Sunday, October 26, 2008

We have a winner of the Bloodstone Castle quiz!

Congratulations to The Tome Traveller who correctly answered the three questions in the Bloodstone Castle quiz. You've won a free copy of this wonderful historical. Thanks for participating in our first Featured Author week, with Mirella Patzer.

The Tome Traveller said...
Hi Lisa, here are my answers. This book looks great, I would love to win!

1. In the novel Bloodstone Castle, from whom does the heroine Morena inherit her bloodstone pendant?

Answer: Her Mother

2. Who is Mirella's favorite literary heroine?

Answer: Scarlet O'Hara

3. On Mirella's website under her Bio, what does she list as the title of her second short story, from the Canadian anthology, Mamma Mia?

Answer: Down Three Steps

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bloodstone Castle - Win a copy of the novel

Thanks to all who visited the blog this week, to learn more about our first Featured Author, Mirella Patzer and her latest release Bloodstone Castle. We hope you've enjoyed the excerpts and our Q&A with Mirella.

Want to win a copy of her wonderful historical? Be the first to post correct answers in the Comments section to the following questions:

1. In the novel Bloodstone Castle, from whom does the heroine Morena inherit her bloodstone pendant?

2. Who is Mirella's favorite literary heroine?

3. On Mirella's website under her Bio, what does she list as the title of her second short story, from the Canadian anthology, Mamma Mia?

One winner will be chosen to receive a free copy of Bloodstone Castle. Good luck, everyone.

Hitler and Mars Bars

In the dying days of World War II, Germany is a ravaged country, many of its cities bombed, its people struggling, its children hungry. Young Erich and his brother Hans reside at the Goldschmidthaus Children's Home brought there by their mother who c. But even there, food is scarce and the boys often go to bed hungry. Their mother while she struggles to earn a living for her and her sons. She visits them often and they look forward to her loving attention. And then one day she comes no more. The boys learn she has been killed in a bomb attack.

The boys find themselves in the care of the Red Cross and Operation Shamrock where German orphans are sent to Ireland to be fostered there. Erich and Hans are separated and sent to different homes where they must learn a new language, learn to eat new food, learn a new culture, learn to fit in.

Hitler and Mars Bars is a poignant, often heart-wrenching tale of Erich as he searches for love and family in the aftermath of World War II. Diane Ascroft's meticulously researched novel about this actual operation of the Red Cross is told through the eyes of young Erich. The gentle retelling in the simple voice of a young boy makes the reader ache for these children. She evokes strong emotion until the very end of the book where the reader is left deeply moved by the tremendous loss experienced by these children and their desperate search to find happiness in a world where family no longer exists for them.

It is a deeply moving book recounting a part of World War II many people known nothing about. I highly recommend this book for everyone interested in history, specifically that which pertains to World War II.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Featured Author: Mirella Patzer Q&A Part 2

Here's part two of our Q&A with Mirella Patzer, author of Bloodstone Castle.

11. If your works were made into movies, whom do you envision playing the heroes and heroines?

Heinrich the Fowler would most definitely be Brad Pitt. And Angelina Jolie’s unselfish acts of charity exactly mirror those of Matilde, his wife. For Bloodstone Castle, Amoro would be a younger Richard Gere and Morena would definitely be played by Julia Roberts.

12. Your novels are rich in detail and heavily researched. How do you do your research? How long does it typically take?

In 2002, when I first began researching the 10th century, I spent an entire year gathering information before I began to outline the novel. It was like putting together a puzzle. Each time I found a new resource, another piece of the puzzle fell into place. It took me a long time to understand relationships and motivations between characters and their actions. I continue to purchase books about this period through antique booksellers and online. They sit right in front of my computer on a shelf on my desk, always within reach. And I do lots of research on the internet too.

13. The settings of your stories are wild, romantic places. Where are your favorite places to travel?

Italy is my favourite place in all the world. It’s where my roots are, where my mother still owns vineyards, and the site of the historical World War II battle. I’ve been there only four times in my life. Now that I’m retired, I hope to someday return for several months to research.

My second favourite place in all the world is Tahiti. I’ve never been there, but it has always been my dream to go there one day. This desire was born after I read The Bounty Trilogy in the seventh grade. I have longed to travel there ever since.

14. In addition to your writing, you are an author of several blogs and participate in several writing groups. How do you balance your writing with other pursuits?

To tell you the truth, finding balance continues to be a struggle now that I’m working from home as an author. I wrote more when I was working full time out of the home than I do now. This is because I care full time for my grandson while my daughter is in law school. I use my Alpha Smart Neo to write first drafts or polish previously written chapters. This allows for the constant interruptions and it’s light enough that I can carry it with me outside in the back yard or to a restaurant or coffee shop. Many days, I don’t write at all and can only blog or critique for my groups. So progress is very, very slow, but steady at this time.

15. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Just do it! If you’ve got the desire to try to write, get the basic tools and start. Some people need a computer, others a paper and pen. You must take the plunge – technique and talent can improve only when and if you start! Also, a good critique group is critical. It’s the best way to hone your skill and receive knowledgeable feedback from those who are experienced with your genre. Family and friends are fine for feedback, but they cannot provide the level of analysis provided by fellow authors of your genre.

16. What are your future writing plans?

I am currently re-writing Heinrich The Fowler, enriching the detail and enhancing the characters. I’ve given it a new title – A Scarlet Mantle. I’ve also completed the sequel, The Lance of Destiny. I’m also at the half way mark of a first draft of a novel entitled Orphan of the Olive Tree, a medieval romance actually written in short story format in the middle ages.

Last, but not least, I’ve plotted an entire novel about a woman serial killer which is based on a true story. I’ll be fictionalizing it and changing the historical period and enhancing the story. I haven’t yet decided what era to put the story in, but the basics are laid out.

17. What prompted your interest in writing historical fiction?

Ever since I was a very young child, my favourite stories have been about princesses and queens. I read every fairy tale book my library had at the time. I never outgrew my passion for the medieval era. Books like Anne of Green Gables and Gone with the Wind and Mutiny on the Bounty fueled my desire to expand into other eras of history. Rarely do I read something contemporary. There are too many historical fiction books out there and I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to collecting them.

18. What do you enjoy most about writing in this genre? What challenges have you found?

I love learning about people and how they lived in historical periods. The biggest challenge I’ve faced when writing about the 10th century is the historical research. Not everything was recorded back then and many books contradict each other when it pertains to dates, names, and places. Accuracy is very difficult to assure. And I know there’s many more books in Germany in German, but to translate them would be very difficult. But I’m satisfied that I’ve collected the most important research and that I’ve managed to keep the accuracy true.

19. Please provide your website and blogs where readers can learn more about you.

My main website is

Here are a list of my blogs:

20. Any closing thoughts you would like to share.

I can’t begin to tell you how many friendships I’ve made in cyberspace since becoming an author. Authors are a special breed – they are always willing to lend a hand and share their experiences, knowledge, and expertise with new aspiring authors. It is a positive environment and many of these friendships I’ve made have endured over many years. I’m truly blessed.

Thanks for your time, Mirella, and best of luck with Bloodstone Castle.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Featured Author: Mirella Patzer Q&A Part 1

Mirella Patzer writes historical fiction and shares her background with us, as well as her experiences in writing her newest novel, Bloodstone Castle.

1. Please tell readers about yourself and your background.

I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to freshly landed Italian immigrants. Two years later, my family moved to Calgary, Alberta and there we have remained. After high school, I worked as a secretary for AGIP Canada before moving to the Calgary Police Service. I thought it would be a fun place to work until I figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I ended up staying over 28 years. It was a fascinating, but challenging career. Currently, I am newly retired and I live in a small town of about 15,000 people 15 minutes outside of Calgary.

2. Besides writing, what are your other hobbies and interests?

I have to say that reading is my number one passion. But I’m pretty advanced at crochet and can do even the most intricate doilies, even though I haven’t picked up a crochet hook since I began writing. Cooking, especially Italian food, is another one of my passions, which I practice freely on my family. I especially love trying out traditional recipes or that have a historical background. I also enjoy live theatre and watching historical movies.

3. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

No, to tell the truth, I never believed that I could write at all. It wasn’t until I learned that the World War II Battle of the Moro River occurred on my grandfather’s vineyards, that the spark to write was born. It’s an intense story and it amazes me to this day that my mother’s entire family survived it. I have begun compiling the research, but there is much more to be done, including walking these vineyards and finding the caves they were forced to live in during that terrible time, before I can do the story justice. In the meantime, I’ve been focused on writing other novels which has kept me very busy.

4. Please tell us about your published works.

The first thing I had published was a short story entitled The Holy Lance. It was one of the winners in the Hidden Talents of Alberta Contest and was published in an anthology by Tall Tales Press.

I was one of 18 Italian Canadian women who wrote about their experiences growing up in two cultures in the Canadian anthology, Mamma Mia: Good Italian Girls Talk Back. It was a wonderful experience. I flew to Toronto for the book launch where I met the other amazing women. Our bond endures even today, 4 years later.

