Welcome to: History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

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Writers are often readers. The following book reviews are from my perspective. I'm looking forward to presenting my opinions on a range of books, though mostly on historical fiction, in hopes that it will help inspire readers to read more, and non-readers to start. I'd love to have you check out my latest book, Wanders Far-An Unlikely Hero's Journey while you're here!

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My Review

Seven Aprils by Eileen Charbonneau​

American Civil War Brides Series

5-Stars

In the opening scene, we meet a troubled young woman named Tess. She’s wading in a creek, enjoying a rare moment alone. Her solitude is interrupted by a commotion across a stone wall. A panther attack brought a man and his horse to the ground and was moving in for the kill. Fortunately for the man, Tess and her Springfield rifle came to the rescue. The panther was known in the area as Old Pitch. The man, a young doctor, named Ryder Cole, and the woman Tess couldn’t be more different, as this quote indicates, “He covered her work roughened hand with his fine-boned one.”

Tess’s family depends on her hunting skills, and since the death of her mother five years earlier, her family also depends on her to do all the cooking and cleaning as well. It’s not clear what value her father and her two brothers serve. Despite their dependence on Tess, her father negotiates a marriage between Tess and a villainous storekeeper named Mr. Strong. Tess is not willing to marry Mr. Strong.

A desperate escape leads Tess to adopt some surprising disguises. Most significantly, she ends up dressing as a man and living as Tom so that she can serve in the military as an assistant to the doctor. It feels like Tess’s identities will be discovered at almost every turn. There is never a dull moment in this book.

Seven Aprils is very engaging, from its strong opening, through its complex middle, and all the way to its last pages. During the Civil War, seven years seems like a lifetime. Every plot twist is interesting and exciting. The scenes are richly portrayed. The conflict and angst are just right, ever present and never over emphasized. The premise is fantastic. My favorite part of the book is the strength of the character development, from the main characters to the lesser ones, not the least of which is Harriet Tubman. I especially liked meeting the tinker named Maude O’Neil.

This book is not just for fans of Civil War books, historical fiction, or romance fiction. This expertly written book is so good, I think everyone should read it.

Posted October 11, 2020

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About the Book

Origins, BY NICOLE SALLAK ANDERSON

 

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

Literary Wanderlust

Paperback & eBook; 229 Pages


Series: Song of the King's Heart, Book 1

Genre: Historical Fiction

This is the lost story of Lord Ankhwenefer, known to the Greeks as Chaonnophris the Rebel, the last native Egyptian Pharaoh. The brilliance and heartache of his rebellion weave a tale that history has forgotten.

Until now.

In the year 205 B.C., after centuries of Persian and Macedonian occupation, a rebel king rises from the south to take ancient Egypt back unto native hands. He will battle the Ptolemy line for twenty years, and rule almost eighty percent of Egypt, yet in the end, history will never mention his name.

Born Prince Ankhmakis, the last in a line of native Egyptian kings, he is raised with one purpose—to help his father reclaim Egypt from the Macedonian occupiers and return their country to dynastic greatness. Fate, however, has its own plans. For lies and deceit live in the hearts of all involved, from his family to the priesthood, and the Greeks aren’t the only ones who seek to destroy him.

Natasa is in training to become the High Priestess of the temple of Isis. Her task is to strengthen the royal family with the magic of the goddess through love and pleasure. She never thought the connection between her and Ankhmakis could be so strong, or carry a power coveted by those lurking in the shadows. Nor did she know that the child they would create would have her own great destiny to fulfill.

Together, Ankhmakis and Natasa must defend the potential of their love from those who would seek to use it for their own gain. Theirs is a world of magic, power, riches, and lust, and there are those within the court who would do anything to keep Ankhmakis and Natasa apart. Between mystical forces, murder, and illicit schemes–only the gods know if they’ll survive.

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Praise for Origins

“ORIGINS is an enthralling, cinematic tale set in Ancient Egypt, seeping with magic, intrigue, treachery, and romance. I was hooked from the beginning and holding my breath until the very last page.” — Stephanie Diaz, author of the Extraction Series

“Nicole Sallak Anderson’s detailed research of costumes, history, and rituals illuminate a long-vanished culture and makes it interesting and she has skillfully breathed life into mere hieroglyphs turning them into vibrant people whose lives are filled with love, jealousy, intrigue, and ambition. A must-read for anyone fascinated by Egyptology or who just wants to read a great story.” — Nancy Lynn Jarvis, author of the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series and the PIP Inc. series.

My Review

Origins, by Nicole Sallak Anderson

Twin Flames

5-Stars

I’ll always remember working with my mother on a fourth-grade report on King Tut’s tomb. As I recall there was a very ornate poster board involved. Looking back, I’m not sure how much I contributed to that project, but I have been fascinated by ancient Egypt ever since. So I was really looking forward to reading Origins, by Nicole Sallak Anderson.

When I saw the list of characters at the front of the book, I was a bit concerned, afraid that I would get lost among so large a cast. Fortunately, the main characters, conflicts, and premise came into focus quickly. I was expecting a dramatic exploration of succession-oriented plotlines and militaristic conquests, and these aspects of the book are very well written. The sibling rivalries are particularly well done. Three brothers want to be king. At least two brothers want the same woman. To top it off, a civil war is on the way, and an evil pharaoh must be overthrown. The stakes are enormous. It’s quite a story!

I especially enjoyed the spiritual aspects of this book. Here’s a great quote from the book that shows how mystery and romance combine in the story: “Could she and Ankhmakis be one Ba in two bodies? Such a pairing was rare―twin flames didn’t often incarnate together.”

The author did a great job building the scenes in this book. I didn’t just visualize them, I felt them. When Natasa went “deep inside a tunnel in the grand pyramid” and then embarked on an amazing spiritual journey, I was mesmerized. It was an out of body experience. Astral projection. The author claims that Natasa “was alone in the cosmos,” but truly I felt like I went right along with her.

Origins (Song of the King’s Heart Book1) is a 5-star read. A for: Action, Drama, Intrigue, Romance, and Mysticism. Count me in for book 2.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Posted September 7, 2020

About the Author

Nicole Sallak Anderson is a Computer Science graduate from Purdue University, and former CTO for a small Silicon Valley startup, turned novelist and blogger, focusing on the intersection of technology and consciousness. She currently lives in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains in California with her husband, where she raises goats and bees. She enjoys spinning, knitting, playing the bass, and dancing, particularly the tango.

You can keep up with all her latest writing by following @NSallakAnderson on FacebookTwitter and Medium or her website www.nicolesallakanderson.com. Feel free to contact her, she almost always answers to any query or comment!

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 24
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, August 25
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

 

Wednesday, August 26
Review at YA, it’s Lit

 

Thursday, August 27
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

 

Friday, August 28
Review at Books and Zebras

 

Monday, August 31
Review at 100 Pages a Day

 

Tuesday, September 1
Review at Books Cooks Looks

 

Wednesday, September 2
Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

 

Thursday, September 3
Review & Excerpt at Journey in Bookland

 

Monday, September 7
Feature at I’m Into Books
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

 

Friday, September 11
Review at Jessica Belmont

 

Wednesday, September 16
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

Friday, September 18
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary

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Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of Origins! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on September 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

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About the Book

The Lost Diary of Alexander Hamilton, BY SOPHIE SCHILLER

Publication Date: July 3, 2020

Tradewinds Publishing


Genre: YA/US Colonial & Revolutionary Period/Historical Fiction

The story of Alexander Hamilton’s lost childhood in the Caribbean—a land of sugar plantations and slavery—where an impoverished orphan must learn to survive despite impossible odds. It is a story of struggle, heartbreak, resilience, and ultimately, triumph.

1765. Alexander Hamilton arrives in St. Croix with his family to begin a new life. He longs for the chance to go to school and fit in, but secrets from his mother’s past threaten to tear his family apart. When he sees a young African slave being tortured, Alexander vows to act. He urges his uncle to buy Ajax and promises to set him free. But tragedy strikes when his father abandons the family and his mother dies of yellow fever. Orphaned and alone, Alex is forced to survive by his wits and resourcefulness. By day he works in a counting house learning the secrets of foreign trade. By night he studies Plutarch and dreams of fame and glory. When Ajax is sold to a brutal planter, Alex vows to save him, even at the risk of his own life. With the aid of a reluctant slave-catcher, he concocts a plan to rescue Ajax, but when the price for helping a slave run away is torture or death, no one is safe.

In this gripping tale, Sophie Schiller re-creates the boyhood of the young man who would grow up to become a Founding Father and one of America’s foremost men.

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Praise

“The Lost Diary of Alexander Hamilton is a wonderful read… The musical “Hamilton” has brought the impact of this man in the founding of America sharply into our consciousness. But what author Sophie Schiller has skillfully done here is to take what little is known about Alexander’s early life and fashion a fictional story around his upbringing that fleshes out the boy that would become the man. I can highly recommend this read.” – Grant Leishman for Reader’s Favorite (5 star review)

“The Lost Diary of Alexander Hamilton is the kind of story that helps to restore faith in mankind. It helps to illustrate that, while there are those who are evil, who care not for their fellow man, there are also those willing to put their lives on the line for others. Author Sophie Schiller’s story of Alexander Hamilton shows him to be such a man. In these days when it seems that so little history is taught, and when the veracity of much of what is taught is questionable, this is the kind of story that those both young and old would do well to read.” Patricia Reding for Reader’s Favorite (5 star review)

About the Author

Sophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ and grew up in the West Indies. She is a novelist and a poet. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Kirkus Reviews has called her “an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer.” Her novel, ISLAND ON FIRE was published by Kindle Scout in 2018 and was called, “A memorable romantic thriller” by Publishers Weekly. Her latest novel, THE LOST DIARY OF ALEXANDER HAMILTON, is out now. She graduated from American University, Washington, DC and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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My Review

The Lost Diary of Alexander Hamilton, by Sophie Schiller

Saving Ajax

5-Stars

This is a little gem of a book!

I loved the opportunity to get to know Alexander Hamilton as a boy and young man. Until recently, the full story of his childhood in the Dutch West Indies wasn’t part of gathered history. The book is rich with detail, and full of lists of goods that stocked the shelves of the store and the shipments that arrived in the port.

The central story line involved Alex’s quest to liberate his servant, a boy named Ajax, who was very similar in age. It was this storyline that kept me flicking the pages to find out what happened. Did Alex save Ajax? Did he get caught, captured, imprisoned, or worse? You’ll have to find out for yourself.

I also found the story line involving Alex’s mother to be most engaging. At times, I found myself thinking she should have been the subject of the book. What a tragic figure.

I know some people prefer their historical fiction to be more history than fiction. You can tell this book is based on extensive research.

Often, my favorite parts of a book are the emotionally charged, and supernatural elements. My favorite part of the book is the dream that Alex has, 58% into the book. I don’t want to give away too much, and it’s too long to quote the whole thing, but perhaps this will give you a taste: “I can’t say for certain how long I lay in this dreamlike state, but after a while, a man appeared. A man I had never seen before. A handsome, older man in a white wig and full French regimentals, with a black cocked hat and a sabre at his side. He was majestic looking, and he regarded Mother with clear, blue eyes and a peaceful countenance.”

My rating for The Lost Diary of Alexander Hamilton is five stars. One star for Rachel, one star for Alex, one star for Ajax, one star for the dream scene, and one star for the research. I should also mention the cover, which I think is a great invitation to explore this book. The picture of a pistol at the opening of the book is an appropriate touch.

