Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Barefoot Queen by Idelfonso Falcones


Book Synopsis

A romantic and thrilling historical adventure from the internationally bestselling author whose work Diana Gabaldon has called "Enthralling".

Spain, 1748. Caridad is a recently freed Cuban slave wandering the streets of Seville. Her master is dead and she has nowhere to go. When, by chance, she meets Milagros Carmona—a spellbinding, rebellious gypsy—the two women become inseparable. Caridad is swept into an exotic fringe society full of romance and art, passion and dancing.

But their way of life changes instantly when gypsies are declared outlaws by royal mandate and their world as a free people becomes perilous. The community is split up—some are imprisoned, some forced into hiding, all fearing for their lives. After a dangerous separation, Caridad and Milagros are reunited and join in the gypsies’ struggle for sovereignty against the widespread oppression. It’s a treacherous battle that cannot, and will not, be easily won. 

From the bustle of Seville to the theatres of Madrid, The Barefoot Queen is an unforgettable historical fresco filled with characters that live, suffer, and fight for the lives of those they love, and for the freedom they can’t live without. 

Review
by

The Barefoot Queen is one of the best novels I've ever read. It has become an all-time favourite of mine. The setting is 18th century Spain, a brutal era where the gypsy people were persecuted, bringing to the forefront prejudics, adversity, and courage. The main characters are two women - Caridad, a freed slave who has always suffered abuse and neglect, and Milagros, who has always been surrounded by love and family. These two vastly different women are drawn to each other and soon, their worlds will collide bringing grave danger and immense changes to both their lives. The story culminates in a fabulously satisfying ending, with each subplot brought successfully to a close. 

Mr Falcones holds nothing back in recreating this violent period in history. He does not shirk away from describing the brutality, the sexual abuse of women, the murder of innocents. He tells the tale with a wonderful writing style that is rich and en pointe. The characters are so real, they were so memorable, I will never forget this story. This is a novel that will become a classic - it will endure for years and years to come. Truly brilliant!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Brewer's Tale by Karen Brooks


Book Synopsis

It had been Mother's secret and mine, one passed down through the de Winter women for generations. I would ensure it was kept that way, until I was ready to pass it on.

When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother's family once prospered: brewing ale.

Armed with her Dutch mother's recipes and a belief that anything would be better than the life her vindictive cousin has offered her, she makes a deal with her father's aristocratic employer: Anneke has six months to succeed or not only will she lose the house but her family as well.

Through her enterprise and determination, she inadvertently earns herself a deadly enemy. Threatened and held in contempt by those she once called friends, Anneke nonetheless thrives. But on the tail of success, tragedy follows and those closest to her pay the greatest price for her daring. 

Ashamed, grieving, and bearing a terrible secret, Anneke flees to London, determined to forge her own destiny. Will she be able to escape her past, and those whose only desire is to see her fail?

A compelling insight into the brewer's craft, the strength of women, and the myriad forms love can take.

Review
by

From its very first page, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel by author Karen Brooks. It is about a young woman, who through the death of her father, finds that she is to lose not only the only home she has ever known, but is penniless while still having to care for her younger siblings. She recalls her Dutch mother's old beer and ale recipes that have been handed down through the generations. Throwing caution to the wind, she approaches her father's employer and landlord and convinces him to give her a chance to pay the rent on their estate for six months so that she and her family have somewhere to live. It is a huge risk but she is optimisitic and sets up her brewery.

Ale is strictly controlled and a group of nearby monks have control of the entire market through threats and intimidation of ale house owners, and suppliers. It does not take long before they make their appearance at Anneke's brew house bent on destroying her. Incredibly kind and wise, Anneke fights battle after battle to keep her enterprise afloat despite the protestations from her brother who is a squire to the landlord's sons. 

The author has done an outstanding job learning and describing the brewing process. She has weaved these details into a marvellously gripping, intricate plot that has plenty of twists and turns. Just when you think things cannot get any worse, bang - another blow. The character of Anneke is realistic and highly likeable - a strong heroine who never gives up and faces adversity head on. 