My first novel is entitled Heinrich the Fowler and was published in 2004. I am currently rewriting it as part of a trilogy or a four book series. It’s a family saga about Otto the Great’s family in the 10th century.

5. Bloodstone Castle is your most recent release. Please tell us about the story.

Bloodstone Castle is a medieval romantic suspense novel with an Italian setting. It is my first venture into the romance novel genre. I wrote it to give myself a break from all the intensity and research in writing about the 10th century. It was incredibly freeing to not have to worry about historical accuracy and to savour the freedom of having complete control over the plot and characters.

6. How long did it take you to write Bloodstone Castle?

It took me two years on a part time basis. I worked as a Manager of a large department in the Calgary Police Service. I wrote on the weekends and after work each night. In July 2007, I was able to retire early and I looked forward to writing full time. However, that dream has proven illusive as I care for my 2 ½ year old grandson now on a full time basis. So I’m still writing part time.

7. What do you enjoy most about your heroine, Morena, in this story?

What I like most about Morena is her loyalty and her strong sense of duty. She is an honorable, caring person with much integrity. I took the best personality traits and values from people I admire and gave them all to Morena, so I like her a lot.

8. What was the inspiration for the hero, Amoro, in Bloodstone Castle?

I created Amoro to be the kind of guy I have always been attracted to – strong, honorable, with a strong sense of duty and family. Of course, I made his physical characteristics those that most appeal to me too. The inspiration for Amoro’s green eyes came from sitting in a dentist’s chair and looking up into my dentist’s green contact lenses. That’s when I knew I was a true author – when I’m plotting my book even while sitting in a dentist’s chair with the drill sounding off.

9. Do you have a favorite character from your stories?

I really loved Esmerelda. Being the child of immigrant parents, I never grew up knowing my grandmothers. Although I met them a few times during trips to Italy, I never got to really know them, or have them be a strong part of my life. So Esmerelda embodies my yearning to have a wise, older woman who truly loves me. She is the grandmothers I never got a chance to really know.

10. Who is your favorite literary heroine?

Hands down – Scarlet O’Hara. Her spicy, determined, faulty character has stayed with me ever since I read Gone With The Wind at the age of 12.

*** Please join us throughout this week. In addition to our review and Q&A part one, we’ll have part two of our interview with Featured Author Mirella Patzer and excerpts of Bloodstone Castle. Stay tuned and you could win a copy of Bloodstone Castle ***

Bloodstone Castle by Mirella Patzer

The Historical Novel Review is pleased to debut a new aspect of our review blog, our Featured Author, a week-long showcase of historical fiction authors and their works. We’re even prouder that the first Featured Author is our own longtime contributor Mirella Patzer, author of Bloodstone Castle.

In a haze of blood and death, Morena Monterossa, daughter of the Count of Portovenere, enters the world. As her mother Vittoria’s lifeblood ebbs, she wills her daughter a precious keepsake; a bloodstone pendant passed from mother to daughter. The pendant is the key to an ancient Roman treasure, buried somewhere in the count’s castle.

So begins Mirella Patzer’s recent release, Bloodstone Castle. Ms. Patzer transports her readers to the medieval Italian states, where Amoro Dragone vows to fulfill a deathbed promise he’s sworn to his murdered father. But there’s a problem with his plan – his intended bride Morena Monterossa is the daughter of a long-time rival, betrothed from childhood to Ernesto Boccanera, the Duke of Savona. Despite Amoro’s determination, Morena is very clear about her unwillingness to break the betrothal pact. But her suitor isn’t so easily swayed. He lays siege to her castle and her heart.

Morena must choose between the duty which binds her to the past and the promise of love that beckons in Amoro’s eyes. She travels with him to Genoa, to the safety and comfort of Amoro’s familial estate. But the continued presence of Amoro’s spurned lover, Laria, threatens her hope of life with Amoro. And while Morena and Amoro make their bid for happiness, Ernesto of Savona plots to have his way. He has not forgotten his betrothal contract. Desperate and determined, he’ll do anything to have Morena and the famed hidden treasure beneath her father’s castle.

Morena is not immune to Amoro’s confident charm and he is enthralled by her beauty and daring. His seductive kisses and touch tempt her to surrender but she chafes against his protective nature. She defies him in an act of rebellion and finds herself the prisoner of Ernesto. Amoro and Ernesto challenge in each other in a contest of wills, where Amoro risks his very life for honor’s sake and his love of Morena. Cruel Ernesto keeps the lovers apart, until an unlikely ally changes all their fortunes.

