Tag Archives: genealogy fiction

‘File under Fear’ by Geraldine Wall #genealogy #mystery #dementia

Second in the series about probate researcher turned genealogy detective Anna Ames, File Under Fear by Geraldine Wall takes off running from where the previous book left off. This is a well-written, page-turning series that combines family history, crime, family and secrets. But for me, the touchstone that makes it special is the sub-plot of Anna’s home life and her husband Harry’s dementia. If you haven’t read book one in the series, I suggest you start there to see the full emotional depth.Geraldine Wall

Anna’s new contract sounds boring: to write a business report on Draycotts, the company which makes Drakes lurid orange and green drink, analysing how the family members coordinate together to run a successful business. But there is a secret element to her contract, to locate a missing person for CEO Gerald Draycott. This case sees Anna physically and emotionally intimidated and encompasses bullying, illegal smuggling and rape. An intense story with red herrings and wrong assumptions made about family members, the actual crimes being committed and in which Anna questions who to trust. Backing her up are her very likeable family and the multi-talented more-than-workmate Steve. Some of the resolutions fall into place a little conveniently at the fast-paced ending, but this is a satisfying tale.

What makes this series so different, and adds the emotional depth in spades, is Harry’s illness and how the family and friends cope. Sometimes they struggle but ultimately they manage the reality of their life with compassion, humour and love. This series is maturing nicely.
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Read my review of the first Anna Ames novel, File under Family.

If you like this, try:-
Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Deerleap’ by Sarah Walsh 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Genealogy #mystery #dementia FILE UNDER FEAR by Geraldine Wall https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5q via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Fred’s Funeral’ by Sandy Day

None of us have the luxury of hearing what is said about us after we are dead. In Fred’s Funeral, Canadian author Sandy Day tells the story of one soldier, returned from the First World War, who felt misunderstood and sidelined by his family. Only when he dies in 1986, seventy years after he went to war, does he observe his own funeral and find out what they really think of him. Sandy Day

Fred Sadler has lived his post-fighting years in one institution or another. Clearly he is suffering from some form of shell shock or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but this goes undiagnosed. There are periods of living in boarding houses, his family is unwilling to have him live with them, until his behaviour deteriorates and he is sent back to hospital. Now dead and trapped as an unwilling ghost, Fred observes his funeral presided over by Viola, the sister-in-law he always disliked. As the mourners sit around and share memories of Fred, he watches, frustration mounting, as he is unable to correct their observations. They portray a ‘Fred Sadler’ which he does not recognise. I kept expecting something to happen; a true memory of the war, an event, which would explain Fred’s illness and set the record straight with his family. But it didn’t come. The story is told in linear fashion; the anecdotes of Viola and the remaining family are interchanged with Fred’s reaction to these stories plus a few flashbacks to the war. Clearer signposting of these sections would make reading easier.

Day clearly captures the time and place of post-Great War Canada, a subject which is new to me. However I found the repeated digressions into the extended family history and details of the lifestyle a distraction from the main story [so many cousins, great-great grandparents and houses]. I so wanted to cut some of these unrelated sections to allow a stronger novel to push its way to the surface; simpler, more powerful. The inclusion of so many family details makes me wonder if the core of Fred’s Funeral is a memoir, inspired by a real family, from which the author feels unable to cut some relations and take the leap into pure fiction.

The portrayal of Fred’s experience at Whitby Hospital for the Insane is heart breaking, as is the disinterest of his family. For them, Fred is an embarrassment. It is a sad indictment of our treatment of soldiers returning from war and our ignorance that the effect of fighting can last a lifetime. It is easy to assume that in the 21stcentury this has changed, but the modern day strand of Day’s story suggests it hasn’t. It is as if Fred’s life has paused. “He banished feeling anything long ago. He feels timid. He feels tentative, like every step he takes is on a thick layer of ice and at any moment, he might crash through into a frenzy of drowning.”

At the end of the novel, there is no ‘reveal’, no surprise, and I felt a little let down. Overall, this is a thoughtful examination of how family tensions, petty jealousies and misunderstandings can spread down the generations. Gossip and guesses are transformed into ‘truth’.