This is a rather long novel, so be prepared to cozy up with it for several days. Although there is a short span where the story does lag in some places, the story soon picks up again and builds huge momentum for a hold your breath ending! Well written, educational, and an awesome tale!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Silent We Stood by Henry Chappell



Book Synopsis

2014 Western Writers of America Spur Award Winner, Best Western Historical Novel

On July 8, 1860, Dallas, Texas burned. Three slaves were accused of arson and hanged without a trial. Today, most historians attribute the fire to carelessness.

Texas was the darkest corner of the Old South, too remote and violent for even the bravest abolitionists. Yet North Texas newspapers commonly reported runaway slaves, and travelers in South Texas wrote of fugitives heading to Mexico.

Perhaps a few prominent people were all too happy to call the fire an accident.

Silent We Stood weaves the tale of a small band of abolitionists working in secrecy within Dallas’s close-knit society. There’s Joseph Shaw, an undertaker and underground railroad veteran with a shameful secret; Ig Bodeker, a charismatic, melancholic preacher; Rachel Bodeker, a fierce abolitionist, Ig’s wife, and Joseph Shaw’s lover; Rebekah, a freed slave who’ll sacrifice everything for the cause; Samuel Smith, a crypto-freedman whose love for Rebekah exacts a terrible cost; and, towering above them all, a near-mythical one-armed runaway who haunts area slavers and brings hope to those dreaming of freedom.

With war looming and lives hanging in the balance, ideals must be weighed against friendship and love, and brutal decisions yield secrets that must be taken to the grave.

Review
by

From the moment I began reading this book, I clearly understood why it won such a prestigious award. Author Henry Chappell has taken historical fact and weaved it into a fictionalized storyline that grips from first page to last. What makes this book special is not only the fascinating historical details, but how the characters are so real, so compelling, so believable! What a wonderful way to learn about this tumultuous era in Amercan history. It is an honest, intense, and vivid depiction of life as it was for slaves and slave holders before the civil war. I definitely recommend this book to everyone! It won the award for very good reason.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Into the Killer Sphere by Stefania Mattana


Book Summary


What if a former British detective from Scotland Yard 

is called to solve a murder mystery in Italy? 

What if a domestic accident turns into a murder case? 

Mystery, conspiracy, drugs, family intrigues. Life is not easy in Tursenia.



Chase Williams is looking forward to a solitary week off, away from the office, when he is dragged into a strange murder mystery by his friend, Inspector Angelo Alunni. 


Piero Galli has died as a result of a chandelier falling on him and breaking his neck. It looks like an accident, but Alunni is not convinced: so who killed Galli? 

Despite his plans for a vacation, Chase ends up in a detective story; he has to unravel the knots in a high ranking family of Tursenia, a Medieval city in the heart of Italy, where appearances always come first and foremost, especially if you are wealthy. 

As well as rough-necked youths, an interrupted wedding and a handful of noisy dogs, Chase has to cope with that Italian classic: meddling neighbours.  
This is a cozy mystery novella where attention to even the tiniest detail could make the difference between leaving a killer on the loose or bringing him or her to justice. 

Will Chase take down the assassin before there are more deaths? 

Review
by
Mirella Patzer

Into the Killer Sphere is the first novel in a new series - Chase Williams Detective Stories by Stefania Mattana. This cozy detective thriller and mystery is set in Italy.  Chase Williams is a retired Scotland Yard detective who has moved to Italy. When an accidental death occurs in the home of a local wealthy family, the local police are suspicious. It looks more like murder, so lead investigator, Angelo Alunni, solicits Chase's help.  

With plenty of suspects, fascinating clues, red herrings, and clever alibis, there is plenty to keep the reader on the edge of their seat guessing. And it all culminates in a gripping, satisfying ending readers will never see coming! Stefania Mattana's Italian roots and intimate knowledge of Italy brings the details of intriguing locations to the forefront in vivid imagery. 