I received an ARC from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Posted September 14, 2020

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 7
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Tuesday, September 8
Review at Momfluenster

 

Wednesday, September 9
Review at Books and Zebras

 

Thursday, September 10
Guest Post at Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals

 

Friday, September 11
Review at YA, It’s Lit

 

Saturday, September 12
Review at A Darn Good Read

 

Monday, September 14
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks
Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

 

Tuesday, September 15
Excerpt at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

 

Wednesday, September 16
Review at Passages to the Past

 

Thursday, September 17
Interview at Passages to the Past

 

Saturday, September 19
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of The Lost Diary of Alexander Hamilton + a $10 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on September 19th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Mostly I read historical fiction, but sometimes it's fun to visit the future...

and I'm pleased to recommend this book.

The Human Genesis, by Seth Rain

An Overwhelming and Dramatic Conclusion

5-Stars

It started with The Warm Machine, continued with The Dead Horizon, was followed by The Violet Dawn, and then The Digital Resurrection. Now this exciting series comes to an overwhelming and dramatic conclusion in The Human Genesis. I have been a fan of this series from the very beginning. The original premise had me hooked. The ongoing story captured my imagination. The writing was stark and often painted a bleak picture, and yet the characters were richly developed. To top it all off, there were many moments of deep philosophizing that made me consider interesting possibilities. I have loved the journey this series has taken me on and I had a blast reading The Human Genesis. I’m a fan!

Posted September 7, 2020

About the Book

OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT, BY HEIDI ELJARBO

Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Series: Soli Hansen Mysteries, #1

Genre: Historical Mystery

In this first book of a new historical mystery series, a young art historian faces a tough choice in German-occupied Norway.

“Artful prose and at a pace that makes for a can’t-put-down, first-class literary voyage.”–Melissa Dalton-Bradford, bestselling author of Global Mom

Oslo, 1944. Soli Hansen’s passion for art history is and always has been a way of life for her. While she spends her days working in an art shop, WWII is taking its toll on everyone. Apprehensive of the consequences, Soli avoids becoming entangled in the war resistance efforts. She closes her eyes in hopes the enemy will retreat and leave her beautiful country for good.

But when a woman is found dead in the alley alongside the art shop and a painting from the last auction goes missing, Soli is thrown into the thickest of the fray involving both Nazi art theft and the Norwegian resistance.

Once Soli finds her courage, there’s no turning back. Her personal life is turned upside-down with danger, lies, spying, and an incredible discovery.

In this dual timeline novel, Heidi Eljarbo paints a vivid picture of what people are willing to do in desperate times. With unforgettable characters and rich historical details, Of Darkness and Light will keep the reader mesmerized until the last satisfying page.

Perfect for fans of Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley, Katherine Neville, and Kate Mosse.

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Praise for Of Darkness and Light

“Interspersing love, hope, and courage, the participants are drawn together in mysterious paths.”–Pauline Isaksen, bestselling author of Dying for Justice

Of Darkness and Light will reel you in and keep you hooked until the end.”–Mette Barfelt, bestselling author of The Solvik Series

About the Author

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of Catching a Witch. She grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.

After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren–so far–in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.

Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter. Heidi’s favorites are family, God’s beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.

If you would like to know more, please visit Heidi’s website. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

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My Review

Of Darkness and Light, by Heidi Eljarbo

Art History Mystery

5-Stars

This story opens in 1940. We meet a seventeen-year-old girl named Soli and her parents, whom she calls Mor and Far, Norwegian for Mother and Father. It is Soli’s birthday, and she receives a brightly colored, blue bicycle. We also meet Soli’s older brother Sverre. In the close of the opening pages, comes a “day of panic.” Norway is under attack.

Then the story quickly moves to 1944. Soli’s passion for art history advanced by formal training. She possesses the natural gift of an “eidetic memory.” It’s fun to imagine being able to see an image and recall every detailed aspect of it subsequently. Intriguing. Soli finds herself working in a Fine Art Shop during the German occupation of Norway.

When poor Mrs. Gundersen is found dead in the alley outside the shop, Soli finds herself pulled into a frightening mystery. In addition to the dead body, there is a missing painting, a painting with a past. This book dips back to 1607, connecting the object of the mystery to its creation. Perhaps ten percent of this dual timeline book is spent in the early 1600s and ninety percent in the 1940s. I like the balance of scenes set in these two periods and how the action in the stories works together.

The bad guys are willing to stop at nothing to round up all the valuable, famous works of art. Our hero and her friends put themselves in danger, trying to prevent these confiscations. Soli, our mild-mannered shop keeper/art history expert, finds herself embroiled in situations that take her way outside of her comfort zone. The author does a great job with character development and plot. I was also drawn to the objects in this book, and as a reader of historical fiction, I’m on the lookout for objects which become sort of like characters in a book. Of course, in this book, the object is a painting. I would recommend readers google “Caravaggio images” AFTER reading the book. That way, you can picture the art in your imagination, and then compare it to the painters’ actual works, assuming the reader isn’t already familiar with the artist’s work.

This sentence caught my attention. “Was it possible she’d met [him] that day, or had their souls known one another in a time before this?” I replaced the name in the sentence so as not to spoil any surprises. My antennae always turn toward otherworldly notions like this. Together with a couple of other brief thoughts in this book, there are some little tastes of things to come in future installments in this series.

Before I wind up my review of this book, I want to mention its beautiful cover. It looks like a brand-new book and historical fiction at the same time, which can be a delicate balance to achieve. It is so appropriate that the cover of a book in which art history is a significant theme is itself a work of art.

Despite making a note 85% into the book, “this book is giving me an ulcer,” I loved the experience of reading  Of Darkness and Light , and I heartily recommend it.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, May 12
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 14
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, May 15
Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, May 18
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 19
Feature at Reading is My Remedy

Thursday, May 21
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, May 22
Feature at Hopewell’s Public Library of Life

Monday, May 25
Review at Foals, Fiction, and Filligree

Tuesday, May 26
Feature at Books and Backroads

Thursday, May 28
Feature at Bookworlder

Monday, June 1
Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

Tuesday, June 2
Interview at Jorie Loves A Story

Wednesday, June 3
Review at Jessica Belmont
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

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About the Book

THE ABOLITIONIST’S DAUGHTER, BY DIANE C. MCPHAIL

Publication Date: April 30, 2019
A John Scognamiglio Book/Kensington

Genre: Historical Fiction

In her sweeping debut, Diane C. McPhail offers a powerful, profoundly emotional novel that explores a little-known aspect of Civil War history—Southern Abolitionists—and the timeless struggle to do right even amidst bitter conflict.

On a Mississippi morning in 1859, Emily Matthews begs her father to save a slave, Nathan, about to be auctioned away from his family. Judge Matthews is an abolitionist who runs an illegal school for his slaves, hoping to eventually set them free. One, a woman named Ginny, has become Emily’s companion and often her conscience—and understands all too well the hazards an educated slave must face. Yet even Ginny could not predict the tangled, tragic string of events set in motion as Nathan’s family arrives at the Matthews farm.

A young doctor, Charles Slate, tends to injured Nathan and begins to court Emily, finally persuading her to become his wife. But their union is disrupted by a fatal clash and a lie that will tear two families apart. As Civil War erupts, Emily, Ginny, and Emily’s stoic mother-in-law, Adeline, each face devastating losses. Emily—sheltered all her life—is especially unprepared for the hardships to come. Struggling to survive in this raw, shifting new world, Emily will discover untapped inner strength, an unlikely love, and the courage to confront deep, painful truths.

In the tradition of Cold Mountain, The Abolitionist’s Daughter eschews stereotypes of the Civil War South, instead weaving an intricate and unforgettable story of survival, loyalty, hope, and redemption.

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Praise for The Abolitionist's Daughter

“Diane McPhail excavates a nearly forgotten corner of American history and brings it to full, beating life. This is a fascinating and heartfelt look at the kinds of stories that don’t always make it into the history books.” -Louis Bayard, author of Courting Mr. Lincoln

“A contender, a deeply felt, thoroughly researched story . . . as good as it deserves to be.” -Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author

“Complex, vivid, and emotionally engaging. This is a story of harsh realities written with a tenderness that shines through and honors the account of one woman’s struggle to overcome her society’s rules and her circumstances in the face of inconceivable devastation. I couldn’t put it down.” -Carol E. Anderson, author of You Can’t Buy Love Like That

“What an impressive book this is! Diane McPhail works a spell on the reader, transporting us to Mississippi in the 19th century, introducing us to a family torn apart by the time and place in which they live. She tells a dark tale, yet it’s laced with lyricism and compassion. This is a powerful, imaginative, captivating book-I’d say, even urgent, considering the time we find ourselves in now.” -Judy Goldman, author of Together

“A tender, sparkling debut that bears gentle witness to the abominations of slavery and oppression while heralding the grace, power and necessity of righting wrongs and choosing love. McPhail is full of talent and heart.” -Ethel Rohan, author of The Weight of Him”

About the Author

Diane C. McPhail is an artist, writer, and minister. In addition to holding an M.F.A., an M.A., and D.Min., she has studied at the University of Iowa distance learning and the Yale Writers’ Workshop, among others. Diane is a member of North Carolina Writers’ Network and the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Highlands, North Carolina, with her husband, and her dog, Pepper.

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My Review

The Abolitionist's Daughter, by Diane C. McPhail

Down in Mississippi

5-Stars

 

This is a great book about a young woman named Emily Matthews, set in the Civil War era in Greensboro, Mississippi between 1859 and 1866. Though far from the battlefields, everyone is affected by the war.

The author created interesting characters and placed them into a troubled world. Each chapter is loaded with conflict as two families become tragically linked, both in love and in hatred. I couldn’t help thinking that our main character and her mother-in-law should have been kindred spirits, such a missed opportunity for both women who got caught in a web neither created.

I was intrigued by the web theme. On one page, it says, “So fragile. So easily destroyed… And yet it holds.” Later in the book, the author writes about a “lustrous web of dew,” and later still, she writes, “her eyes traced a web of cracks that split the plastered ceiling.” Further on she speaks of a “coagulated web of broken blood vessels.” About half-way through, “Emily lay in the dimness of the room. In the air around her, Ginny’s words hovered fine as spider webs, catching bits of light… The cooing of a dove caught in the web of Ginny’s words, rending a small tear in the stillness.” And finally, “Emily and Adeline left unspoken the web of causes and blame.” This theme kept me thinking after completing the book. After the end of the book, the author presents suggested questions for discussion, perhaps for book clubs. I find that most useful as I think about the story. I really enjoyed getting caught up in the web of this story.

When I am reading a book, I like to zoom in from the sky on google maps, hit the satellite toggle, and poke around. I had a hard time finding this town, perhaps it is just a crossroads kind of town. I found a Greensboro Road near an Old Greensboro Cemetery, so I believe the story is set near the center of a triangle formed by Jackson Mississippi, Birmingham Alabama, and Memphis Tennessee. As I’m writing my review, I’m listening to the soundtrack from the film Crossroads. I think this music combines well with the experience of reading this book.

Of course, this book is also about slavery. Emily and her father want to end slavery and struggle with laws that don’t allow them to free their slaves. In order to save abused and mistreated slaves, the family acquires a hundred slaves so that they will know a better life. Ironically, Emily is periodically depicted in a fragile state. Except for these moments, Emily’s strength often seems to surprise her. I think much of her strength comes from her relationship with Ginny, a slave who has been with her since her childhood. In many ways, Ginny raised Emily, and plays the roles of big sister, mother, and best friend in her life. I was really drawn to the author’s portrayal of Ginny.

I thought I’d also quote this line from the book, said by one of the characters, “Folks that are scared will believe any old tale, even if they made it up themselves.” This line really had me thinking. Perhaps this line explains a lot in the world.

The Abolitionist’s Daughter is such a smart book. It is well written, I really enjoyed it, and I am happy to recommend it.