Day also writes poetry and this shows in her neat turn of phrase. For example, cousin Gertrude puts on her eyeglasses which “magnify her grey eyes like two tadpoles in a jar”.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#FamilyHistory #Mystery FRED’S FUNERAL by Sandy Day https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6h via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Bloodline’ by @FionaMountain

This is a combination of genealogical mystery, murder investigation and historical examination of the Nazis. Bloodline by Fiona Mountain, the second Natasha Blake mystery, covers a lot of ground from its seemingly innocuous starting point when Natasha hands in her report to a client. But nothing is mentioned lightly in this book, everything has a meaning. Natasha is not sure why Charles Seagrove requested this particular family tree, but knows he is unrelated to any of the people featured. Fiona Mountain

The real reason for Seagrove’s interest in genealogy is at the heart of this storyline. There are many dead ends and I admit to losing track of who was who at one point but Mountain ties all the loose endings together so there is clarity at the end. At first, Natasha is simply conducting another genealogical research but everything changes when she receives an anonymous note, ‘Cinderella is in the bluebell woods at Poacher’s Dell’. Once her client is murdered with his own shotgun, Natasha feels threatened as well as puzzled.

There are many storylines to be connected including Charles Seagrove’s grand-daughter Rosa and her father Richard, Second World War land girls, and two soldiers – one German, one English – who meet in the trenches during the Christmas truce of 1914. This is a lot to handle but Mountain manages the complicated history with ease and I enjoyed trying to work out the solution.
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Read my review of Pale as the Dead, the first Natasha Blake book.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
File Under Family’ by Geraldine Wall
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
BLOODLINE by @FionaMountain #FamilyHistory #Mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6c via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Deerleap’ by Sarah Walsh

One day Grace Chalk sees her boyfriend standing at the other side of the street. Except Alex is dead. And so starts Deerleap by Sarah Walsh, a combination of love story [Grace and Alex], detective story [is Alex really alive, if so where is he?] and the nature of blame [marriage breakdown] and grief. Walsh has written an assured story, handling the emotional complexities with a gentle touch making the twists and turns even more surprising when they arrive. Sarah Walsh

When the story opens, seven years have passed since the car accident in which Grace’s father and her stepmother Polly were killed, her sister Rita seriously injured, and her boyfriend Alex disappeared. Alex’s body was never found. Rita has never talked about what happened, she is emotionally vulnerable, spiky and prone to hitting her sister. Grace’s mother still resents being deserted by her husband and Grace worries that her anger will turn into depression and suicide. At the centre of the story stands Deerleap, the remote country house where Alex grew up and where Grace visits her father as he sets up his new home with Polly. It all sounds idyllic, except seven years later, Deerleap stands empty awaiting the legal deadline when Alex can be declared legally dead and the house sold. This is the catalyst which sparks this chain of events.

The emotional vulnerability in Grace’s family made me at times question her own reporting of events, we are told the story entirely through her eyes. She is an artist, painting portraits of from her studio in Bristol. She looks into people’s faces and sees the truth. Can she find out the truth of what happened to Alex?

The Somerset countryside sounds marvellous, a stark contrast to the streets of Bristol where Grace’s troubled mother and sister live. The family ties, responsibilities and lies create a web of mystery through which you glimpse the answer. And then there is a twist at the end that I didn’t expect. This is a quiet book which really grew on me. A psychological mystery, rather than a psychological thriller, it explores the nature of grief, depression, guilt and love.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
File Under Family’ by Geraldine Wall
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain
The Marriage Certificate’ by Stephen Molyneux 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A #familyhistory #mystery DEERLEAP by Sarah Walsh https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5e via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A #genealogy #mystery ‘The Marriage Certificate’ by Stephen Molyneux

There’s a new genre appearing in mystery, thriller and general fiction sections: #genealogylit. Involving a combination of old-fashioned mystery, family history, detective fiction and combined historical and modern-day settings, #genealogylit has grown from the love of family history research and television programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Long Lost Family. Stephen Molyneux

The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molyneux is another example of #genealogylit, combining family secrets with turn of the century British history: the Boer War, the Great War, the merchant navy, the changing role of women and attitudes to illegitimacy. Unlike other #genealogylit however, it is not a crime novel, there is no murder.