A good cozy mystery, an engrossing storyline, and a intriguing murder mystery offer up a very fine dish indeed! Imbibe! This book is definitely worth it. Keep your eye on Stefania Mattana! She is one author worth watching. Can't wait for her next novel. 


The Tudor Vendetta by C.W. Gortner



Book Summary


London, 1558. Queen Mary is dead, and 25-year old Elizabeth ascends the throne. Summoned to court from exile abroad, Elizabeth’s intimate spy, Brendan Prescott, is reunited with the young queen, as well as his beloved Kate, scheming William Cecil, and arch-rival, Robert Dudley. A poison attempt on Elizabeth soon overshadows her coronation, but before Brendan can investigate, Elizabeth summons him in private to dispatch him on a far more confidential mission: to find her favored lady in waiting, Lady Parry, who has disappeared during a visit to her family manor in Yorkshire. 


Upon his arrival at the desolate sea-side manor where Lady Parry was last seen, he encounters a strange, impoverished family beset by grief, as well as mounting evidence that they hide a secret from him. The mystery surrounding Lady Parry deepens as Brendan begins to realize there is far more going on at the manor than meets the eye, but the closer he gets to the heart of the mystery in Vaughn Hall, the more he learns that in his zeal to uncover the truth, he could be precipitating Elizabeth’s destruction. 

From the intrigue-laden passages of Whitehall to a foreboding Catholic manor and the deadly underworld of London, Brendan must race against time to unravel a vendetta that will strike at the very core of his world—a vendetta that could expose a buried past and betray everything he has fought for, including his loyalty to his queen.

Review
by

The Tudor Vendetta is the third book in C.W. Gortner's Spymaster series. Although I haven't read the first two books, this book definitely can stand on its own and I had no problem with following along. Mr. Gortner did an excellet job at providing tidbits of the previous books along the way to help new readers follow along. 

The novel's protaganist is Brendan Prescott, a charming nobleman who loyally serves the queen. He returns from exile now that it is Elizabeth will soon be crowned queen. But the country is still divided between Catholic and Protestant. Brendan finds himself resolving several plots to assassinate or keep Elizabeth from becoming queen. 

I thoroughly enjoyed how Gortner characterized the notorious Dudley, who clung to Elizabeth to garner greater power for himself, and of Elizabeth's struggles to dominate in a male oriented world. Secret missions, intrigue, betrayal, and wonderful details of the period color this well-written story. I've long been a fan of the author. Pick any one of his novels and you're sure to be hooked too. Highly recommended.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tidewater by Libbie Hawker

The story of the 11 year old native girl who saved the life a famous soldier of fortune




About the Book

A new historical novel from the author of The Sekhmet Bed

The Tidewater

To the nation of Powhatan, it is Tsenacomoco, rightful home of the Real People. To England, it is Virginia Territory, fertile with promise, rich with silver and gold. Against the backdrop of this wild land, the fates of three unforgettable people collide:
 

John Smith

An outcast among his own, despised for his low birth and his unchecked tongue, his is the only mind capable of solving the deadly puzzle of the wilderness. Smith knows the only hope for Jamestown Colony lies with the Powhatan people. He knows, too, that they would rather see the English starve than yield their homeland to invaders. 

Opechancanough

Disgraced and embittered, he sees in the English a chance to restore his reputation. He knows the invaders can be used to expand his brother’s empire and improve the lives of the Real People. He knows, too, that such a tool can turn in the hand, and become a weapon pointed at the heart. 

Pocahontas

Though not of royal blood, she dreams of becoming a female chief. When the English build their fort on her father’s land, she finds an opportunity to rise above her lowly station. But she is young, and doesn’t understand the implications of the game she plays. When at last she realizes the English are a force beyond her control, she must choose between power and servitude – between self and sacrifice – for the sake of her people and her land. 

Control of the Tidewater can only rest in one nation’s hands. It is a conflict of desire and hatred, of friendship and fear, of stark ambition and desperate survival. 