Posted May 18, 2020

Monday, April 27
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, April 28
Review at Books and Backroads
Feature at I’m All About Books

 

Wednesday, April 29
Review at Books and Zebras

 

Thursday, April 30
Feature at Just One More Chapter

 

Friday, May 1
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Excerpt at To Read, or Not to Read

 

Monday, May 4
Review at Brightside Books

 

Tuesday, May 5
Feature at What Is That Book About

 

Wednesday, May 6
Review at Robin Loves Reading

 

Thursday, May 7
Interview at Passages to the Past

 

Friday, May 8
Feature at View from the Birdhouse

 

Monday, May 11
Review at 100 Pages a Day

 

Wednesday, May 13
Feature at Words and Peace

 

Thursday, May 14
Review at Tales from the Book Dragon

 

Saturday, May 16
Review at Reading is My Remedy

 

Monday, May 18
Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

 

Friday, May 22
Review at A Darn Good Read

Blog Tour Schedule

About the Book

Man of War, by T.J. London

Publication Date: April 14, 2020

Paperback & eBook; 681 Pages

Series: The Rebels and Redcoats Saga, Book #4
Genre: Historical Fiction

The man who wants everything gets nothing…

July 1755

 

War is brewing between England and France. Impressed into the Royal Navy, Lieutenant Merrick, against all odds, advanced through the ranks to become an officer—but he is not a gentleman. A man with a tainted past from a traitorous family, cast down by King George—a stain no man can remove.

Merrick’s thrust into the role of captain, when the HMS Boudica is attacked by pirates off the coast of Nova Scotia. On a captured enemy vessel he discovers a King’s ransom in treasure and a woman chained in the hold from passenger ship that mysteriously disappeared at sea.

Beautiful, defiant, and hell bent on revenge, India makes a deal with Merrick to uncover the pirates’ scheme, promising him everything he desires: fortune, glory, and the chance to bring honor back to the McKesson name.

Now, they race against time to uncover a plot that links those in the highest ranks of the British aristocracy, to a failed rebellion that is once again trying to topple the monarchy and place an old pretender on the throne. But all that glitters is not gold as passions stir and an impossible love blooms, threatening to undermine all Merrick and India have done to protect their King and a country on the brink of war.

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About the Author

T.J. London is a rebel, liberal, lover, fighter, diehard punk, and pharmacist-turned-author who loves history. As an author her goal is to fill in the gaps, writing stories about missing history, those little places that are so interesting yet sadly forgotten. Her favorite time periods to write in are first and foremost the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolution, the French and Indian War, the Russian Revolution and the Victorian Era. Her passions are traveling, writing, reading, barre, and sharing a glass of wine with her friends, while she collects experiences in this drama called life. She is a native of Metropolitan Detroit (but secretly dreams of being a Londoner) and resides there with her husband Fred and her beloved cat and writing partner Mickey.

My Review

Man of War, by T.J. London

Everything You Could Want in a Book

5-Stars

Wow! What an amazing book. It is easy to give this book five stars, and I’d add a plus symbol, a thumbs-up, and a hive-five as well.

I love American fiction from this period, which is to say, the colonial, French and Indian War, and the Revolutionary War times, so I was really looking forward to reading this book. My compliments also on a fantastic book cover.

Man of War begins off the coast of Newfoundland in June of 1755. A man of war is a heavily armed ship. The title of the book does double-duty, referring to the main character of the book as well. The story begins with a violent battle between two ships. The HMS Boudica has been attacked. Its captain succumbs to fatal injuries in the opening pages. Our hero, Lieutenant Merrick McKesson becomes Captain in an instant, and his superior officer’s final words were, “Stop those French bastards. You’re ready, my friend. Since the day I brought you on this ship, I knew you lusted for my queen. Lead the men. Show them you are no traitor. Remember, for King and Country, always.”

Our main character is short, stocky, and has “a mop of red hair.” He is also smart, strong, and driven. His troublesome past meets a challenging present, and we’re off on our literary adventure.

Before starting the book, the author provides several diagrams that are enormously helpful, especially to those of us who aren’t completely familiar with the parts of a warship. These exhibits include a picture titled, “The Anatomy of a Mast.” That is followed by a diagram of the Boudica, sliced lengthwise, and after that, we are provided several floor plans showing the layout of the decks. This was very useful in helping picture where much of the action of the book took place. With apologies to Captain Merrick, perhaps the Boudica is our protagonist.

The damsel in distress is so much more than that. She is a tragic figure who has endured unspeakable atrocities. When the men of the Boudica emerge victorious in the opening battle, we meet Caroline, who is chained in the hold of a sinking ship. She is hard to love, and she is not what she seems, yet we are drawn to yearn for her success. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but I promise you, this character will take you on a journey.

This is a monster novel; a beast of a book. It is full of adventure on the high seas, packed with complex, riveting drama, and an engaging, intricate plot. The pace is fast-moving. The characters are richly portrayed, full of angst, and their nuances are revealed to us, bit by bit as the pages unfold. It is a thriller, and there’s plenty of romance in the pages as well. As if that weren’t enough, the author has created a floating world at the dawn of the French and Indian War. This novel is everything you could want in a book.

I received an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. If I had paid top dollar for this book, I would have been impressed with the entertainment value it delivered. I feel like I read an action-thriller, a drama, a romance book, a war story, and a historical novel all within these pages. I’m going to add the rest of the series to my TBR list.

Final note, the author warns, “This book does contain graphic content and depictions of war.” It is called Man of War, after all. Also, I would mention that there is graphic, sexual content as well, so you must know that before you choose this book.

Posted May 4, 2020

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 27
Guest Post at A Darn Good Read

Tuesday, April 28
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

 

Wednesday, April 29
Excerpt at Donna’s Book Blog

 

Thursday, April 30
Interview at The Book Junkie Reads

 

Friday, May 1
Review at Books, Writings, and More

 

Saturday, May 2
Feature at Just One More Chapter

 

Monday, May 4
Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

 

Tuesday, May 5
Feature at The Lit Bitch

 

Wednesday, May 6
Feature at I’m All About Books

 

Thursday, May 7
Guest Post at Curling up by the Fire

 

Friday, May 8
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

 

Saturday, May 9
Feature at Reading is My Remedy

 

Monday, May 11
Review at andreajanel_reads

 

Wednesday, May 13
Feature at What Is That Book About

 

Thursday, May 14
Excerpt at Books In Their Natural Habitat

 

Friday, May 15
Review at Passages to the Past

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About the Book

Face of Fortune by Colleen Kelly-Eiding

Publication Date February 1, 2020

Phase Publishing

Paperback & eBook; 405 Pages

Series: The Shadows of Rosthwaite, Book Two

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

Charlotte Pruitt, an auburn-haired beauty whose soul is as wild as the northern mountains she loves, lives day to day, hoping against hope that James Clarke still lives. The love of her life and father of their son had attacked a nobleman whom he caught attempting to rape Charlotte. Pursued by soldiers and attempting to escape, James plunged into a raging river and was last seen being pulled under by the torrent.

James who had fought to protect her and little Jack, is gone. Courage, strength, intellect, and a keen wit would have to be her guardians now.

A weaker person would crumble under the pressure of running a business, raising a child alone, fending off unscrupulous men, while always aware that the horrific villain, Edward Hawkes is still alive and bent on her destruction. Instead, Charlotte focuses on those less fortunate than herself. She becomes dedicated to helping Jane Rourke, a weaver, who is falsely accused of crimes and sentenced to death. Charlotte is offered a way to save Jane Rourke, but at a terrible price to herself. And what of Hawkes? How will she save herself and little Jack?

From the dark and gritty streets of Spitalfields, hiding secrets both good and evil, to the haunted moors of Devon, and to the perilous heights of the northern English mountains where Charlotte’s greatest test will come, this epic saga of human kindness, passionate love, and horrifying evil never ceases to enchant…and terrify.

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About the Author

Colleen Kelly-Eiding is a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild-American Federation of TV and Radio Artists, and Actors’ Equity. Her husband is an actor, as are their two adult daughters. Theatre, acting and above all, storytelling, are part of her family’s DNA.

Colleen, was in the first class of women at Kenyon College in Ohio when the school went co-ed. She also studied drama and political science at the University of Manchester in England. She later received an MFA in acting from the University of Minnesota. She has been an actor, director, casting assistant, 3rd grade teacher, and audiometrist.

Favoured by Fortune and Face of Fortune have been occupying Colleen’s imagination for a quite a long time. After both daughters graduated college, she and husband Paul became empty nesters. The time seemed right for Colleen to bring young Ms. Pruitt, our heroine, to life and let Charlotte tell her story.

During her time in Manchester, Colleen fell in love with the country. When she returned to England to do research for her series, she was beyond elated. She interviewed a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, spent time researching indictment records from the 1760‘s at the Guild Hall in London, and walked the route that the carts of the condemned travelled from Newgate Prison to the Tyburn Tree. Visiting the tiny village of Rosthwaite, located in the beautiful Borrowdale Valley in the Lake District, where much of the action takes place, helped give context and inspiration to Colleen.

Colleen continues to act for stage and film. She studies sculpting and ceramics. And enjoys traveling to Comic Cons around the world, where her husband is a frequent guest.

Her series of historical novels is titled The Shadows of Rosthwaite. Watch for the second book in the series, Face of Fortune, set for release February 1, 2020. Published by Phase Publishing, LLC.

My Review

Face of Fortune, by Colleen Kelly-Eiding

A Wonderful Protagonist and Thoroughly Rotten Villains

5-Stars

This is the second book in “The Shadows of Rosthwaite” series, set in London in the 1760s. I did not read the first book, and I might have had an easier time in the beginning if I had, but I also thought this book worked well on a stand-alone basis.

I love the lead character, Charlotte Pruitt. She is enormously strong, capable, and independent, yet human at the same time. The writer also did a phenomenal job with the villainry. There were no less than three heinous bad guys, more than enough trouble to last a lifetime. In this book, you’ll find loads of thrilling, action-packed, suspenseful page-flipping drama.

Charlotte’s love interest is a man named James Clarke. At the beginning of the book, it seems that Charlotte has recently lost both her husband and her lover. A tormentor from her past makes her fearful, and her home is being watched. After months of separation, James disguises himself as a homeless person in order to reunite with Charlotte, without the spies detecting his presence. I enjoyed the disguise elements. For some reason, I enjoyed the book more when Charlotte was on her own than when James was by her side.

My favorite paragraph in the book comes half-way through: “Her grandfather’s voice echoed from the waterfall. This time, she heard his words. You have great strength within yourself, Charlotte. You may draw strength from the land, as well. Look to the rugged beauty of the fells, the power of the water as it rushes down the ghylls, the howling voice of the wind in the mountain passes. Take heart and find solace in these gifts. Heft to the hills like the flocks of sheep. Do not be moved by fashion and frivolity. Your passion for life is deeper than these.” Isn’t that beautiful? I also enjoyed the author’s depiction of the mountains near the ending.

I happily recommend this book for its unforgettable characters―the wonderful protagonist and the thoroughly rotten villains―that made this book so good.

Posted April 27, 2020

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 20
Review at Passages to the Past
Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Tuesday, April 21

Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Wednesday, April 22
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Friday, April 24
Review at Books and Zebras

Monday, April 27
Feature at I’m Into Books
Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

Wednesday, April 29
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, April 30
Review at Jessica Belmont
Feature at Books In Their Natural Habitat

Saturday, May 2
Review at Historical Graffiti

Monday, May 4
Review at YA, It’s Lit

Tuesday, May 5
Feature at The Book Junkie Reads

Thursday, May 7
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks (Book #1)

Friday, May 8
Review at A Darn Good Read
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks (Book #2)

About the Book

The Night is Done by Sheila Myers

Publication Date: August 11, 2017

Paperback & eBook; 260 Pages

Series: Durant Family Saga, Book Three

Genre: Historical Fiction

William and Ella Durant, heirs to a bygone fortune, are recounting the events that led to the Durant family downfall during the Gilded Age. In 1931 William returns to visit the estate he once possessed in the Adirondacks to speak with the current owner, copper magnate Harold Hochschild, who is writing a history of the region and wants to include a biography of William.  Simultaneously, Ella is visiting with an old family friend and former lover, Poultney Bigelow, journalist with Harpers Magazine, who talks her into telling her own story.