Ms. Patzer seduces the reader with her breath-taking settings and unforgettable characters. Amoro’s passion and strength makes him the ultimate hero and in Morena’s courage and devotion, she is his perfect mate. Ernesto’s depraved nature makes him a dangerous and unpredictable rival. From windswept fortresses to lush Italian countryside, this is an engrossing story. It was a great pleasure to review Bloodstone Castle, both for my love of the characters and their story, and my admiration of Ms. Patzer’s talents. I’m pleased to know her as a wonderful friend and an accomplished writer.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Thrall's Tale

In the year 985 A.D. Viking ships set sail from Iceland towards a newly discovered land they named Greenland. Aboard these ships are men and women who carry the hope of starting a new life. This is a tale of the history, of the inhabitation of Greenland. It is portrayed through the poignant dialogue of three generations of women as they struggle to survive the harsh landscape in the search for happiness.

As a young girl, Katla was captured in a Viking raid of her Irish village. A slave to a kindly master, she is forced to travel with him to the new land called Greenland. While on the ship, Katla meets Thorbjorg, a prophetess whom every fears and shuns.

Soon after their arrival in Greenland, her master’s son, a cruel young man named Torvard, brutally beats and rapes Katla. Not only must she bear the emotional and physical scars of this assault for the rest of her life, but she finds herself pregnant. Hatred for Torvard and the child she births named Bibrau, consumes her.

Bibrau grows to become a cold, withdrawn child partially due to her mother’s dislike of her and the beat the villagers belief that she is a changeling. After a vision from her god, Thorbjorg assumes responsibility for the unwanted child and makes her an apprentice. Misunderstood and unloved from the start, Bibrau shows a great talent for the healing arts. She begins to dabble in the black arts. The anger and hatred she carries in her heart, prevents Bibrau from excelling at the healing/magical arts. As her power grows, she learns to favour the evil over the good, wreaking havoc upon her mother and the rest of the inhabitants of their small community.

In The Thrall’s Tale, Judith Lidbergh transports her readers into the violence and turmoil of early Greenland. Told in the voices of Katlan, Bibrau, and Thorjborg, the reader is ensnared by the rich prose which provokes intense emotion throughout. Vivid in historical details, this novel is a true work of art and can stand alone as a precious insight into a time long forgotten. I recommend it to anyone who longs to be swept away by a story rich in words and unique in detail.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dissolution by C J Sansom

Review by Anita Davison
Having appointed himself Supreme Head of the Church, Henry VIII’s sycophantic ministers impose new laws, rig trials, and have set up a vast network of informers against anyone who voices regret at the loss of the old Catholic Church.
Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer who has compassion for nature's outcasts due to the fact he is a hunchback and is therefore denied respect from his peers. Compassion was a scarce commodity in Tudor England, and as a Commissioner for Thomas Cromwell, who is systematically dismantling the English monasteries and seizing their wealth, Lawyer Shardlake's situation is precarious.

The fear and hatred Thomas Cromwell evokes is visited on Matthew when he is sent to a monastery on the south coast to investigate a murder, a beheading no less, of Robin Singleton, another of Cromwell's commissioners and the theft of the monastery’s precious relic.

Master Singleton was sent Kent to organise the ‘voluntary surrender of Scarnsea Monastery. The monks do not take kindly to the men they fear are only there to uncover illegal practices among their community and destroy the monastery altogether. Matthew and his assistant, Mark Poer, are treated with little warmth while they carry out their investigation during a bitter winter.

It's not long before Matthew starts questioning his own belief in Thomas Cromwell’s methods and the lengths the man will go to in order to remain in King Henry’s favour.

The situation is complicated when Mark is attracted to one of the suspects, and another death occurs, followed by the discovery of a long forgotten body in the fishpond. While Cromwell grows impatient and the monks close ranks, Matthew despairs of ever discovering the culprit, until a connection between a member of the monastery and the deceased finally emerges and Matthew might triumph at last. If he can stay alive.

Mr Sansom has a wonderful feel for the era and doesn't shirk from showing his readers the darker and less salubrious side of Tudor life and its complicated politics. In an age where one wrong word could condemn a man and one's thoughts are under scrutiny by all, his main character has to stay on the side of good as well as be diplomatic and succeed in the task set him to everyone's satisfaction, or not only is his career at risk, so is his life.

As historical crime novels go, this was an intriguing one and my attention caught to the end. Nor was my enjoyment spoilt by my guessing too son who the culprit was, and their motivation came as a very clever surprise.

Being a fan of the Tudor era and historical crime series, Michael Jenks and Cadfael among others, I picked this book up with some delicious anticipation and I wasn’t disappointed.