Review
by
Mirella Patzer

For her second novel, author Libbie Hawker recreates the historical details of the life of Pocahontas. Tidewater is a sweeping story, incredibly detailed, wonderfully alive, and a story that at times is joyous, but often dark and heart-wrenching. Just like the lives were of the new settlers and the native people that struggled to accept them. What impresses me most about this novel is the author's talent for drilling deep into the head of the characters, bringing to life their feelings, secrets, and most private thoughts. Truly, this is a beautiful book about a legendary woman whose legend endures to this very day. A raw but honest depiction of this fascinating woman. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys

Read the First Chapter!


About the Book 
The year is 1536, and notorious French executioner Jean Rombaud is brought in by Henry VIII to behead Anne Boleyn, the condemned Queen of England. But on the eve of her execution, Rombaud becomes enchanted with the ill-fated queen and swears a vow to her: to bury her six-fingered hand, a symbol of her rumored witchery, at a sacred crossroads.
Yet in a Europe ravaged by religious war, the hand of this infamous Protestant icon is so powerful a relic that many will kill for it. Bloodthirsty warriors, corrupt church fathers, Vikings, alchemists, and sullied noblemen alike vie for the prize as Rombaud, a man loyal to the grave, struggles to honor his promise.
From sea battles to lusty liaisons, from the hallucinations of St. Anthony’s fire to the fortress of an apocalyptic messiah, The French Executioner sweeps readers into a breathtaking story of courage, the pursuit of power, and loyalty at whatever cost.


C.C. Humphreys is the author of eight historical novels. The French Executioner, which was his first novel and a runner-up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers award in 2002, has never before been published in the U.S. The sequel, The Curse of Anne Boleyn, will be published in the U.S. in May 2015.
Humphreys has acted all over the world and appeared on stages ranging from London’s West End to Hollywood’s Twentieth Century Fox. He is also an accomplished swordsman and fight choreographer. For more information, visit http://cchumphreys.com/

Praise for The French Executioner

“Set against the backdrop of the Protestant Reformation, his superbloody Princess Bride-like adventure is, at its heart, a tale of redemption, well-earned and hard-won.” – Library Journal
“This unusual tale conjures visions of an Errol Flynn-type Hollywood swashbuckler...the tale's well-told, engagingly written, and includes a colorful immersion into a time when life was cheap and danger or death literally waited around every corner. A gory but fascinating...look at the world in the early 16th century.” -Kirkus
Review
by

Although this novel is set during the Tudor era, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the main focus of the story was the Jean Rombaud. The story centers around Anne Boleyn’s 6th finger, which the executioner cut off at her request at the moment of beheading, and in which she wanted him to bury it in a secret place in France within a set period. But the finger is stolen by an Archbishop who witnessed the execution for his own greedy purposes. Honor bound to his promise to the dead queen, Jean sets off in pursuit of the Archbishop to recover the relic. Along the way, he accumulates a colorful cast of characters to aid him in his quest.

I loved this swashbuckling action and adventure novel. The storyline had plenty of twists and turns, with plenty of fight scenes, setbacks, and dangerous circumstances to keep me reading to the very end. The story had a touch of fantasy to it too, but it was done in a highly credible way. My favourite part of the book was Jean Rombaud’s encounter with Anne Boleyn before and after the execution. It was brilliantly done and remains as one of the most vivid scenes throughout this rich novel. Another winner by Humphrey! A stunning, fun tale!




READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

one

The Gibbet

It was unseasonably cold for a late May night, but the gibbet’s former occupant was too dead to care and his replacement too unconscious. It was the three men-­at-­arms who grumbled about it, and though the removal of the skeleton from the torso-­shaped cage required some strenuous snapping and pulling, they were not grateful for the warmth of the exercise. With their prisoner finally wedged in and the cage’s key replaced on its hook, they returned to their horses. Pressing themselves against the warm flanks, the soldiers brushed the gibbet’s leavings from their cloaks, and grumbled still.

“Such a beautiful night.” The voice came silky and warm from beneath folds of cloak and fur, the breath a steady stream into the frosty air. “Look, a comet! In Siena we’d say: there’s another virginity gone.”

