Wednesday, July 30, 2014

City of Devils by Diana Bretherick

From the Back Cover

The brightest mind in early criminology meets the darkest killer, in this debut mystery set in the heady, cultivated world of nineteenth century Turin.

Turin, Italy 1887. When James Murray, a young Scottish doctor fascinated by the workings of the criminal mind, travels to the vibrant city of Turin, it is to study with Cesare Lombroso, the world-renowned criminologist. But just hours after his introduction to the unconventional Lombroso, the discovery of a horrifically mutilated body in the nearby Piazza Statuto—and a note that appears to implicate the celebrated criminologist himself—changes everything.

With the help of his fellow apprentice, Ottolenghi; a local investigator, Tullio; and Lombroso’s beautiful but enigmatic housekeeper, Sofia; Murray must put his learning to the test and endeavor to understand the mind of a malevolent serial killer, if he is to stop the rapidly escalating bloodbath and clear the name of his mentor.

Have Lombroso’s many enemies attempted to frame him? Are the notes an accusation or a challenge? And will Lombroso’s own influential theories about criminal behavior hold the keys to Murray catching a cunning and ruthless killer?


Set in 1887, the City of Devils’ protagonist is based on a real historic person named Cesare Lombroso who founded a bizarre museum of bizarre human oddities. The story takes place in the beautiful city of Torino (Turin). When a body is found at the foot of a statue, all clues point to Lobroso as the culprit, and this whodunit begins. 

Author, Diana Bretherick, won the 2012 Good Housekeeping new novel award with this story. The author’s style is engaging and very descriptive. The novel is a bit elongated, but it keeps the reader captivated and guessing to the very end. There were plenty of secrets and clues and red herrings, as well as great characters and a mild love story weaved into the plot.

For those who love mysteries with a bit of the odd and unusual in exotic settings, then this is the novel for you. A very nice debut novel for this author!

Monday, July 28, 2014

East India by Colin Falconer

A Novel of Mutiny, Murder, and Madness!

The Shipwreck of the Batavia

In any other circumstance but shipwreck, rape and murder, a man like Michiel van Texel would never have met a fine lady such as Cornelia Noorstrandt.

He was just a soldier, a sergeant in the Dutch East India company’s army, on his way from Amsterdam to the Indies to fight the Mataram. Such a woman was far above the likes of him.

But both their destinies intertwine far away from Holland, on some god-forsaken islands near the Great Southland. When their great ship, the Utrecht, founders far from home, surviving the Houtman Rocks is the least of their worries.

As they battle to survive and the bravest and the best reveal themselves for what they are, Cornelia’s only hope is a mercenary in a torn coat who shows her that a man is more than just manners and money.

He makes her one promise: ‘Even if God forsakes you, I will find you.’

But can he keep it?

Described by one critic as ‘Jack and Rose in the seventeenth century’, East India will keep you wondering until the final page.

Mirella Patzer

In the novel, EAST INDIA, internationally bestselling author, Colin Falconer, has written a fictionalized accounting of a terrible tale of depravity and barbarity that is known the world over – that of the shipwreck Batavia in 1629 that became one of the most incredible stories of shipwreck ever recorded and one of the bloodiest chapters in Australia's history.

Some survivors of the shipwreck made it to some tiny islands that lacked water and food and they suffered dehydration, starvation, and heat illness. Others remained on the ship and were either washed off deck, drowned when the ship collapsed, or failed trying to swim to the islands. 48 people packed into a longboat set off to make a 2000 journey to Batavia to get help. For the people left on the islands, they would face bloodshed, rape, and murder at the hand of the madman and his group of henchmen who seized control. The group began to systematically reduce the survivors to preserve food and water. First, they exiled groups of people to various nearby islands without sufficient food or water, hoping they would perish. When that failed, the group of murderers began drowning people in the ocean. One group of people on one of the islands who had survived on seals, seal’s blood, and urine, became the victims of a secret slaughter by these henchmen. Soon the murders were no longer conducted in secret. One boy was beheaded for sport, and the women were herded into a tent and used as sex slaves.

With his usual style of sharp, succinct writing, Colin Falconer captured the facts of this dreadful drama, skilfully mixed it with a little fiction, and created a powerfully passionate novel that shocked me and held me in its grip! In fact, I read the entire book in one sitting, unable to stop reading. The plight of the survivors at the hands of a few controlling madmen is one that I will not soon forget, and Falconer tells it like it is with blunt honesty and intense narrative.