It is the story of two couples – the bride and groom, Louisa and John, best man Frank and bridesmaid Rose – at a wedding on January 15, 1900; their lives, loves, dangers and tragedies. Running alongside is a modern-day strand. In 2011, amateur genealogist Peter Sefton finds the marriage certificate of Louisa and John’s wedding in an antiques shop and his curiosity is piqued. As he researches the names on the certificate, we also see their lives unfolding in a rapidly-changing world as the 19thcentury turns into the 20th. The men leave home to fight, while the women stay at home. War brings a change of life, but social mores remain Victorian.

Meanwhile, an elderly man dies alone in London. Without relatives, Harry Williams is listed on the Bona Vacantia list of unclaimed estates. In 2011, a professional heir hunting company starts to research Williams’ life in the hope of finding distant relatives and earn a share of the money. How will Highborn Research’s investigation coincide with Peter’s? Is there a connection to Laura and John? And who will inherit Harry Williams’ money?

This is not a thrilling page-turner with rapid action on every page, instead it is a slow-burning story rooted in historical detail which, for me, came alive in the final 100 pages. Perhaps this is due to the writing style, which can be a little formal and repetitive, and the author’s tendency to include tiny details. I did wonder whether the storyline was based on real people, the genealogical detail is fascinating and it is clear the author knows the research procedure, its twists and turns. I read this over one weekend, and found myself sitting up late to read to the end. Incidentally, the last page leaves the story hanging – but don’t be tempted to look!
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
‘Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
Blood Atonement’ by Dan Waddell
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A #genealogy #mystery THE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE by Stephen Molyneux https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4N via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Adoption #Mystery ‘The Pearl Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley

I really enjoyed The Pearl Sister, the fourth in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters adoption mysteries. While Maia, Ally and Star have already investigated their birth stories, Celaeno, CeCe, has shown no interest in her own. She is feeling sorry for herself, alone now that Star has become independent. Until her curiosity is piqued. Pa Salt’s lawyer tells her about a bequest, a large sum of money, and a photograph of two unidentified men. He advises CeCe to investigate Kitty Mercer from Broome in Australia. Lucinda Riley

On her journey to Australia, CeCe stops off in Thailand, staying at Railey Beach where she has holidayed in the past with Star. As she wonders why she is there alone, feeling envious of Star’s new home and new love in England, she meets a mysterious man on the beautiful beach. They bond over the morning sunrise, both are hurting – CeCe is missing Star and feeling betrayed by her sister’s newfound life, while Ace is hiding a big secret he cannot, or will not, explain. Riley hints that behind the beauty of Railey Beach there is a dark, sordid side. Could Ace be involved in drugs? Then when CeCe steps off the plane in Australia, she discovers Ace has been arrested and believes CeCe betrayed him to the press. As the journalists identify CeCe’s name and location, she runs away to Broome.

As with all the earlier novels in the series, the story of The Pearl Sister is told in two strands. CeCe is in 2008, Kitty Mercer’s story starts in 1906. The eldest daughter of a Edinburgh preacher, Kitty goes on a nine month trip to Australia as companion to the wealthy Mrs McCrombie. It changes Kitty’s life. She drinks alcohol for the first time, kisses a man, and acts immodestly in ways that would shock her clergyman father. Two men, twin brothers, pay attention to her. Drummond is the dangerous brother, the one who kisses her. But Kitty reverts to type by marrying the steady, safe, Andrew Mercer, and moves to Broome where he runs the family’s pearl fishing company for his father.

I found Kitty’s story enthralling, she is a true rebel at a time when women were finding their feet and their voices. She has a way of identifying people needing help. Along her life’s journey she collects waifs and strays, rescuing them from hunger, mistreatment, poverty and racism, giving them opportunities, security and winning their loyalty. Each of them comes to play a critical role in Kitty’s life; from Camira, the pregnant Aboriginal servant girl thrown from the house by her master, to Sarah, the fifteen year old orphan met on a boat from England who has a gift with the sewing needle.

Australia the country and the lives and customs of its Aboriginal people are a dominant presence throughout this novel. Be warned, it will make you want to visit. Throughout it all runs the enticing descriptions of Aboriginal art, by real artists such as Albert Namatjira who lived and worked at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission outside Alice Springs, which CeCe visits.

The loose ends come together in the end though Riley did keep me guessing on a couple of the links. The significance of Ace and CeCe’s time in Thailand was one such puzzle. These are all hefty books, but I read this one quickly. It’s my favourite of the series so far which seems to get better with every book.
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Next in the series is The Moon Sister, the story of Tiggy.