There was a laugh, as silken as the voice, followed by a cough. A piece of red cloth dabbed at the lips.

Heinrich von Solingen turned toward the man who had just spoken, the man whose every command he obeyed. Heinrich was confused. He liked things ordered and simple. They had gotten what His Holiness wanted. Wrapped in velvet, it rested now in His Holiness’s saddlebags. Confusion made him angry and bold enough to question.

“I don’t see why we are here, my lord. Why didn’t we just kill the Frenchman back at the inn?”

“I think you tried, didn’t you?”

“I mean after, when he was unconscious.”

The smaller figure shifted in his saddle. Moonlight fell on a sharp forehead, a long straight nose, fleshy lips. There was a touch of something sad in the silkiness now.

“Really, after what he did, we should have tried him as a heretic then given him to God’s redeeming fire. Alas, the time is not right for his story to be told abroad. So we give him here, into God’s hands.”

“But my lord archbishop—­”

The blow surprised Heinrich because the Italian was neither young nor, he thought, especially strong. Pain contradicted that impression.

“I’ve warned you about using my title in a public place.”

“I am sorry, my lord, but there is only the prisoner and my men—­”

The hand emerged again from within the cloak and moonlight glinted on heavy rings, which explained the blood now running down Heinrich’s chin.

“Enough! You are a fool and I another to let you question me. There may be a gibbet keeper nearby who would recognize the rank. And your men did not know it till now. I must think. Get them to find the keeper.”

A curt command and the three soldiers began to search where they could, yet there was little there: a bare crossroads a league beyond a village with neither tree nor bush nearby. Little for the full moon to shine upon but the dangling, vaguely human iron form, the crossbeamed support and the midden of gibbet filth on which, in six parts now, sprawled the cage’s last tenant.

The men reported their failure.

“Very well.” The Italian coughed, a gout of blood caught in the swiftly raised cloth. There was little he could do now; and even if the keeper did lurk and had somehow heard Heinrich’s indiscretion…Well, how could a creature of such an occupation threaten a prince of the Holy Church?

Giancarlo Cibo, Archbishop of Siena, decided he could take the risk. He didn’t take many—­it was how he survived the hurly-­burly of life back in Italy after all. He wouldn’t take another with Heinrich’s men. Heinrich would have to deal with them himself, later, a fitting punishment for his indiscretion. Perhaps incorporating some unusual methods. The archbishop would like to see that. It would truly upset the surly German. The archbishop would like to see that too.

“Put double the usual coins in the offertory. Let’s pay the keeper well,” he said, all silk and smoothness again.

Ducats were dropped into a small box at the base of the gibbet, and Heinrich went back to join his men. There he listened to his blood drip onto the pommel of his saddle, kept his silence, and watched from a distance as the archbishop pushed his horse right up to the gibbet.

The Italian leaned forward until it looked as if he was almost kissing the cage’s iron-­slatted face. Until he could feel the breath of the man inside on his own lips. The man’s breathing was erratic; Heinrich’s men had beaten him badly when they finally felled him. Not surprising, as the Frenchman had killed two of their number and incapacitated two more, his strange, square-­headed sword dancing graceful and deadly among the suddenly leaden-­footed Germans. Heinrich had said it was an executioner’s sword, much favored in France as a more humane way of dispatching traitors, if their rank and purses deserved it. The sword would make a fine trophy on his palace wall, for he knew just whose neck had last been severed with it. A neck and something far more unusual—­a six-­fingered hand.

“Why did you do it, Jean?” Cibo whispered into the cage. “A belief that it could heal, like the bones of St. Agnes? Is that what you thought she was, Jean, a saint and martyr for the new religion? Or was it gold? The most powerful relic in the world would have fetched more than you could have earned in a lifetime of head taking.”

The unconscious man had no answer for him, beyond his shallow breaths. The archbishop studied the face before him. Features somewhat finer than was common among the French, a smaller nose, thick black hair now slick with the blood and sweat of the fight. It was ordinary. He was always surprised when ordinary men did extraordinary things.