I have long been a fan and follower of Colin Falconer. I found this novel as spell-binding, expertly written, and compelling as all his others. His tales offer something of interest to both men and women. With poignant characterization, dazzling dialogue, and impeccable research, there is something for everyone that will please. I can’t say enough about this book. Although it is a dark tale, there is a bit of a love story within that lends the tale some closure so the reader is left with a feeling of satisfaction! Nothing short of brilliant, Colin! Can’t wait for your next book on Cleopatra!

Following is a documentary on this shipwreck. It's a bit long at almost an hour, but it's worth watching.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

A #1 Indie Next Pick and Library-Reads Selection

Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend . . . if she can survive.

This book will be a beautifully designed package with illustrated endpapers, a map of the Tearling, and a ribbon marker.


I rarely read historical fantasy novels, but I’m very happy that I read this one. It truly is a well written story with a powerful heroine. The story is set in a dystopian futuristic medieval world called Tear. I enjoyed the story of Kelsea, a young woman who suddenly comes of age and is sent off to face her destiny as a queen and hidden magical skills/gifts that she possesses in addition with an uncanny talent for leading.

What makes this book shine is the brilliant dialogue and the characterization, especially of the guardsmen, who come across as powerful warriors who are doing their duty by escorting her to the kingdom to be crowned. Slowly, their doubts about the young and na├»ve Kelsea begin to change into admiration as she shows courage, savvy, and fairness. 

The Queen of Tearling is the first book of a series and definitely worth reading. The ending is satisfying but leaves many unanswered questions for the next installment. I really liked this novel which will soon be made into a movie…So that should tell you the storyline is pretty darn good!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Freemantle

Excellent! Definitely not your typical Tudor story!

From the author of Queen’s Gambit, which People magazine called, “A must-read for Philippa Gregory fans,” a gripping historical novel about two sisters who tread as dangerously close to the crown as their tragic sister, Lady Jane Grey, executed after just nine days on the throne.

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Freemantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

From “a brilliant new player in the court of royal fiction,” (People) Sisters of Treason brings to vivid life the perilous and romantic lives of two little known young women who played a major role in the complex politics of their day.



Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Freemantle is set in 16th century England during a time of political upheaval. At the heart of the story are three women, the sisters Mary and Catherine Grey, and painter Levina Teerlinc. Through their collective points of view, the story unfolds. The main story plot are the struggles of the two sisters to avoid court intrigue and politics. Still reeling after the beheading of their Sister, Lady Jane Grey, Catherine and Mary find themselves pulled into court intrigue despite their attempts to keep their distance, where a single swipe of the quill or a few angry words, or even worse, the truth, will spill out and see them imprisoned in the Tower or executed.

Although I had not read the previous book, The Queen's Gambit, it made no difference – this story definitely stands alone. At first I was a little apprehensive because of the over-abundance of Tudor novels on the market currently, and I am getting a little weary of them, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The author has taken us deep into the viewpoint of two lesser known women in England’s history. So for that aspect alone, I found this book unique and refreshing. Brava Elizabeth Freemantle for bringing to life women other than those married to Henry VIII!

I did not expect to become so involved in this story, but I did. Lots of detail, spectacular writing, and an engaging plot kept me involved right to the very last page. Definitely a book not to overlook, especially if you are a fan of English history! I'm definitely looking forward to reading The Queen's Gambit! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Successio by Alison Morton


Roma Nova - the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century - is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure. She senses danger crawling towards her when she encounters a strangely self-possessed member of the unit hosting their exchange exercise in Britain. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad's lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she knows the threat is real. Trying to resolve a young man's indiscretion twenty-five years before turns into a nightmare that not only threatens to destroy all the Mitelae but also attacks the core of the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun at the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life –


In this third book in Ms Morton’s saga of the Roma Nova aristocracy, Carina Mitela’s life does not get any easier. Not only does she have to cope with wayward teenage children and an even more rebellious step-daughter, she is faced with an indiscretion of her husbands that comes back to haunt them all. Nicola Sandbrook, the daughter Conrad never knew he had, is not only resentful but has inherited the sociopathic tendencies of her paternal grandfather, Caius Tellus.