Read my reviews of the first three novels in the series:-
The Seven Sisters
The Storm Sister
The Shadow Sister

If you like this, try:-
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain
Blood Atonement’ by Dan Waddell
‘Blue-Eyed Son’ by Nicky Campbell 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE PEARL SISTER by @lucindariley #adoption #mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-aP via @SandraDanby

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Blood Atonement’ by Dan Waddell @danwaddell

A fascinating mixture of modern crime novel and family history research, Blood Atonement takes Nigel Barnes from London to the USA as he races against time to find answers for Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster.Dan Waddell

Foster’s first case after returning to work following injuries sustained in The Blood Detective [first in this genealogical crime series] is a dead actress and her missing daughter. Links to the actress’s past, mystery about her family and unanswered questions, lead Foster to call in the help of genealogist Nigel Barnes. Both men are strong characters who walk off the page, both loners of a kind, both lonely in love.

This is a fast-moving mystery revolving around what happened to Horton and Sarah Rowley, who we know from flashbacks were teenage sweethearts planning to run away, but who only appear in records in the UK from 1891. Before that, they cease to exist. Where did they come from, and why were they running? Simply because their parents disapproved of the marriage, or something more sinister? And what has this to do with the dead actress found lying face down on her lawn in London? As he searches for the missing 14-year old, Foster finds chilling parallels with Leonie, another 14-year old who disappeared three years earlier and has never been found. As links to a cult are uncovered, attention focuses back on Sarah and Horton.

A satisfying well-written plot which manages to slip in a little history too.
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Read my review of the first in the series, The Blood Detective.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
The Shadow Sister’ by Lucinda Riley
The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#FamilyHistory #Mystery BLOOD ATONEMENT by @danwaddell https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4E via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A #genealogy #mystery ‘Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger @lottiejosie

It all begins when West Kansas historian Lottie Albright receives a submission for her oral history project. Written by Zelda St John, aunt of political hopeful Brian Hadley, the piece examines torrid racist attitudes in the family’s history. This is the sort of book you settle into and read with relish. Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger is a mystery thriller which moves with steady detailed steps as the tension twists and twists like a screw being slowly turned.Charlotte Hinger

A first murder is followed rapidly by a second, Lottie is sworn in as a deputy and balances her twin jobs of detecting and collating historical records. The two jobs fit neatly together until anonymous letters start to arrive. Lottie is ably supported by her quiet long-suffering husband Keith, and her clinical psychologist twin sister Josie. Remember the twin thing, it is important later. Sam Abbott, sheriff of the woefully-underfunded Carlton County police, welcomes the resources of the Kansas Bureau of Investigations and so distracts Lottie with research into an old dead case: the old Swenson murders. This feels like a massive diversion, but go with the flow of this book and you will be rewarded.

Hinger plots intricately and draws a totally believable picture of the historical society in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s secrets. Lottie’s project involves everyone writing the story of their family: for some people, the shame is too much.

This is the first of the Lottie Albright series of family history mysteries.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain 
The Storm Sister’ by Lucinda Riley 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
DEADLY DESCENT by @lottiejosie #genealogy #mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4g via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A #genealogy #mystery ‘The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival @wendy_percival

When the key character of a novel goes on holiday or visits a picturesque place, you know something is going to happen. Genealogist Esme Quentin in The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival goes to Devon to help a friend archive the records of a local charity for underprivileged children. Second in the Esme Quentin genealogical mysteries, this is an enjoyable story of convict history set in a beautiful Devon location. But beneath that beauty lurk fraud, lies and revenge. Hatred and bitterness reach from the past to the current day. genealogy

Up early on her first morning, Esme takes a walk on the wild beach and finds a body. The woman, just alive, seems to have fallen from the cliffs. Her last words, spoken to Esme, are key to the mystery which follows. “I lied,” she says. Beside her body is an old sepia photograph. The police don’t take seriously Esme’s concerns that the woman’s last words combined with the mystery photograph indicate foul play, so Esme decides to identify the family in the photograph.