“I do wonder about you, Jean. Sadly, I will never know. But it’s mine now, a greater weapon than any executioner’s sword for myself and for Mother Church. We’ll have to see how best we two can use it.”

And with that, Cibo turned his horse and broke straight into a gallop. He was proud of his horsemanship and his steeds were trained to respond to his instant whim. The Germans were surprised and, with Heinrich bellowing orders, followed as swiftly as they were able.

Such was the speed of their departure, such their pleasure in forsaking that dismal place, that no one even glanced back at the gibbet cage and its new occupant. If they had, they would have seen that the first effects of their beating had worn off.

Jean Rombaud, master executioner and recent slayer of Anne Boleyn, had woken up.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray by Suzanne Fagence Cooper



The Scottish beauty Effie Gray is the heroine of a great Victorian love story. Married at 19 to John Ruskin, she found herself trapped in an unconsummated union. She would fall in love with her husband's protege, John Everett Millais, and inspire some of his most memorable art, but controversy and tragedy continued to stalk her. Suzanne Fagence Cooper has gained exclusive access to Effie's family letters and diaries to show the rise and fall of the Pre-Raphaelite circle from a new perspective, through the eyes of a woman whose charm and ambition helped to shape the careers of both her husbands. Effie Gray is a compelling portrait of the extraordinary woman behind some of the greatest paintings of the Victorian era.

In the biography, The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, author Suzanne Fagence Cooper takes us into Victorian England, Venice, Italy, Scotland, and into the heart of the scandal that haunted poor Effie her entire life.

Based upon a treasure of preserved letters, Cooper has recreated Effie’s life in great detail. The book is a comprehensive commentary on the life of this fascinating young woman who had been so shamed and berated because of her first husband’s neglect. I liked the fact that three possible reasons came to light regarding Ruskin’s strange behavior towards his beautiful wife. And I found the plight of Effie’s sister, Sophy, regarding her mental madness and anorexia very interesting.

Numerous photographs are included in the book. My only disappointment was in the physical paperback version I was provided, the typesetting and fonts were so incredibly tiny, it made reading extremely fatiguing and trying. This knocked me out of the story. As I received an advance reading copy, I hope that the publisher has rectified this problem. Or I recommend purchasing the book in e-book format avoid eye strain.

This was a terrific story and definitely worth reading. It is so good it has been made into a movie, which only adds to my belief that this is definitely a book worth reading. An incredibly fascinating tale about a very courageous woman!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Lodger by Louisa Treger



Back Cover Blurb 


Dorothy Richardson is existing just above the poverty line, doing secretarial work at a dentist's office and living in a seedy boarding house in Bloomsbury, when she is invited to spend the weekend with a childhood friend. Jane has recently married a writer who is hovering on the brink of fame. His name is H.G. Wells, or Bertie, as they call him.

Bertie appears unremarkable at first. But then Dorothy notices his grey-blue eyes taking her in, openly signaling approval. He tells her he and Jane have an agreement which allows them the freedom to take lovers, although Dorothy can tell her friend would not be happy with that arrangement.

Not wanting to betray Jane, yet unable to draw back, Dorothy free-falls into an affair with Bertie. Then a new boarder arrives at the house—beautiful Veronica Leslie-Jones—and Dorothy finds herself caught between Veronica and Bertie. Amidst the personal dramas and wreckage of a militant suffragette march, Dorothy finds her voice as a writer.


Louisa Treger's The Lodger is a beautifully intimate novel that is at once an introduction to one of the most important writers of the 20th century and a compelling story of one woman tormented by unconventional desires.

Review
by

Dorothy's life is full of trials and tribulations, and author Louisa Treger successfully recreates it in this fresh and evocative story. From the stringent societal norms of the Victorian era, to the passion of the suffragette movement, to the first World War, Dorothy's life grows ever more challenging. This powerful tale is about how Dorothy found her own identity and voice in a time where women were of little notice or importance. 