She is bent on a twisted revenge of her own imagination and determined to bring down the family she was never a part of. One aspect I found surprising in this heavily family oriented society, was the way Conrad doesn’t present a united front with his ex-partner, wife and six children – no he takes Nicola’s side through guilt, misplaced loyalty and a preponderance to use his position as Legate to conceal evidence against this unspeakable and destructive girl.

Conrad definitely has issues, but I found myself unsympathetic toward him and his ‘reasons’ and squarely on Carina’s side as she goes to battle in protecting her children against all threats. Threats Conrad appears happy to ignore.

Carina has the battle of her life ahead of her, in fact one that at times I wondered if she could survive.  Her daughter Allegra and stepdaughter Stella both have their own voice in this story and show all the signs of being interesting characters for future volumes in the Roma Nova saga. Interestingly the two sons play a minor, almost invisible part.

A worthy addition to the list and one which kept me reading.

Anita Davison is an historical fiction author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is released by Claymore Press under the name Anita Seymour

TWITTER: @AnitaSDavison

Monday, July 14, 2014

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early Ameria by Amy Belding Brown

A historical novel based on the life of Mary Rowlandson

She suspects that she has changed too much to ever fit easily into English society again. The wilderness has now become her home. She can interpret the cries of birds. She has seen vistas that have stolen away her breath. She has learned to live in a new, free way.... 

Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson was captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.

Based on the compelling true narrative of Mary Rowlandson, Flight of the Sparrow is an evocative tale that transports the reader to a little-known time in early America and explores the real meanings of freedom, faith, and acceptance.

Flight of the Sparrow is a biographical novel about the experiences of Mary Rowlandson who lived in 17th century Massachusetts at a time when conflict with Native Americans was at its pinnacle. After the town of Lancaster is attacked and burned, Mary and three of her children survive, but are taken captive by a local tribe. She is separated from her children, except for the youngest, Sarah, who is severely injured, and wounded herself, Mary stoically carries her child as far as she can, desperate to try to save her daughter’s life, but knowing that there is little hope. They are taken to the Indian village where she struggles to survive, despite the ultimate loss of Sarah. She is befriended by a Praying Indian named James Printer, who helps guide her in this strange new culture that has been forced upon her.

I found Mary’s story and plight heart-wrenching for it is hard to imagine such loss, such cruelty, not only at having witnessed the murder of friends and family, but of having to stoically go on with one’s life without respite. The first half of the story pertains to Mary’s captivity and all that she had to endure. Following that is her rescue and her re-assimilation into a society that would never again embrace her, that almost shuns her. But Mary had somewhat adapted to the native culture, and found many things to laud about it. So when she is installed back into her previous life, a whole new set of struggles arise. Her marriage, her family life, even her Christian faith have been shaken.

A great deal of research went into the writing of this novel, made evident by the many interesting details and facts presented through a fictionalized prose. The author did a wonderful job of bringing to life the personal side of Mary’s story including the reactions of her family, friends, and other contacts. The author has presented not only Mary’s suffering, but also that of the Puritans and the tumult faced by the native Americans. A very compelling and authentic story! Highly recommended. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Devil on her Tongue by Linda Holeman

The Devil On Her Tongue from Linda Holeman on Vimeo.

A spellbinding story of loss, romance and betrayal set in 18th-century Portugal, from internationally bestselling Canadian historical fiction author Linda Holeman.  

Diamantina is 13 when her father, a Dutch sailor who washed up on the Portuguese island of Porto Santo, abandons her and her African-born mother and sets off for the New World. Unbaptized, tainted by her mother's witchcraft and her foreign blood, the girl is an outcast who seems doomed in her struggle to survive. Diamantina refuses to accept her destiny and vows to escape her circumstances and forge a life of her own, no matter the cost. But as the price of her desires rises, can she live with the choices she has made? Diamantina's odyssey to change her life is a sweeping narrative of starvation and plenty, cruelty and love, disaster and triumph.

I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed this novel by Linda Holeman. The plight of Diamantina at times is heart-wrenching, but with resilence and courage, she perseveres to make a better life for herself. Born poor, the daughter of a witch who is ostracized by the villagers, and later abandoned by her father who reluctantly leaves them for the New World, the heroine faces numerous conflicts as she fights to make her own way and live life on her own terms. 