 

William recounts the height of his glory, after his father’s death in 1885 when he takes control of the Adirondack railroad assets, travels the world in his yacht and dines with future kings. However, his fortune takes a turn during the Financial Panic of 1893 and amid accusations of adultery and cruelty.

 

Ella’s tale begins when she returned from living abroad to launch a lawsuit against her brother for her fair share of the Durant inheritance. The court provides a stage for the siblings to tear each other’s reputation apart: William for his devious business practices and failure to steward the Durant land holdings, and Ella for her unconventional lifestyle. Based on actual events, and historic figures, The Night is Done is a tale about the life-altering power of revenge, greed and passion.

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Praise

About the Author

Sheila Myers is a Professor in Upstate New York and an award-winning author of four novels. When she’s not teaching, she spends her spare time writing and enjoying the outdoors. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the Adirondack Life Magazine, History News Network, Crossing Genres, and Women Writers Women’s Books blog.

“Myers writes with skill and has chosen well in deeply researching the Durant saga, which remarkably parallels Greek tragedy. It’s a truly engrossing story, and Myers does it justice.” – Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Myers satisfyingly concludes her historical trilogy set in the Gilded Age by presenting the detailed downfall of ruthless real estate mogul William West Durant; his exasperated wife, Janet; and his estranged sister, Ella. In 1931, the penniless Durant recounts his tragic life. After inheriting his father’s vast wealth and interest in the Adirondack Railroad, William immediately begins to make bad investments. He squanders money on yachts, panders to princes, and builds mansions he can’t afford to run, all while hiding assets from Ella. She sues him for her rightful inheritance and tries to overcome discrimination to become a novelist. Meanwhile, Janet, verbally abused and infantilized by William, begins an affair with her doctor. Myers expertly depicts a precarious era soaked in vicious gossip, stained reputations, and ostentatiousness. Readers will enjoy the historical details that bring this Gilded Age soap opera to life.” – Publishers Weekly

“While the covers of Myers’s trilogy are done in subdued pastels, the pages inside flash with forbidden romance and a family torn apart by greed.” – Betsy Keepes, The Adirondack Explorer

“The trilogy of the Durant family is capped by the fascinating final volume, The Night is Done. In a vein of nostalgia, the story ends in William West Durant’s last years and closes out a saga of tragic proportions as the vast Durant wealth and privilege is reduced to impoverished circumstances.” – Harvey H. Kaiser, author, Great Camps of the Adirondacks

“The builders of the first “Great Camps,” the Durant family defined the Adirondack experience during the Gilded Age. Sheila Myer’s trilogy of novels chronicling their saga combines great historical research with compelling writing. The Night is Done is the capstone novel of the saga and takes the story to the end of the Durant fortune where bankruptcy and retribution dominate the family’s relations. The book is a great read for those interested in American history or the Durants.” – Garet D. Livermore, Exec Director, Sagamore Institute of the Adirondacks

My Review

The Night is Done, by Sheila Myers

Rustic Luxury, Fortunes Lost in the Adirondacks

5-Stars

The Night is Done is poetically introduced by the first stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s 1911 poem, The Dawn Wind. It’s the perfect passage to place on the first page.

This book is a dual timeline book, and bounces between the 1890s and the early 1930s, between the Panic of 1893 and the Great Depression. Initially, it was challenging to keep up with the changes, as each chapter was written from a different point of view. After a while, I figured out how to make note of who “I” was. Having two main characters was another challenge to contend with. These dual timelines and dual main characters are wonderfully woven together by the author.

As the book opens at Camp Eagle Nest in 1931, Harold Hochschild (1892-1981) finds an old man in his garden, watching loons on the lake. That man turned out to be William West Durant (1850-1934), the property’s previous owner. Hochschild expected Durant’s arrival, however, Durant was a day earlier than scheduled. Hochschild was chronicling the history of the central Adirondacks for his book, titled Township 34. Durant was the father of the Adirondack Great Camp building style, at once “rustic luxury” and  “unrestrained opulence.” Hochschild would go on to be the founder of the Adirondack Museum, now known as The Adirondack Experience, on Blue Mountain Lake, which by the way, is a fantastic place to visit if you want to step back in time.

Later in the book, Poultney Bigelow (1855-1954) and Ella, more formally known as Heloise Durant Frethey Rose (1858-1943), reunite at Poultney’s home at Malden-on-Hudson in 1933. Bigelow’s second wife had recently passed away. In addition to their romantic entanglements in the distant past, Poultney and Ella were both authors. As William tells Hochschild his side of the story, Ella tells her side of the story to Bigelow. William’s story is a “personal account of how he went from one of the wealthiest land-owners in the region to a clerk in a hotel.” Ella’s story involves a complex legal struggle to reclaim the wealth she lost when her brother cheated her out of her fair share of their father’s estate.

The Night is Done is a story about a family’s fall from grace. A fortune lost. A family is torn apart. Two greedy people, destroying each other in what ultimately became a lose-lose situation. A pyrrhic victory where the winner fails to benefit.

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My favorite part of this woeful tale is the setting. At a time when the wealthy left the hot and humid northeastern cities for the crisp, cool splendor of an Adirondack summer, they brought their fancy tastes with them to the wilderness. Part hermit, part guide, Alvah Dunning (1816-1902), provides some great moments in the book and provides a nice foil to the characters from the cities.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from this book. “I can unequivocally state that of the many places I have traveled and seen―the temples of Karnak, the crystal waters of the Azores, the chalky cliffs of the Isle of Wight―none compared to the beauty of Mohegan Lake the afternoon I spent with my family.”

This must have been a difficult story to research and craft. Sheila Myers masterfully weaves the antlers into the chandeliers, so to speak. In a tale about revenge and greed, it is ironic how much money wealthy people spend to spoil themselves in rustic richness. When it’s all over, I’m not sure which character was the protagonist, and which was the antagonist. Maybe both and neither, all at once.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Night is Done, and I heartily recommend it.

Posted May 1, 2020

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 20
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, April 23
Feature at I’m Into Books

 

Monday, April 27
Guest Post at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

 

Wednesday, April 29
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

 

Friday, May 1
Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

 

Monday, May 4
Interview at Passages to the Past

 

Wednesday, May 6
Review at Books and Zebras

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From the bestselling author of Hakon’s Saga comes Forged by Iron, the first in a series of thrilling tales about Olaf Tryggvason, one of the most legendary and enigmatic kings of the Viking Age.

Norway, AD 960. The fabric that has held the Northern realm together is tearing. The sons of Erik Bloodaxe have returned and are systematically killing all opposition to the High Seat. Through treachery, Harald Eriksson slays Jarl Trygvi, an heir to the throne, and then he comes for Trygvi’s wife, Astrid, and son, Olaf.

Astrid and Olaf flee their home with the help of Astrid’s foster father, Torolv Loose-beard, and his son, Torgil, who are oath-sworn to protect them. The group escapes east, through the dark, forested land of the Swedes and across the treacherous East Sea, all the while evading the clutches of Harald’s brutal henchmen.

But the gods are fickle and the group is torn apart, leaving them to fend for themselves in Forged by Iron, a must-read for all who enjoy action-packed historical fiction.

About the Author

Eric Schumacher (1968 – ) is an American historical novelist who currently resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife and two children. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended college at the University of San Diego.

At a very early age, Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Those discoveries continue to fuel his imagination and influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God’s Hammer, was published in 2005.

To date, Schumacher has published three novels, collectively known as Hakon’s Saga, and one novella. More information about him and his books can be found on his website. You can also connect with Schumacher on TwitterFacebookGoodreads, and AuthorsDB.

Review

Forged by Iron, by Eric Schumacher

Exciting New Viking Age Series

5-Stars

Forged by Iron is a fast read―fantastic from start to finish. Bone-crunching. Adrenaline-inducing. Swash-buckling, and it has well-developed characters and excellent descriptions too. The world-building paints vivid pictures of scenes such as a lord’s hall overlooking the ocean, and a dark, oily swamp near the iron forge.

The story opens in the year 960 AD, late in the Viking Age. The protagonist is Torgil, son of Torolv, who lords over the land of Jel, along the coast of present-day Norway. Father and son are duty-bound to protect King Trygvi and Prince Olaf. The reckless, mischievous young prince is especially difficult to safeguard. He is a couple of years younger than Torgil, and if anything happens to Olaf, Torgil knows that he will be held responsible. These are just some of the great characters presented in this book.

I love the map in the front of the book. It shows dashed lines, telling us that we’re headed on a trip through the land of the Swedes, across the East Sea, and finally to an island near what would today be Estonia. Also, I appreciated the glossary. The author presents names, people, places, Gods, and words that are challenging to pronounce. I’m pretty good with Fox in Sox, but I can’t say many of these words. Sometimes it seems like vowels are missing. Even so, this book is super readable, and the glossary is excellent preparation for the book. I like the verse that begins each part of this book. These little bits of poetry fit the story well.

From the spiritual side, there were a few moments that piqued my interest. At one point, Torgil says he  “did not like riding with the dead, for it was common knowledge that their restless souls could wander.” Later a character asks, “Do you ever wonder why the Norns cut one man’s life-thread and not another’s?" Intriguing. Later there is mention of “The undead draugar.” A revenant. I would have liked to know a little more about that. On another page, it says, “Now she was simply gone. Ripped from my life by a faceless enemy on a dark morning.” A faceless enemy? Hmm.

Torgil and those that travel with him experience many extreme challenges and hardships. The book spans many years as Torgil and his charge, Prince Olaf, reach adulthood. This is the first book in the series called, “The Saga of King Olaf.” Throughout, we learn about Olaf in bits and pieces. We’re left to feel that there’s something more about him that we need to know. Forged by Iron ends in a good spot, with the promise of more to come. Torgil says to another character near the end of the book, “Would you follow a lord who cannot wield a sword?” Not to worry. Prince Olaf can wield a sword, and he’s even better at throwing knives. Greatness is Olaf’s destiny.

Sure, it is gory and violent. After all, there is a “blade-thin gap between life and death,” and this is a Viking book.

Posted April 20, 2020

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, April 15
Interview at Passages to the Past

Monday, April 20
Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

Wednesday, April 22
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Thursday, April 23
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Sunday, April 26
Feature at Reading is My Remedy

Tuesday, April 28
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, April 29
Feature at I’m All About Books
Feature at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

 

Thursday, April 30
Guest Post at Historical Graffiti

 

Friday, May 1
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

 

Monday, May 4
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

 

Wednesday, May 6
Review at Bookramblings
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

 

Friday, May 8
Interview at The Book Junkie Reads

 

Sunday, May 10
Review at 
Journey in Bookland

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I was on vacation in beautiful, sunny Puerto Rico in the middle of February. As luck would have it, the flu struck me on the first day of vacation. Fortunately, I had an ARC of Eden by Brennan McPherson on my phone. I had planned to read it beside the pool instead of in my hotel room. Despite the typical, miserable symptoms, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book in my hotel room. As I was reading about the Garden of Eden, from time to time, I’d look out over the tops of the palm trees swaying in the breeze, and the bright blue sky above the tropical beach.

The book ended way before the flu or my vacation, so I downloaded two more books by the same author. First, I read Flood, The Story of Noah and the Family Who Raised Him, then I read Babel: The Story of the Tower and the Rebellion of Man. I love the author’s writing style. I’m a fan, and I look forward to reading more from this gifted storyteller.

I wonder what’s coming next.