I enjoyed the secret love affairs Dorothy entered into, and how she paid an awful price for having gone through them. The scenes about the seedier side of London were also sleekly well written about. More importantly, when one reads between the storylines, we are exposed to the trials of women alone in the world during the Victorian era, and how courage, perseverence, and fear ruled their daily lives in order women to survive. And the author gives us beautiful insight into all such details. I highly recommend this biographical novel to all readers and writers interested in women's history.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Rush of Shadows by Catherine Bell


Back Cover Blurb

When American pioneers set their hearts on a California valley where Indians had been living for thousands of years, a period of uneasy appraisal emerged, followed by conflict and soon enough by genocide. The epic greed and violence of the 1850's and 60's has been brushed aside by history, conveniently forgotten in the pride of conquest. Rush of Shadows brings to life two freethinking women, Mellie, a white, and Bahé, an Indian, who endure the clash of their cultures and come to an unlikely understanding.

Review
by

In 1855, Mellie and Law Pickett journey north from San Francisco to the wilderness of Northern California to homestead. They build a cabin and begin clearing land. The nearest neighbors are miles away. Mellie is pregnant and the effort of the move takes its toll on her. Gradually, she meets an Indian woman named Bahé and a friendship blossoms between them, despite Law’s prejudices and stern disapproval. Bahé aids Mellie when it comes time to give birth. As the novel progresses, the plight of Native Americans who suffered illness and starvation is brilliantly portrayed.

This is a story of contrasts, of two women from vastly different cultures who struggle to survive in an new and ever-changing world of unusual circumstances. Powerful narration and writing truly made the story truly come alive with a feel of authenticity. It is a historically accurate fictionalization of America’s frontier and fascinating history. Beautiful indeed!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Sharp Hook of Love by Sherry Jones


Back Cover Blurb

The first retelling of the passionate, twelfth-century love story since the discovery of 113 lost love letters between Heloise d’Argenteuil and Pierre Abelard—the original Romeo and Juliet.

"While I sleep you never leave me, and after I wake I see you, as soon as I open my eyes, even before the light of day itself." —Abelard to Heloise

Among the young women of twelfth-century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.

But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Notre-Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.

Review
by
The year is 1115 and the country is France. The protagonists are the famous Abelard and Heloise. Their legend is eternal and continues to fascinate in the world today. The back cover blurb uses words like intimate, erotic, devasting, beautiful, poignant, and passionate – and each and every one of these words is accurate. Most people are acquainted with Heloise and Abelard, but author Sherry Jones truly gives them life. Societal norms of the 12th century were highly stringent, and interwoven with Church law. From the moment the two lovers meet, their love is hopeless. Abelard must enter the church, and Heloise is destined for a convent. This tale of forbidden love is heart-wrenching at times, and I truly experienced the pain of their separation. Heloise’s patience with Abelard is incredible at times, but Abelard’s love for her is so strong, his main motive is to protect her. v

The story moves at a fast pace, with plenty of conflict and tension to hold a reader’s interest. The historical facts seem well researched and are seamlessly interwoven in the plot. This is a lush story with wonderfully rich prose that evokes emotion. A wonderful book that is sure to please! 

Allegra by Anna Lisle


Back Cover Blurb

1822: Byron's young illegitimate daughter dies in an Italian Convent, sent away from the mother who adored her. 1838: young Alice Clarke, married to a brutal man, is pursued on London's streets by a mysterious Greek man and a cloaked woman. Alice is illicitly in love with a sea captain sailing the perilous route to India around Africa. When he vanishes on a voyage, her pursuers draw her into an increasingly tense game of cat and mouse, played out between the early Victorian squalor of London's Rookeries and the splendor of its Mayfair squares. A murder in Regent's Park reinforces the message that Alice is involved in a very dangerous game. But how is she linked to a brilliant and notorious group of English poets living in Italy sixteen years earlier? Historical literary romance.