It's quite a long book, and despite the unconventional hero, I really enjoyed. C J Sansom has written three others based around Mathew Shardlake, Dark Fire, Sovereign and Revelation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mary of Nazareth by Marek Halter

In his latest novelization of Biblical figures, author Marek Halter explores the life of the mother of Jesus, in Mary of Nazareth. He crafts a stunning portrayal that, while unlike the traditional views of the Biblical Mary, is endearing and fascinating.

In a land oppressed by King Herod the Great and his Roman supporters, Miriam as she is known throughout the novel, is a daring child, equally devoted to her family as she is to seeking justice for her people. When King Herod’s mercenaries descend on Nazareth looking for some rebels who destroyed a storehouse, Miriam encounters the enigmatic young thief Barabbas hiding in her father’s house. She thwarts the soldiers’ efforts to find him but by morning, the young man has disappeared. Years later, when Miriam’s father, the carpenter Joachim is captured, she boldly seeks Barabbas’ help to save her father from his ordeal on the cross. In a daring rescue attempt, Barabbas and his motley band save Joachim from the heavily guarded fortress of Tarichea. They flee under the cover of night. But a seed of rebellion takes root in the heart of the men, and her continued association with Barabbas threatens her future. For Miriam’s safety, she separates from her parents and lives in Magdala for a time, where she studies. When rebellion against Herod leads to a tragic loss, Miriam despairs but finds strength in her studies and her hopes for the future. At home again in Nazareth and reunited with her family, Miriam embraces an unexpected destiny as the mother of Messiah.

Miriam is at times, willful then obedient, passionate and yet patient. The author skillfully weaves the history of the period, the Biblical accounts of the life of Christ’s mother and his research into an enthralling characterization. This book is a must read, with engaging characters and great attention to historical detail. I highly recommend Mary of Nazareth.

Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

Forever etched in memory as a villain by Shakespeare’s play, the wife of the Scots King Macbeth is redeemed by Susan Fraser King’s portrayal in Lady Macbeth. The author breathes new life into the character of Lady Gruadh, nicknamed Rue in her childhood and relies heavily on historical details to flesh out the life of one of Scotland’s most enigmatic and maligned queens.

From Gruadh’s tragic beginnings, with the deaths of her siblings and mother, to her ill-fated first marriage, her ties to the Scottish crown weigh heavily upon her. Treachery abounds in the land as Vikings from the north, Saxons from the south and other Scottish lords set their sights on the crown. Union with the chieftain Gilcomgan of Moray places Gruadh at the center of conflict between her husband and Macbeth, who will do anything to regain his ancestral home at Moray. When Gilcomgan dies tragically in a fire, Gruadh marries Macbeth, despite knowing in her heart that he made her a widow and left her newborn son Lulach fatherless. She recognizes Macbeth’s true ambitions and despises him, but in time, Gruadh comes to understand her role in his life and in Scottish history. Through further tragedy and betrayal, Gruadh and Macbeth scale the heights of power in their quest to unite Scotland against its enemies.

I highly recommend Lady Macbeth to readers of historical fiction, lovers of Scottish history and those who want to be transported on an engrossing journey to the past. Ms. King truly brings to life a time where kings and queens shaped the destiny of their countries through intrigue and skilled maneuvering. The historical detail is rich, with well-known figures interspersed among a myriad of characters. In her portrayal of Lady Gruadh, King strips away the myths and legends surrounding a woman much maligned by history to reveal a queen who was foremost, a dutiful mother and a true partner to her husband.

Kingdom of Bones by Stephen Gallagher

After a successful career as a boxer, Tom Sayers becomes the manager for a traveling theatre company. He becomes desperately besotted with Louise Porter, a beautiful young singer/actress in the group. Louise is conscious of Tom’s esteem, but she is romantically interested in another performer. As the company tours about in England, they leave behind a string of suspicious murders that match the dates and locations of their appearances. When Pinkerton detective, Sebastian Becker, arrests Sayers for the serial murders, Sayers escapes, determined to find the true killer and prove his innocence.

Because of his connections to the world of the occult, Sayers seeks the assistance of author Bram Stoker. Stoker believes that Sayer is innocent and offers to help him. But, the murders continue and Sayer soon learns the evil is much darker than anticipated.

Tom follows Louise to America where he learns more disturbing information – the killer may be one of the theatre company’s players. Like a faithful bloodhound, Pinkerton follows the trail of his nemesis in order to bring him to justice. Tom is desperate to protect Louise but must continue to seek the true murder and prove his innocence.

Set in the late 19th century, Stephen Gallagher has crafted a wonderfully intense gothic psychological thriller that sweeps the reader from England to America. It is an incredible tale of corruption and human depravity, danger and betrayal, passion and evil.