As I am writing this review, everything is being canceled. Social distancing is the phrase of the day. Perhaps it is a good time for people to catch up on some reading, and for authors to do some writing. Historical fiction, especially Biblical historical fiction can help put the human experience into perspective.

It was my pleasure to read an ARC of Eden by Brennan McPherson. The version I read had not yet been proofread, but it looked finished to me.

About the Book

Eden by Brennan McPherson

Publication Date April 1, 2020

McPherson Publishing

eBook & Paperback; 332 Pages

Genre: Biblical/Historical

“You want me to tell of how I broke the world.”

It’s the year 641 since humanity was formed in Eden, and after Eve passes away, Adam is the only man left on earth who remembers everything from the beginning of the world.

When Enoch, God’s newly appointed prophet, decides to collect the stories of the faithful from previous generations, he finds Adam in desperate need to confess the dark secrets he’s held onto for too long.

Beside a slowly burning bonfire in the dead of night, Adam tells his story in searing detail. From the beginning of everything, to how he broke the world, shattered Eve’s heart, and watched his family crumble.

Will Enoch uncover what led so many of Adam’s children away from God? And will Adam find the redemption and forgiveness he longs for?

Praise for Previous Work by Brennan McPherson

“Brilliant, erudite, breathtaking.” – Tosca Lee, NYT best-selling author

“I think we’ll be hearing more of Brennan and his stories.” – Charles Martin, NYT best-selling author

“A soul-searching, heart-rending, deeply satisfying story.” – Mesu Andrews, ECPA Book of the Year award-winning author of Love Amid Ashes

“How do you take a centuries-old story and put a new spin on it, inviting readers into an evocative world they thought they already knew? Brennan McPherson figured out the way. Flood will entertain you, yes, but also take you deep into your soul and make you ponder both the vastness and the intimacy of God.” – James L. Rubart, Christy Book of the Year award-winning author of The Five Times I Met Myself

About the Author

Brennan McPherson writes epic biblical fiction with an imaginative twist. With heart-pounding plots and lyrical prose, McPherson crafts a different sort of biblical fiction for readers who like to be challenged to think.

Review

Eden, by Brennan McPherson

The Story of Adam and Eve

5-Stars

Adam stands by the fire, with Enoch, a descendant. God has chosen Enoch to document Adam’s story, “for posterity sake,” since Adam has neglected to tell his story to his family. Periodically, throughout the book, Adam and Enoch return. Sometimes Enoch nudges Adam to continue, and sometimes Enoch asks Adam questions, like in an interview.

Adam has just recently lost his wife, Eve, mother of all. The author presents most of Eden from Adam’s point of view, in the first person. As a reader, I found this point-of-view very pleasing. I could almost feel what it was like―to walk within the Garden paradise.

What I love about Brennan McPherson’s work is that it makes the greatest story ever told so much more accessible. A modern reader seldom needs to stop and wonder, what does that word mean? It sounds current, and yet it feels like the beginning of time.

McPherson’s writing ability brings the senses to bear. Imagine beginning life as a full-grown man, rather than being born an infant. Imagine experiencing the sights, scents, sounds, tastes, and feel of the world all at once, for the first time, as an adult. The author presents this beautifully, and eloquently, and the similes and metaphors within Eden add to the value of the prose.

The relationship between Adam and Eve is complicated and is a major part of this book. As they begin to experience difficulties, Adam says, “And the space between my intentions and her understanding was the beginnings of a shattered world.” I think it is fair to summarize by saying they weren’t thoroughly kindred spirits. Later, Adam explains, “We coexisted without striking sparks in each other’s eyes.” The wisdom of the Bible shines through as the author presents Adam’s angst, “For loneliness is the deepest pain the human heart can endure.” The author also brings the characters to life by revealing their thoughts and feelings. Here’s an example, “…since Eve’s passing last year, he had lived alone feeling the weight of a life filled with regrets.”

The author expertly uses facial expressions, body language, and describes non-verbal communications. Take this sentence, for example, “Exhaustion lay heavy across my shoulders, but every time I nearly fell asleep, anxiety woke me like hands around my throat.” I might suggest there was a little too much lip chewing happening in this book.

I’ll leave the good versus evil for the reader to experience.

This re-telling significantly adds to the experience and understanding of the story of Adam and Eve, and makes you feel like you are there at the beginning of time.

I loved it so much I read the whole series.

Posted April 6, 2020

 

Flood, The Story of Noah and the Family Who Raised Him, by Brennan McPherson

The Great Flood

5-Stars

Here is a story almost everyone knows, brilliantly told. A story this significant deserves a detailed telling. This wonderful work by Brennan McPherson is a must-read.

Posted April 6, 2020

 

Babel: The Story of the Tower and the Rebellion of Man, by Brennan McPherson

Fatherhood

5-Stars

Another fantastic book by Brennan McPherson. This is Biblical fiction at its best. An epic battle of good versus evil. Strongly recommended.

Posted April 6, 2020

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 6
Review at YA, It’s Lit
Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

 

Tuesday, April 7
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

 

Wednesday, April 8
Review at Jessica Belmont
Review at McCombs on Main

 

Thursday, April 9
Review at The Nerdy Bookworm

 

Friday, April 10
Review at NurseBookie

 

Saturday, April 11
Feature at What Is That Book About
Interview at Passages to the Past

 

Sunday, April 12
Review at Tales from the Book Dragon

 

Monday, April 13
Review at Historical Graffiti

 

Tuesday, April 14
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

 

Wednesday, April 15
Review at Books and Zebras

 

Thursday, April 16
Review at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

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The Dead Horizon by Seth Rain

Circle the Date on Your Calendar

5-Stars

I’ve been looking forward to The Dead Horizon since reading The Warm Machine. I ripped through this book in one day. The Dead Horizon is brilliant.

It is a little daunting to read about a future in which the total global population shrinks to less than twenty-five thousand. It puts being housebound during a worldwide pandemic in perspective.

In this book, the future fate of humanity might just depend on the success of Scott Beck, the protagonist in The Warm Machine, as well as The Dead Horizon. Everything seems to be working against him. A powerful antagonist. The Watchers. Artificial Intelligence. Time. And the rest of humanity, which has become an endangered species. As the author writes, “On the whole, humanity has surrendered.”

This second installment in “The Humanity Series” continues along two tracks, separated by about a year, in the wake of the Rapture. It’s a gruesome time, dominated by death and hopelessness. The author paints a dismal scene. Periodically the reader gets a respite in the form of descriptions like, “By the side of the lake, sheep that had been left to their own devices drank the water. Two ducks landed, skidding across its surface, coming to a halt with a gentle splash.” The author seems to know just when the reader needs a phrase like, “He stood outside, facing the lake. It was dark, mist rolling down from the mountains across the water. He could hear the faint sound of water lapping against the shore; the air was damp and cool. The clouds moved quickly and the crescent moon was milky white.” Otherwise, it’s lots of burning bodies, loneliness, pain, sacrifice, and death, as appropriate for the genre, I’m sure.

I enjoyed following along with Google Maps and checking out places like Lake Buttermere and Ennerdale Water. I also appreciate the real-life settings which give a complete feel of being on location in Britain and Scotland. As mentioned in the book, “Britain was always going to be the final home for humanity.” Someday, I’d like to visit Britain and spend some time in the Lake Country.

I always appreciate the facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language, which reveals the thoughts and feelings of characters in a book. If I must find something to criticize, I would suggest that there was too much use of some of these. Too often, characters are portrayed running a hand through their hair.

Seth Rain has written another exciting, page-flipping book that keeps you driving toward the end. It is the end of time. Will there be a third installment? I sure hope so. Hopefully, humanity will thrive beyond the horizon. My guess is it will not be easy.

Posted March 21, 2020

Clash of Empires by Paul Bennett

The Mallory Family and the French and Indian War

5-Stars

Meet a young George Washington, a young Daniel Boone, and the charismatic Ottawa tribal leader, Pontiac during the French and Indian War. The real stars of this book are the rugged, frontier family, The Mallory clan. The book opens in 1749. Thomas and Abigail Mallory, with their three children, Daniel, Liza, and Liam move across Pennsylvania with their friends, Pierre Baptiste, and Joseph and Henry Clarke.

This book has an enormous cast. The spotlight shines brightest upon Liam who is in his middle teens at the beginning of the book. Unlike his older brother, Daniel, Liam has little interest in farming, settling down, or staying within the confines of settled territory. He spends time among the Mohawk people, marries a chief’s daughter, and turns an enemy into a friend. That friend is Wahta. Despite their wanderlust, scouting, and participation in epic battles, Liam and Wahta find time to help Liam’s brother and sister settle a town that would make their parents proud.

The author presents explicit, devastating, brutal, and violent battle scenes, which unfortunately were realistic presentations of reality. This book also features many forts, which gives a sense of having been present at every engagement in the French and Indian War. Unspeakable violence was a part of life in colonial times and the author doesn’t shy away from the awful reality that comes with presenting war.

I would have benefitted from getting a stronger connectedness to characters, particularly in the beginning, but also throughout. What are their hopes, dreams, and desires? What makes them different from one another as individuals? What makes them tick? What are their fears and insecurities? I watch for and found grammatical issues, for example, somehow the word dotted appeared as .ted. No matter, I loved this book anyway, and I learned a tremendous amount of history as a result of reading it.

I also enjoyed the spiritual components, and I identified with Liam and his buffalo dreams. That’s my spirit animal as well. Other high points of the book include the camaraderie of the fighting men, and the strength of our founding mothers, and the role they played during colonial times.

I read the second book first, then I read this book. Of course, it would be better to read them in order, but either way, I’m so glad to have found the Mallory Saga. I can’t wait for the next installment, so I hope it is coming soon.

Posted February 26, 2020

It is such an honor to host Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.  

On February 10, 2020, I have the great fortune to present two very different, important, powerful books on the same day.

 

This is the inaugural stop on the tour for Matamoros, by James Kahn, which is presented first.

 

Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton is presented beneath Matamoros... please scroll down.

I highly recommend both books.

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About the Book

Matamoros, by James Kahn

Publication Date: December 20, 2019
Pen Wild Press
Paperback & eBook; 442 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Western

In the U.S. Civil War, by 1862 the Union had blockaded all Confederate ports. Just across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, Matamoros was the only harbor where the South could ship its cotton to Europe, and smuggle in arms for the rebellion. So it was a haven for Yankee and Rebel spies and diplomats, gunrunners and cotton smugglers, runaway slaves, bandits, Texas Rangers, and rogues of every stripe.

But Matamoros was also full of French Foreign Legionnaires – because that same year, Napoleon III had invaded Mexico, to install Archduke Maximilian of Austria as Emperor.

Set against the backdrop of two wars, this is the story of Clay – an expatriate Southern gentleman running a gambling hall – and Allie, his ex-con artist partner, bringing her cotton train to market – in a star-crossed affair that may or may not survive their conflicted allegiances amidst the tides of battle.

