaching this goal. The first is that the book takes place in 1967-68, and women weren’t allowed to register for the race until 1972. Also, her parents don’t want her to do it for other reasons, which you’ll understand when you read the book.

The book could have been set anywhere, really. Originally, there was a subplot having to do with buying up the land for Disney (which is a fascinating story, I assure you). I ended up letting go of that subplot, although it may show up in some future book. By the time I did that, I had already visited Central Florida and had fallen in love with it. So I continued letting the story roll out there, and I’m happy I did.

When you start writing a novel, there are many, many decisions to be made. Characters and plot are obvious, but setting is just as important. I like to visit the places where I set my stories so I can add specific details that give the story more life. In this case, I needed to find a place in Central Florida that hadn’t changed much since the late 1960s. Yeah, right! I spent a lot of time online and finally came up with the small town of Mount Dora, about an hour NW of Orlando. My husband and I rented a house on a lake for a week so I could do research and he could fish. I spent nearly every hour of that week wandering around, thinking of places for scenes, where the various characters would live, and many other things. In the process, I fell in love with the area. Mount Dora an artistic town of around 15,000 people set beside the large Lake Dora. It seemed the perfect fit for my story.

Only, I couldn’t call it Mount Dora. Some wonderful things happen in my book, and some that are not so wonderful. I needed a fictional name. Because Faye’s father works in an

orange grove and some juicy oranges are named Valencia, I decided to call the town Valencia. Now I could write about it any way I wanted, without having to worry about whether the things I described had ever happened there. (When you read it, you’ll understand.)

The other part of the story is that my husband and I kept going back for several years, staying longer each time, until we looked at each other and said, “Why don’t we just buy a place and spend the winters here?” And that’s exactly what we did. Now we travel back and forth between our mobile home in Florida and our regular home in Boulder, Colorado. It’s a lovely life that I owe to Who She Is.

One of my favorite scenes describes how Faye feels about Valencia. It takes place in Chapter 9, when she is running from her house to the lake. “I practiced noticing what was around me while I ran. Three medium-sized alligators lay on the sand beside the lake. They didn’t even glance at me as I ran past. It seemed that alligators weren’t as scary as people. Farther on, a great blue heron dove straight into the water and came up with a big fish. It flew toward the shore and landed awkwardly. I stopped to watch as it jiggled the foot-long fish around to be in line with its throat. Then it swallowed an inch at a time. The heron’s throat became fish-shaped until finally even the tail disappeared inside. The bird flew off, and I smiled and ran on.”

Obviously, Faye loves the area as much as I do. But for every positive aspect of a setting, something else could happen that turns the positive feelings inside out. I’m not going to give away the mystery associated with the book, but rest assured that everything about Valencia is not all happiness and light. Still, I came to love it, in all of its complexity, and I hope you will, too.

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a signed paperback copy of Who She is by Diane Byington.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.

43 comments:

  1. Who She Is sounds like a wonderful coming-of-age story celebrating female empowerment with excellent pacing and gripping suspense.

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    1. Thanks so much. Hope you enjoy it. I like that description.

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  2. Sounds like a great book! Very empowering!

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    1. Thanks so much.

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  3. This book sounds just the thing to escape life into!!

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    1. Don't we all need somewhere to escape to these days. Thanks.

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  4. This sounds like a great book, thanks for the chance.

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    1. Thanks so much for your support.

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  5. It sounds like a very interesting book. Thank you for the giveaway!

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    1. Thank you for your interest. I hope you like it.

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  6. Nice post, I would like to request you to one more post about that Keep it up

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    1. Thank you for reading.

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  7. Oh wow this sounds like a complex family saga Diane
    jan

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    1. Yeah, it's pretty complex, for sure. Hope you enjoy it.

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    1. Thank you. I do hope it empowers people to follow their dreams.

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  9. Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for a chance to win.
    lindacfast@hotmail.com

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    1. Thanks for your support.

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  10. This is an interesting story! Similar to how you couldn't get through Pilgrim's Progress, so had to change your major, I had always been into art since a very young age, but found I could not produce "on demand" and the volume required, more like a factory - my creativity doesn't work that way, so had to change, too.

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    1. Yeah, I hear you. It's kind of sad that college doesn't allow people to create but instead imposes so many rules on them. But it all comes round in the end, doesn't it?

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  11. This sounds like a really great read. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. Awww, thanks so much for your support.

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  12. I'm so excited to read it. Sounds amazing.

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    1. Thanks. I hope you like it.

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  13. This sounds like an intriguing book and would no doubt be a very interesting read for me.

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    1. I hope you like it. Please let me know.

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    1. Best wishes to you. Thanks for your support.

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  15. I agree with Diane, setting is so important in aa book.

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    1. It's really fun to research the setting. My next book takes place in Colorado Springs. It was fun, too. Keep a lookout for it. Thanks for your support.

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  16. This looks like a fabulous read!

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    1. I hope you like it. Please let me know.

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  17. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading the review. Best wishes.

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  18. Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

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    1. Good luck to you, too. And thanks for reading.

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  19. The story sounds really sweet.

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    1. Awww. Sweet, and fast-paced, too. I hope you enjoy it.

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  20. Allison told me about this and I can't wait to read it. Congratulations! Marty

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  21. I want to know more about these strange memories! Hasn't the world changed so much since the 60s?

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  22. A very interesting peek into your life. My, Diane you certainly have had an eclectic and interesting work history. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your guest post and I must say that I also loved Florida when I visited, what a marvellous setting for a novel. I just wish that I'd visited Mount Dora whilst I was down there but the Keys were calling my name and beautiful they are too.

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