Meanwhile, Neave Shaw is worrying about her mother who has disappeared after sending a confused, possibly drunken, email. Worried and not understanding her grandmother’s dismissive attitude to Bella’s disappearance, Neave presses for answers but is interrupted by a knock on the door. It is the police. Neave arrives in Warren Quay and asks Esme for help in understanding why her mother died. Esme quickly puts a name to one of the people in the sepia photograph: Sarah Baker, a thief who was transported as a convict in 1837. Sarah’s story adds a fascinating layer of history to this whodunnit and whydunnit mystery. But what is Sarah’s link to Neave’s dead mother? And did Bella fall or was she pushed? Esme’s research into Sarah’s convict history is helped by the presence of the Mary Ann, a restored nineteenth-century sailing ship with an on-board museum about the history of convict transportation.

The last few pages move at top speed as Esme discovers hidden identities and double-crossings and races to find Neave to warn her of danger. She knows that whoever killed Bella to protect the secret will not hesitate to kill again. I would have liked to read more about Sarah Baker’s journey on a convict ship to Australia and her life there, showing some of the facts rather than having Esme discover them in a dry record search. So much tantalising history lies beneath the surface of this story. I found some elements confusing at times as the story moves so fast and also because of the number of aliases and marriages; this might have been eased by merging or dropping some minor characters, for example Ruth/Maddy, Dan/Felix. But Percival’s characterisation of some minor characters was spot on; I particularly liked retired schoolteacher Miss Hodge and Neave’s irascible grandmother Gwen.

This is a well-paced genealogical thriller enriched by its Australian and Irish links and demonstrating how the resentment of wrongdoing can persevere across the generations.
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Read my review of Blood-Tied, the first Esme Quentin book.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Genealogy #mystery THE INDELIBLE STAIN by @wendy_percival https://wp.me/paZ3MX-44 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Bookreview ‘The Shadow Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #romance

Star d’Aplièse, the third of the six adopted sisters in Lucinda Riley’s dual-timeline adoption mystery series is the subject of The Shadow Sister. Riley excels at combining a contemporary mystery with a related historical story and so far in the series Star has been something of an enigma. Almost twinned to CeCe, her nearest sister in age, she is the quiet unassuming one in this flamboyant family. In The Shadow Sister,she steps out of the shadows and discovers a past involving Beatrix Potter, Mrs Keppel and the King of England.

adoption reunion

When their adopted father Pa Salt dies, he leaves each girl a letter and clue about their birth. Star’s journey takes her first to Kensington, London, to an eccentric rare bookseller where Star, grieving and feeling adrift in life, takes a job as bookshop assistant. She soon proves herself irreplaceable to shop owner Orlando who invites her to his family home in Kent. There she meets his surly brother Mouse – who Star thinks of as ‘The Sewer Rat’ – and delightful nephew Rory. As Star becomes caught up in the turmoil of the Vaughan family, distance grows between herself and CeCe. Slowly Star recognises that in order to work out who she is, she must be separate from her sister.

This novel is not just the contemporary story of Star ‘finding herself’ it is also the story of her ancestry. The historical strand takes us back to 1909 to Flora MaNichol who lives at Esthwaite Hall in the Lake District, and is a neighbour to Beatrix Potter. Flora’s family life is enigmatic, although she is the older sister it is the younger Aurelia who is given a London season and engagement to Archie, destined to be Lord Vaughan, encouraged. Flora would rather run wild on the fells, drawing animals and plants, avoiding her censorious father. Her life takes a turn when she too must live in London, at the house of Mrs Keppel, notorious mistress to the King. Star’s clue hints at a wealthy inheritance, a small onyx animal figurine named ‘Panther’. How can this be connected to Flora; why is she feted as a guest by Mrs Keppel, and what are the connections to Star a century later?

One issue I have with the series is that rather than actually being about the sisters’ mysterious parentage and how Pa Salt came to adopt them, they tell a historical story set two or three generations earlier. So far I have enjoyed all three of the historical stories; I am reading the series in order. The historical strands are linked to each relevant sister, but I am left feeling slightly short-changed about the truth of their birth. I want to know more about the birth parents and how Pa Salt came to adopt them. However in this book, more than the first two, his shadow is more evident so perhaps his story will be unveiled in the seventh book of the series.
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Next in the series is The Pearl Sister, the story of CeCe.
Read my reviews of the first two novels in the series:-
The Seven Sisters
The Storm Sister

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain
‘Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE SHADOW SISTER by @lucindariley #adoption https://wp.me/paZ3MX-3K via #AdoptionStoriesBlog