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Praise for Matamoros

“A historical novel offers an in-depth view of the machinations surrounding the Civil War battle for Texas. Kahn’s descriptive prose delivers powerful images…Strong leads star in a passionate war tale filled with political intrigue, violence, and scoundrels.” – Kirkus Reviews

“The author does a wonderful job of capturing the different elements of the setting, exploring the historical and social aspects. The prose is beautiful and highly descriptive, and readers will enjoy the social commentaries that punctuate the narrative. This is an awesome read, fast-paced and filled with action. The author paints exciting images of a town flourishing in times of war and makes readers feel as though they were part of it.” – Readers Favorite, 5 stars

Praise for Matamoros CD

“The music paints a powerful but poignant portrait of these disparate renegades, outlaws, and outcasts, each intent on their own survival. The sumptuous paintings included with the CD add a bonus element as well, and given the complete packaging — story, music and art — it confirms the fact that concept and creativity far outweigh the amorphous nature of digital downloads. More than that, Matamoros is an album for the ages, both heartbreaking and affecting in equal measure.” – Lee Zimmerman, The Daily Ripple

“Few songwriters have the determination to tell full-length stories through their songs. Greats, like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, are a couple of notables in this limited group coming immediately to mind. Therefore, James Kahn has placed himself in a uniquely special group with this song collection. These songs are so good, in fact, they make you want to read Kahn’s novel to learn even more, which makes this album a storytelling gem.” – Dan MacIntosh, The Daily Ripple

“Kahn excels in the diverse composition of story-songs that capture not only the emotional and historical intricacies of their lyrical subject matter but also the natural sonic accompaniment for their travails. The lyrics are intelligence, the performances are skillful, and Kahn works within the limits of his voice to communicate with the heart and mind of the listener. Matamoros subverts the American addiction to instant gratification, and pop culture’s resistance to complexity and nuance, and while doing so, gives his listeners songs that they can sing.” – David Masciotra, The Daily Ripple

About the Author

James Kahn is an ER doctor, novelist, TV writer-producer, and singer-songwriter. In addition to many original novels (including the sci-fi trilogy World Enough and Time, Time’s Dark Laughter, and Timefall) he authored the novelizations of Return of the Jedi, Poltergeist, The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

His television credits span the genres, from St. Elsewhere, to William Shatner’s TekWar, to Xena: Warrior Princess. He was a Supervising Producer on Star Trek: Voyager, Co-Executive Producer on Melrose Place, Emmy-nominated for his work on All My Children, medical advisor on Spielberg’s ET: The Extraterrestrial; and produced the feature film The Bet, which won Best Feature at the LA Femme Film Festival, 2013.

He’s previously released four Americana music CDs, including Waterline, The 12th Elf, Man Walks Into A Bar, and The Meaning of Life. Matamoros is the first simultaneous novel and CD release, and his first foray into deeply researched historical fiction.

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Review

Matamoros, by James Kahn

“Big Misfit Family on the River”

5-Stars

Welcome to the Brave River Gambling Emporium in Matamoros, south of the border, across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville, Texas. Your proprietor is Clayton Wilkes. The Civil War is underway. Clay is described as 38-years old, “straw-colored hair, clean-shaven face, a Louisiana lilt and a bent nose from a long-ago drubbing.” Contrary to what you’d expect for the location, “…he dressed in the finest suits of London silk or linen.” The clientele is a rough and tumble assortment of characters. In addition to the humans, a stuffed giraffe presides over the bar, part of Clay’s “big misfit family on the river.” The Emporium is the book’s home base, but Clayton Wilkes’ influence extends way beyond that humble establishment, as the rest of the story reveals.

The author devotes a lot of attention to presenting the complexity of the main character through an eclectic assortment of interactions with other characters in the book. Aside from Clay, the two other most notable characters are Isaac and Allie. Isaac was a slave belonging to Clayton’s father. As a free man, Isaac is like a brother to Clayton, and his mission is to form a nation of freed slaves within Mexico. I don’t think it would spoil the reader’s pleasure to say that Clayton and Allie’s story is a big part of the book. It would seem what they like most about each other, and what they like least about each other are their similarities. Expect thievery, cons, and spying. I loved the spy versus spy storyline, and I can remember the feeling I had when this book caught fire in my soul.

This is a big, detailed, complex, layered book filled with a robust vocabulary and surprising plot twists. If you’re looking for a gentle, easy read, this is not the book. You can even expect to learn some Spanish. One of my favorite characters in the book is a minor character, a military spouse named Mildred Bee. Her catchphrase is a saying that was once popular, “I have seen the elephant.” Wikipedia reveals that the meaning of the phrase refers to “gaining experience of the world at a significant cost.” Maybe instead of cost, think of it as an investment. For me, that significant investment entailed following the huge cast of characters and the transitions, so I recommend reading this book in a quiet, undistracted setting.

I’m always on the lookout for spiritual and supernatural elements in a story. I also like it when a historical novel focuses on technology that is new at that time. In this book, that technology is photography. I loved how the spiritual element develops by the ending of the book. There are mentions of an apparition, and several times the French Order of Nuns of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament float “across the landscape like stray, ungraspable thoughts.” How curious, and here’s another quote, one of many regarding the legend of la llorona, “...the Weeping Woman had killed her own children, then drowned herself out of anguish, and now wandered around lakes and rivers looking for new souls to claim.”

Amazingly, the author has released a CD to accompany the book, which I’m listening to as I write this review. It is classified within the folk genre and features many influences from other genres as well. Most of the 14 songs are character sketches. Listening to the CD on top of reading the book dramatically adds to the overall experience of Matamoros, and the music is very pleasing to the ear. What a brilliant idea to create musical accompaniment for a book.

It’s ironic that an intricate, complicated book also includes words like “codwallopped.” Our tough-guy main character tenderly says to a pigeon, “Madeira, you’re my favorite, but don’t tell the others.” Expect an ironic ending. Invest in Matamoros.

Posted February 10, 2020

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February
Review at  History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

 

Tuesday, February 11
Review at YA, It's Lit

Wednesday, February 12
Review at Historical Graffiti

Excerpt at Books In Their Natural Habitat

 

Friday, February 14
Review at  Gwendalyn's Books 

 

Sunday, February 16
Interview at Passages to the Past 

 

Tuesday, February 18

Review at Books and Zebras

 

Thursday, February 20
Guest Post at Tales from the Book Dragon

 

Friday, February 21
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews

Sunday, February 23
Review at Reading is My Remedy

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About the Book

Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton

Publication Date: February 6, 2020

Silent Music Press LLC

Paperback; 394 Pages

Cover Art Illustration by George Frei

Inspired by true events, Far Away Bird delves into the complex mind of Byzantine Empress Theodora. This intimate account deftly follows her rise from actress-prostitute in Constantinople's red-light district to the throne of the Byzantine Empire.

 

Her salacious past has left historians blushing and uncomfortable. Tales of her shamelessness have survived for centuries, and yet her accomplishments as an empress are unparalleled. Theodora goes on to influence sweeping reforms that result in some of the first ever Western laws granting women freedom and protection. More than a millennium before the women's rights movement, Theodora, alone, took on the world's greatest superpower and succeeded. Far Away Bird goes where history classrooms fear to tread in hopes that Theodora can finally take her seat among the greatest women in history.

 

Theodora seems impossible--yet her transcendence teaches us that society can't tell us who we are deep down. Before there was a legendary empress, there was a conflicted young woman from the lower classes.

 

And her name was Theodora.

Award Winner!

Grand Prize Winner 2019 Manuscript Contest for historical fiction-Writers' League of Texas

Bronze Medal for Best Debut Novel in historical fiction-The Coffee Pot Book Club

Gold Medal Book of the Year historical fiction- The Coffee Pot Book Club

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About the Author

Douglas Alan Burton is a speaker, author, and expert storyteller whose work depicts heroic figures and their deeper connection to the human experience. Doug blogs about heroes, heroines, and villains in pop culture with some unexpected and refreshing perspective. He grew up in what he describes as “the heroic boyhood culture of late Generation X” that has gone mainstream around the world. He also shares strategies with fellow writers for writing compelling heroic characters in fiction.

 

Douglas recently began outlining a breakthrough storytelling model that reveals a fascinating “heroine-centric” model for story structure he calls The Heroine’s Labyrinth. He believes a powerful new archetype is emerging for women in fiction. His forthcoming novel, Far Away Bird, which centers on the early life of Byzantine Empress Theodora, won the 2019 Manuscript Content for Historical Fiction from the Writers’ League of Texas and will be published in February of 2020.

Follow Doug on Facebook and Twitter and stay in the conversation, and follow his blog at www.douglasaburton.com

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Review

Far Away Bird, by Douglas Burton

The Notorious Theodora

5-Stars

Far Away Bird is the story of Theodora of Constantinople and follows her from 13 to 23-years of age, set between the years 512 to 522. Constantinople was a metropolis and the capital of the Byzantine Empire, a successor to the Roman Empire. Perhaps some have not heard of the Notorious Theodora. Thanks to the author’s amazing treatment of this complex character, I was able to empathize with and understand a legend that history has often judged harshly. Based on what I thought I knew, I confess I had judged her harshly also.

This book opens with a rebellion. Before the rebellion, Theodora was a curious girl, prone to sneaking out of the window to explore the city and scamper across rooftops.

Theodora’s family consisted of her father, mother, and two sisters. Her father trained and performed with circus bears in the Hippodrome, an enormous arena which was the cultural center of the city, at least for its men. The morning after the rebellion, Theodora’s father was among those killed, leaving his wife, Maximina, and daughters with no means of support. The family tried to find a way to survive without turning to what has been called the world’s oldest profession. The author expertly takes us through Theodora’s personal tragedies, devastating burdens, heroic deeds, and personal sacrifices. The phrase, “haunting loneliness and crushing despair” appears in the book, and conveys the hopeless situation experienced by so many people who lived in those times.

My only criticism is that after the opening, the author too quickly sprinted forward five years; perhaps he had a reason for doing so. I found it difficult to leap that gap without at least a few sentences to bridge those missing years.

The book cover is captivating, and I am a sucker for a book cover that is itself a work of art.

Far Away Bird is expertly written, and a story well-told. It is amazing how much the main character experienced before she was a 22-year old woman. The author’s attention to facial expressions, body language, and the thoughts and feelings of the main character brought this troubled young woman to life. If the author chooses to write them, I’m sure this character could fill several more books.

Posted February 10, 2020

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 27

Review at Passages to the Past

 

Tuesday, January 28

Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, January 29

Review at @ya.its.lit

Thursday, January 30

Review at Books and Zebras

Review at Tales from the Book Dragon

Friday, January 31

Interview at Jathan & Heather

 

Monday, February 3

Review at Gwendalyn's Books

Tuesday, February 4

Feature at I'm All About Books

 

Wednesday, February 5

Review at Historical Graffiti

 

Thursday, February 6

Review at A Chick Who Reads

 

Friday, February 7

Review at 100 Pages a Day

 

Sunday, February 9

Review at Reading is My Remedy

 

Monday, February 10

Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

 

Tuesday, February 11

Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Wednesday, February 12

Review at @bookishbellee

Thursday, February 13

Feature at Just One More Chapter

Friday, February 14

Review at Broken Teepee

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About the Book

Paths to Freedom, by Paul Bennett

Publication Date: November 22, 2019

Hoover Books

eBook & Paperback; 233 Pages

Series: Mallory Saga, Book 2

Genre: Historical Fiction/Military

The French and Indian War is over, but the aftermath widens the gulf between the colonies and King George III. A hard handed approach by the King and Parliament fuels the flames of resistance; flames that soon engulf the Mallory clan, consuming the frontier, shattering their hopes for Mallory Town, and changing their lives forever. Revolution is nigh.
 

"Paths to Freedom (The Mallory Saga #2) exceeded anything that I expected. It is, without a doubt, one of the most moving and most compelling historical fiction books that I have ever read." - Author MaryAnne Yarde

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About the Author

Paul’s education was of the public variety and when he reached Junior High he discovered that his future did not include the fields of mathematics or science. This was generally the case throughout his years in school as he focused more on his interest in history; not just the rote version of names and dates but the causes. Paul studied Classical Civilization at Wayne State University with a smattering of Physical Anthropology thrown in for good measure. Logically, of course, Paul spent the next four decades drawing upon that vast store of knowledge working in large, multi-platform data centers, and is considered in the industry as a bona fide IBM Mainframe dinosaur heading for extinction. Paul currently resides in the quaint New England town of Salem, Massachusetts with his wife, Daryl. The three children have all grown, in the process turning Paul’s beard gray, and have now provided four grandchildren; the author is now going bald.

For more information, please visit the Mallory Saga Facebook page. You can also find Paul on his BlogTwitter, and Goodreads.