Review
by

A wonderfully complex plot and an intriguing heroine make this a great book. With its fast pace and intriguing storyline, I read the novel in one sitting - it was that good! Alice/Allegra is trapped in an abusive marriage and is being followed by a Greek man and a woman in a dark cloak. Her love blooms when she meets a kind sea captain, but during one of his voyages, he mysteriously disappears. I love the two villains of this book – her cruel abusive husband who harbors dark secrets of his own and the woman who is his manipulative aunt. This story had so much to laud about! Lots of plot twists, mystery, dark secrets, intrigue, and a heroine you cannot help but love and cheer for. Highly recommended and one of my favorite books for 2014.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein



Back Cover Blurb

The bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain presents a long-awaited new novel in which a boy trying to save his parents’ marriage uncovers a vast legacy of family secrets.


In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant whole trees and is set on a huge estate overlooking Seattle’s Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch the ailing and elderly Grandpa Samuel to a nursing home, sell off the house and property for development, divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But as Trevor explores the house’s secret stairways and hidden rooms, he discovers a spirit lingering in Riddell House whose agenda is at odds with the family plan. Only Trevor’s willingness to face the dark past of his forefathers will reveal the key to his family’s future.

Spellbinding and atmospheric, A Sudden Light is rich with unconventional characters, scenes of transcendent natural beauty, and unforgettable moments of emotional truth that reflect Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation—a triumphant work of a master storyteller at the height of his power.

Review
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This book completely absorbed me and I read it two sittings. It is about a young boy named Trevor whose parents are on the verge of a divorce. He travels with his father to a centuries old timber house where his grandfather lives with his aunt. His father is there to convince the old man to sell the home as it is dilapidated and too costly to fix. What Trevor discovers are old and very painful family secrets that have been long buried, the ghost of his grandmother who dances in the ball room, ancestors who died under mysterious circumstances, and the onus to right the wrongs of the past.

Reading this novel is like peeling away the layers of an onion. With each page, more insight and details are revealed about the family, both those who are still living and those who have long passed. Lots of good twists and turns and surprises kept me frantically turning the pages to find out what happens next. Although the story is dark at times, there is plenty of warm emotional scenes along the way. Heart-wrenching, poignant, joyful, and a great satisfying ending make this one book worth reading. It is certain to keep you well entertained. Garth Stein is a master storyteller! Excellently written! True enjoyment!


The Poet's Wife by Rebecca Stonehill


An unforgettable journey into the heart of one family torn apart by war. 

Granada, 1920. Free-spirited Luisa and young poet Eduardo fall in love, cementing a bond that can never be broken. Behind the jasmine filled courtyard, perched amongst houses like clouds on a hilltop, stands a beautiful villa; Carmen de las Estrellas. Beneath its walls live Eduardo and Luisa with their thriving family, but war is looming, casting its shadow over the household.


When Civil War finally breaks out, Luisa and Eduardo must fiercely protect those dear to them. Yet these are turbulent times, and as each of their children begin to make their way in the world, the solace of home cannot shield them from the horrors of war. 

The Poet’s Wife is an extraordinary piece of storytelling spanning over fifty years – a heart-wrenching novel of a family devastated by war but bound together by love, loss and hope, told through the eyes of three remarkable women. 

Review
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The Poet’s Wife is an extraordinary novel about a family struggling to go on with their daily lives during the Spanish Civil War. The tale unfolds through the lush narrative of three different women from the same family. First, there is Luisa, the poet’s wife, the matriarch of the family who befriends a group of gypsies. Her daughter, Isabel, young, independent, becomes a nurse on the front lines. It is there she discovers her talent for sitting with the dying, and helping them pass on with dignity and kindness. Lastly, there is Paloma who makes an appearance after the war has ended.

This is a compelling, beautifully rendered tale of the complexities of the Spanish civil war as told through the point of view of the civilians who suffered through it. The plight of the gypsies and the many cruelties leveled against them was compassionately brought forward. All in all, this was an excellent novel, a true learning experience steeped in historical fact, yet with a wonderful storyline. A book definitely worth reading.