Beautiful prose and compelling characters made this a wonderful read! It is very much a story of extremes - wealth vs poverty, love vs hate, honesty vs deceipt, cruelty vs generosity, and much, much more. This lush story set in beautiful, exotic setting, swept me away. It is women's historical fiction at its best - moving, compelling, and engrossing. Read it and see for yourself. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick

New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Chadwick brings Eleanor of Aquitaine to life with breathtaking historical detail in the first volume of this stunning new trilogy.

Eleanor of Aquitaine, the legendary 12th century queen of France and later of England, is one of the most powerful and irrepressible women in medieval history, and her story of romance, scandal and political intrigue has fascinated readers for centuries.

Young Eleanor (or Alienor as she was known) has everything to look forward to as the heiress to the wealthy Aquitaine. But when her beloved father William X suddenly dies, childhood is over. Sent to Paris and forced to marry Prince Louis VII of France, she barely adjusts before another death catapults them to King and Queen. At the age of just 13, Eleanor must leave everything behind and learn to navigate the complex and vivacious French court. Faced with great scandals, trials, fraught relationships, and forbidden love at every turn, Eleanor finally sees what her future could hold if she could just seize the moment.

The first in this highly anticipated trilogy, The Summer Queen follows Eleanor through the Second Crusade to the end of her marriage to Louis VII. The author's meticulous research (including delving into the Akashic records) portrays the Middle Ages and Eleanor with depth and vivid imagery unparalleled in historical fiction that will keep readers riveted and wanting more.


Elizabeth Chadwick has once again put forth a wonderfully authentic recreation of the life of a famous historical figure. In this case, it is the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, or Alienor, as she was officially referred to. The Summer Queen is the first in a trilogy and covers Alienor’s life from childhood until she meets Henry who will become her second husband. And the author does it with grand details, breaking down this famous woman’s life into small increments to truly make her real! One cannot help but be spellbound with each page as we follow Alienor through an unhappy marriage with a spineless, overly religiously devout king as he drags her into peril into a crusade. 
Awesome characterization, a fascinating plot, and in depth research makes this story stand above all others about Eleanor of Aquitaine. Definitely a book to read and savor! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sultana: The Bride Price by Lisa J. Yarde

Book #4 of the Sultana series.

In fourteenth-century Moorish Spain, a marriage of convenience for the sake of peace leads to disaster in the medieval kingdom of Granada. The young queen Jazirah, caught up in a dynastic struggle between warring brothers, fights for her survival. Wed to a husband who looks at her with more suspicion than lust in his eyes, she must escape reminders of a brutal past in a quest to find forgiveness, hope, and love. 

Her husband Muhammad faces greater peril than union with a wife he cannot trust. Surrounded by enemies within his family who seek the throne and undermined by ministers who would alter the course of his country’s future, he intends to rule the land of his ancestors alone. How can he endure against his most bitter opponents, not least among them, the woman whom he has chosen for a bride?

My Review 

Do you want to discover a fabulous, talented new author? Do you want to sink your teeth into a gripping, poignant, and rich tale of power, lust, greed, and love? If you have not yet read the Sultana series of novels by author, Lisa J. Yarde, then I encourage you to read this series! The books are a comprehensive historical journey deep into the heart of medieval Moorish Spain, but more importantly, the books are gripping, powerful, and fascinating revelations into murder, greed, and family conflicts. Incredibly, it is all based on fact.

Now, with this fourth book in the series, THE BRIDE PRICE, we are introduced to a new generation in this epic family saga. At the center of the story is a burgeoning romance between Muhammad, the current Sultan of Granada, and his wife, Jazirah, a forced marriage to strengthen family ties. Also returning to the story are the previous Sultana’s Butayna and Maryam whose vitriol continues and threatens to tear Muhammad’s family apart. Love and hate, dark secrets and shocking revelations, all combine to make this story as gripping as the previous books. 

I have eagerly followed every book in the series. Lisa Yarde is a captivating writer, writing with powerful, lush prose, and recreating the nail-biting, twisted history of a family’s bloodlust and greed for power. Based on years of intense, impeccable historical research, this book, and others in the series, provide readers with a first-hand look at the dangerous life inside the Sultan’s harem in medieval Granada. Her rich writing is sensual, evoking not only sights and smells, but the strong emotions of the characters, real historical personages.

I cannot recommend this book and the others in the Sultana series enough. Although each book stands alone, I recommend reading the books in order to get the full impact of this historic family. Truly rich reads that will hold your interest from start to finish.