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Review

Paths to Freedom by Paul Bennett

Frontier Heroes and Dastardly Villains

5-Stars

I loved this book, and I’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come.

This past weekend we took a long road trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. I’ll bet you could guess why we were there. It was fun to hear first hand that we can expect an early spring this year — what a fun slice of Americana. I finished one great book on the way there, and I was looking for another one to bring me home. Fortunately, I had Paths to Freedom downloaded on my phone.

I’ve been craving a book just like this one, a great family saga set on the American frontier during colonial times. This book delivered entertainment like a three-ring circus, in a good way of course. In the first ring, Mallory Town, somewhere in western Pennsylvania, a fictional town, but I felt like we passed through it anyway. In the second ring, way out west, as far as the Yellowstone River, and in the third ring, Boston, Massachusetts. It took a while to get acquainted with all the characters. They come from big families, and they have common names like Thomas, James, Henry, Samuel, and John. They are strong and hardy, occasionally irreverent frontier folks who say things like, “You look a tad puckish,” and “I’ll be a suck egg mule.” It felt authentic.

I’ve been thinking about the main character or the protagonist of this book. I think maybe each of the three parts has a different lead. More importantly, it is the family that takes that center stage. The brave, strong heroes are convincingly portrayed, but it was the portrayal of the villains that had me on the edge of my seat. An evil greedy preacher. His henchman. And a bloody lobsterback Major. All in cahoots, of course. I fell in love with this book as I read about the portrayal of the battle to reclaim the small town for the settlers who founded it.

This book is chock full of famous founding fathers, facts, and geographical locations, just like historical points of interest along the highway on a road trip. This occurred to me as we were approaching Albany, New York on our way home from our pilgrimage to see the world-famous groundhog, at the same time as a character from the book was on his way to Boston, via Albany. I love a good road trip, and I love books featuring great road trips. I’m so glad I followed the Paths of Freedom this weekend.

I didn’t read the first book, but I plan to read it as soon as I can. Meanwhile, I can see conflict brewing for Book Three. Colonists versus loyalists, I’m sure.

Posted February 4, 2020

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, January 28
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, January 29
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, January 30
Review at YA, It's Lit
Feature at Broken Teepee
Feature at I'm All About Books

Friday, January 31
Interview at Passages to the Past

Sunday, February 2
Review at Historical Graffiti

Monday, February 3
Review at Books and Zebras

Tuesday, February 4
Guest Post at Nurse Bookie

And here on my review site, a last-minute addition to the tour schedule!

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About the Book

Publication Date: May 20, 2019

Sharpe Books

eBook & Paperback; 317 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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“A gripping and evocative page-turner that vibrantly brings Elizabeth's London to life." - Steven Veerapen, author of A Dangerous Trade

 

London 1578 - a cauldron of conspiracy, intrigue and torture.

 

The might of Spain and the growing influence of the Catholic League in France all threaten the stability of Queen Elizabeth and her state.

 

William Constable, a physician and astrologer, is summoned to the presence of the Queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. He is charged to assist a renowned Puritan, John Foxe, in uncovering the secrets of a mysterious cabinet containing an astrological chart and coded message. Together, these claim Elizabeth has a hidden, illegitimate child (an “unknowing maid”) who will be declared to the masses and serve as the focus for an invasion.

 

Constable must uncover the identity of the plotters, unaware that he is also under suspicion.

 

A connection to his estranged mentor, Doctor Dee, comes under scrutiny.

 

Pressured into taking up a position as a court physician, Constable becomes a reluctant spy.

 

Do the stars and cipher speak true, or is there some other malign intent in the complex web of scheming?

 

Constable becomes an unwitting pawn, in a complex game of thrones and power.

 

State of Treason is the first in a series of Elizabethan thrillers featuring William Constable.

 

Recommended for fans of C.J. Sansom, S J Parris and Rory Clements.

 

About the Author

Paul Walker inherited his love of British history and historical fiction from his mother who was an active member of the Richard III Society.

 

State of Treason is the first in a planned series of Elizabethan spy thrillers. The plot is based around real characters and events in London of the 1570’s. The hero, William Constable, is an astrologer and also a skeptic. He is also a mathematician, astronomer and inventor of a navigational aid for ships. The distinction between astrology and astronomy was blurred in the sixteenth century.

 

The second book in the series, A Necessary Killing was published in November 2019.

 

Paul is married and lives in a village 30 miles north of London. His writing is regularly disrupted by children and a growing number of grandchildren and dogs.

 

Review

State of Treason by Paul Walker

An adventurous intelligencer

5-Stars

State of Treason is set in London, England, in the year 1578. The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth the first is 45-years old, and twenty years into her reign. It seems, perhaps, there could be a plot involving the monarch.

This book is written in the present tense and the first person. The author assumes the identity of William Constable, a fictional mathematician, astrologer, physician, herbalist, and physik, as in physics. He speaks and writes Latin, Greek, French, and Italian, but sadly not Aramaic because that would be handy in this story. Constable is a “Renaissance Man” with a significant library, and he can also swing a sword. As a physician, he seems to disdain the accepted practice of bloodletting as a medical treatment. For some reason, I particularly enjoyed the presentation of Constable’s ailing mother, Lady Amy, who would like to see her son married. How old is the main character? Well, you must figure it out. Here are the clues. His horse is “a bay gelding of nineteen years.” He has had that horse since he “was a youth of ten and he [the horse] was a yearling.”

I had a rough time getting started with this book. In the opening pages, too many characters were presented too fast, and I had a difficult time grabbing hold of something to care about. Fortunately, a few pages in, Constable and another scholar are brought together for a purpose, and I became interested. A strange and perplexing object provides the basis for the plot, the intrigue, and the mystery to be solved. “It’s a small chest or large box about three hands square with a depth of no more than one.” Of course, it has a secret hidden compartment, a complex locking mechanism, and contains a cryptic, mysterious message, a riddle that needs to be decoded and solved.

The author places the reader in the story by setting a dark and shadowy vibe. The large castles, estates, and mansions are poorly lit. Mis-trust hangs in the air. Those in high places are always watching. Even their servants are barely seen. For example, in one scene, “An unseen hand opens the door, and Walsingham strides out.” Elsewhere, the author describes that there is a tapestry, but William Constable can’t make out the scene on the tapestry. I had to look up several words and phrases that were well placed in the story and added to the sense of time and place. Here’s what I learned. Crenellated battlements are kind of like the top of a rook in the game of chess. A scryer is a seer who employs a divining tool such as a crystal ball. A doxy is a prostitute. A hawker is a vocal traveling peddler, and I guess I knew that, now that I think of it. A goodwife is a term that honors a housewife not of noble birth. A codling is an immature fish, a codfish I presume, based on my google search it is served with its tail in its mouth. A mummery is a pretentions ceremony. A palfrey (there is a grey one in the book) is an archaic word for a docile horse. The author does a great job of placing the reader in the setting and involving the reader in solving the mystery.

Here’s a tangent notion. Neither are used frequently, but I was surprised to find the F-word and the S-word, so I looked up the etymology. Apparently the F-word first appeared in the 1400s, however, its meaning was, to strike. So, when preceded by the word wind, as in this book, it meant to strike the wind. As for the S-word, that is a very old word and was not considered to be vulgar. Its appearance in this book related to Constable’s mother’s debilitating constipation, appearing as, “Please sir… your mother… the lady Amy… has shat, sir.”

When I’m reading, I’m always on the lookout for cool sentences. I love this sentence, when Constable addressed his mother, “I am pleased that your aspect has more spark today.” That might be fun to say to someone who is feeling better. Here’s another interesting sentence, “No meal is complete without a ham.”

So, will the guy get the girl? The one who wrinkles her nose a lot. Will the patients’ health improve? Will there be violence? Will something bad happen to Her Majesty? Who is the bad guy? Perhaps there is a conspiracy involving many bad guys. It is possible to guess correctly. I did, so I’m feeling kinda smart, even if I had to look up lots of words I should have known. Anyway, I won’t spoil the ending by answering the questions in this paragraph.

I tremendously enjoyed spending a weekend in Paul Walker’s London, circa 1578. State of Treason is a compelling mystery, featuring intrigue, action, adventure, and a touch of romance. I highly recommend it.

The end of the book suggests a great adventure in the next book in the series. Here’s what a character in State of Treason has to say about the nature of such an adventure, “It fires the imagination and zeal of those who would seek to enlarge the splendor and dominion of Her Majesty. It uplifts and adds the color of heroism to the dreams of all true Englishmen.” Here’s to the next book in the series, A Necessary Killing (William Constable Spy Thriller series Book 2), by Paul Walker.

Posted January 27, 2020

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 20
Review at Donna's Book Blog

Tuesday, January 21

Review at Books and Zebras

Wednesday, January 22
Excerpt at Jathan & Heather

Thursday, January 23
Feature at I'm Into Books
Review at Historical Graffiti

Friday, January 24
Review at Gwendalyn's Books

Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Monday, January 27
Review at History + Fiction + Adirondack Spirit

Wednesday, January 29

Feature at The Book Junkie Reads

Saturday, February 1
Excerpt at booknook2020

Monday, February 3
Review at YA, It's Lit

 

Tuesday, February 4
Review at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, February 5

Interview at Passages to the Past

 

Thursday, February 6
Review at Nursebookie
Review at Tales from the Book Dragon

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Review

Ruby Moon by Jenny Knipfer

"The flowers and trees seemed to speak her name..."

4-Stars

This book revolves around its heroine, Jenay Follett, a young woman who lived with her small family in Webaashi Bay, a fictional town on the shores of Lake Superior. Her small family included her father, John Pierre, and his sister, Jenay’s Aunt Angelica. Jenay’s mother, Celeste, was a Native American from the Ojibwe tribe that lived in the woodlands surrounding the Great Lakes. Celeste didn’t survive Jenay’s childbirth. Jenay spent a great deal of time in the company of her mother’s sister, Aunt Maang-ikwe. The book is full of linguistic references to the French and Ojibwe languages, for example, the French word for aunt, or taunt is frequently used. Jenay preferred spending time in the woods learning about plants and natural remedies from her Aunt Maang-ikwe. Aunt Angelica was too proper and was overly concerned with fancy garments. Ultimately, Jenay got much strength and knowledge from both aunts. This wisdom is one of the best aspects of this book.

Jenay was independent and rebellious. She had dark, messy hair and wore a doeskin skirt. Jenay was not concerned with how she looked. As the author put it, “The flowers and trees seemed to speak her name, her language.” Jenay’s Aunt Angelica was unable to convince her to be more lady-like but as the events in the book unfolded, Jenay was forced to grow up fast and mature well beyond her years. Jenay is a most likable heroine, and the readers will enjoy empathizing with her.

It was touching reading the Author’s Note after finishing Ruby Moon. The love, wisdom, and personal touches the author wove into this novel were very endearing. I love the little bird that perches between sections of the book within its chapters. I like to think of the bonuses as part of the book, including the quotes, Bible verses, and Herbal Salve Recipe. I think the author’s willingness to share her personal story will inspire others―and increase awareness about the challenges she has struggled with. Near the end, she states, “I consider the writing of this novel a determined miracle.”

Just look at what can happen when faith, miracles, and an unstoppable human spirit get together. The characters were well constructed, the villain was sufficiently menacing, and the story was a tale well worth following. I enjoyed reading Ruby Moon and I am happy to recommend it.

Posted January 19, 2020

Review

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Lost Saints by Elizabeth Bell

Full of Beautiful Sentences

5-Stars

Lost Saints is Book Two of the Lazare Family Saga. You don’t have to read the first book to enjoy the second book, but I strongly recommend you read Necessary Sins first and then read Lost Saints immediately afterward.

This is what I said about Necessary Sins: Necessary Sins is a meticulously researched, fast-moving book. It is also an epic, multi-generational, decade-spanning family saga. I was hopelessly hooked from the beginning and it held my interest throughout. It took me to places I hadn’t been before and introduced me to situations I hadn’t thought to imagine. The main character is richly portrayed, complex, and imperfect. The writing makes you care about his struggles, and the other characters in the book are just as engaging. You can tell this author has made an enormous personal investment in crafting this sensational novel. I’m sure it was a labor of love, and it probably took years to write. The result is a work of art that was well worth creating.

In a prologue to Lost Saints, the author gives a hint of things to come. It is set in the Cheyenne Nation in 1840. We meet Zeya, a young woman whose husband also married her sister. Zeya is, by far, the less favored wife. During a “sacred” ceremony, Zeya couples with the Chief Priest, and ends up expecting a son.

The first half of the book is set in Charleston, South Carolina, and picks up where Necessary Sins left off. It is 1843. The main character, Joseph Lazare, is a Catholic Priest who continues to struggle with the conflict between his desire for Tessa, the love of his life who is unhappily married to another man, and his vow of celibacy. Their relationship is tortured and complicated. Fans of historical romance will particularly enjoy the first half of the book. Do Joseph and Tessa end up together? You’ll have to read the book to find out. As the author writes in Chapter 19, “There were only so many secrets her garden could keep.” Joseph and Tessa’s story stuck with me, as the author writes in Chapter 21, “like seaweed snagging against a pier.”

The second half of the book opens at Independence Rock in Wyoming, in 1841. If you haven’t seen this natural attraction, you should google images of it. The second half of Lost Saints feels more like a western than a romance novel. A new main character emerges. From this point forward, the protagonist is Zeya’s son, and we follow him from birth to adulthood. You might wonder how the second half relates to the first. Not to worry, the author’s plot twists will take you there, like the twists and turns of the Sweetwater River. You will find the three main characters, Joseph, David, and Zeya’s son all have a very difficult time becoming comfortable, as they say, “In their own skins.”

This author’s writing is full of beautiful sentences, like this one, “She reminded him of still winter nights when the snow fell without sound and everything seemed to pause, even his own heartbeat.” Don’t let that tranquil sentence fool you. It was a beautiful, fleeting moment in the life of a troubled young warrior. Where does that life ultimately take him? I’m hoping to find out in Book 3, and I can’t wait.

Posted January 4, 2020

Review

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The Warm Machine by Seth Rain

Fantastic Premise

5-Stars

I was intrigued by the premise.

Can you imagine knowing the day you will die? That would be strange enough, but imagine you know the date but not the year? How would you live your life? In addition to that premise, the author warns, it’s not the end of the world, it’s just the end of humanity. That’s reassuring.

Usually, I am drawn to historical fiction rather than fiction set in the future. So, this book might look a little strange on my reading list!

The Warm Machine opens in Manchester, England, in the year 2038. Twenty years ago, the fax machine seemed like a miracle. Now flip phones conjure up a chuckle. In the future, holo-screens, self-driving cars, drones, and e-cigarettes seem like tired old technologies. What’s the limit for artificial intelligence, or AI? Is it possible to accurately forecast the date of death for every human being with algorithms, like Amazon can predict when I’ll need to order new socks? Is life worth living if our future is predestined? Do our choices have consequences? This book makes you ponder many such philosophical questions while you follow its hero, Scott Beck, through the richly portrayed futuristic cityscapes of Manchester, Birmingham, and London.

Our protagonist is Scott Beck. The tattoo on his hand carries the date 2204. That is his expiration date. Scott drinks a lot of whisky. Can you blame him? For some reason, I found myself wondering whether he had a brand preference―he doesn’t seem to. I didn’t realize whiskey was spelled differently in England, by the way, but I have gone off on a tangent. I wonder if Scott would be a more likable character if he wasn’t one of the select few to have to endure knowing the date of his death. Whether I liked him or not, I was drawn to wish for his success. You’ll see why! He can’t help being the way he is because the future is dark, and weird, and scary. Watchers are lurking everywhere, and they’re kind of creepy.

So, It’s a little scary. I should put April 22nd in my calendar and designate a recurrence. Just in case. Maybe that’s when Book Two comes out. Sign me up!

I highly recommend The Warm Machine. I will follow the author, Seth Rain, and return for future installments in the Humanity Series. I’m a fan.

Posted December 14, 2019

Review

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Katherine, Tudor Duchess by Tony Riches

Will Her Head Remain on Her Shoulders?

5-Stars

Though I haven’t studied this period in history for a very long time, I found myself visiting London this summer. At the Tower of London, the Yeoman Warder spoke fantastically about the horrors of the beheadings that occurred there. I might have benefitted from reading this book before going on that tour. On the other hand, reading it subsequently is kind of like a souvenir.

From the very beginning, the question on my mind was whether Katherine’s head would remain on her shoulders. The pages and chapters flew by and I couldn’t stop until I got to the end. Will there be a happy ending? A tragic ending? I won’t spoil your fun by disclosing the answers to those questions.

This book covers the period from 1528 through 1557. We meet Katherine at the age of 9-years old and follow her path for the next thirty years. It’s a book about loss and it’s a book about change. At the very beginning, Katherine’s mother must give up her daughter so that she can become a ward of the Duke of Suffolk. During those days people didn’t live very long to begin with. It didn’t help that doctors tried to cure people by helping them bleed to death. So, Katherine doesn’t get to stay put very long, making her life story enormously fascinating.

It was a tumultuous period in history, to say the least. Katherine wasn’t just a witness to the reign of the notorious King Henry the VIII, she knew all the famed wives and children of the king. Katherine’s commitment to her faith, and determination to help bring about reforms make her a complex and compelling character in her own right. Her dedication also placed her in great danger, throughout the book. The author never strayed from making this book her story.

I learned so many things from reading this book. Not the least of which is that I have no desire to pop in a time machine and zip back to the 1500s. Then again, reading this book was kind of like being in that time machine.

This is an epic work that includes a huge volume of facts and characters. Long before the ending of the book, I gave up trying to keep track of everyone who was beheaded, imprisoned, or burned at the stake. I would have preferred a higher ratio of feelings to facts. The dirty deeds would have seemed even more excruciating if I had come to know the victims better. This book is action-packed, high stakes, palace intrigue from the very beginning, all the way to its finish.

This book is part of a series. I have not read the other books in the series. This book was complete unto itself, and I didn’t feel lost as a result of not reading the other books first. So I am happy to recommend it on a stand-alone basis.

Posted December 2, 2019

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There's More to Life Than This by Theresa Caputo

Authentic Spirit

5-Stars

A few years ago, I read Flipside by Richard Martini, and many of the concepts discussed in this book were also discussed in Martini’s book. This book is full of positivity, grace, and inspiration. Theresa’s messages are very comforting to people who are dealing with traumatic, shocking, painful, devastating losses. In addition to sharing how she came to understand her gift, Theresa shares her understanding of God, heaven, angels, and our spirit guides who direct us from the other side. To top it all off, there is a heavy dose of personal guidance; advice about living.

This book is authentic. As you read it, you can almost hear Theresa’s voice in your head. I think it is written that way on purpose. I really appreciate the transparency with respect to the ghostwriter, who had to do more than wear a big wig and tall shoes to put the book together. It truly does seem like a team effort.

 

I love this book and I will revisit it many times.

Posted November 17, 2019

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Love Thief-The Legend of Ixmal the Healer by David Bolton

Young Ancient Maya Healer

4-Stars

This is the story of Ixmal, a brave, young healer who rejects the traditions of his time. His story is set in ancient times, before recorded history. His people are the author’s imagination of a precursor to the Maya and Inca civilizations of Central and South American civilizations if I understand correctly. I love historical fiction. The more ancient, the better.

Years before Ixmal was born, his parents founded the village of Ppentaca in the highland jungle west of No Name River. Totec and Shanti escaped slavery in Ocochac, a city to the east of the river. After years of preparation, Totec prepared to attack Ocochac, with the hopes of freeing more enslaved people. A man child had to be sacrificed to assure their mission had the blessing of the Gods. Ixmal opposed sacrifice, stood firm in his conviction, and turned his back on his father, and this conflict opens the book. The Ppentacans accused Ixmal of cowardice; however it was an extraordinarily brave thing to fight against the accepted practice of human sacrifice. I liked the author’s portrayal of Ixmal, his parents Shanti and Totec, and another character we’ll meet later in the story named Sahache.

There is a lot to like about this book. The cover is fantastic. I also love the title. The cover and the title motivated me to buy this book, and to give it a second try after I dropped off at about ten percent, the first time I tried to read it. It has a solid beginning, a good plot, and a satisfying ending. It has well thought out characters that fit well together. I would like this book even more if it revealed more of the characters’ emotions. I also appreciated the book’s spiritual content.

Before the book begins the author says, “In an archaeological dig in the ancient city of Ocochac, an extraordinary document was discovered beneath vines and brush… in the glyphics were two ancient languages.” I found the premise very intriguing. The author states his intent to use “the indigenous vernacular, as well as some key words, to capture the rhythm and meaning of both ancient languages.” This requires the reader to learn a vocabulary of eighteen words and the names of seven Gods. Add to that the names of the mortals, introduced along the way, and additional vocabulary as well. I am sympathetic because I’m sure it took a lot of work to create this element of the book. I’m sure many readers will LOVE this immersion. For me, this was a tripping hazard. Ultimately, I was glad I pushed through because the story, in the end, was worth it.

Posted October 23, 2019

Lies Told in Silence by M.K (Mary) Tod

What about the dog?

5-Stars

The book opens in 1914, as the world is about to be drawn into WWI. We meet the Noisette family, consisting of Henri, Lise, and their children, Guy, Helene, and Jean. Another son, Marc, died young. Henri’s mother, Mariele, lives with them and has recently lost her husband. She is frequently referred to as Grandmere. This word and other French words occasionally serve to remind us that this book is set in France. The coming war divides the family. Henri stays in Paris. Guy enlists. Henri sends the rest of the family to the fictional town of Beaufort, lovingly imagined and described by the author. Ironically, though the war divides this family, in many ways, it unites the family as well. The evolving relationship between the three generations of women is very compelling. Surrounded by the grim realities of war, the womens' bonding provides a nice respite for the reader. It is interesting that the cover features a man. A soldier.

Early on, it is apparent that Helene is the main character of the book. Even so, the reader must wait a while before she steps to the center of the stage. She goes from being a typical 16-year old girl to an enormously capable woman. Life gets complicated, especially in novels, and especially so during times of war. At times when the protagonist must make impossible decisions that will have lasting implications, I found myself questioning, wondering what I would do in such a situation. With no time to contemplate; some decisions must be made immediately. I will refrain from spoiling the story as it relates to the decisions and the lies told in silence.

What about the dog? I know it sounds silly, in the midst of such important happenings to wonder. Certainly, Tout Tout is in the book for a reason. We knew that Tout Tout remained in Paris with Henri, though I would have expected the dog to go with the rest of the family to the countryside. I wondered what kind of dog he was. Then when Henri had to leave Paris for some time, I wondered who tended to poor Tout Tout. Maybe so readers like me could wonder, “Hm.”

 

If this author wrote a hundred books, I would endeavor to read them all. She has a graceful writing style, just the right balance between action, drama, description, and emotion for my taste. There are plenty of facts, historical references, and accounts of war, evidence of enormously detailed research. I appreciate that there were descriptions of the beautiful French countryside, and everyday life in a small, rural town. All that said, I think I most admire this author’s character development, and the bits of wisdom the characters share with the reader. The storytelling flows smoothly from page to page. I’m rarely grateful when I must spend the better part of two days on airplanes and in airports. On a recent trip, I was thankful for the time alone to devour this fantastic book.

Posted October 5, 2019

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