Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gracelin O'Malley

Ann Moore brings to life the haunting beauty of nineteenth-century Ireland and its tumultuous, heartbreaking history in the first novel of her critically acclaimed trilogy

Gracelin’s father, Patrick, named her for the light of the sea that shone in her eyes. But joy and laughter leave the O’Malley clan when Gracelin is six-and-a-half and tragedy befalls the family. Less than a decade later, Gracelin must put her romantic dreams aside and marry a local landowner, the son of an English lord, to save her loved ones from financial ruin. Although she is a dutiful wife to capricious Bram Donnelly, Gracelin takes dangerous risks. With political violence sweeping through Ireland and the potato blight destroying lives, she secretly sides with the Young Irelanders, among them her brilliant brother, Sean, and the rebel leader Morgan McDonagh. Set against the rise of the Irish rebellion, with a cast of unforgettable characters led by the indomitable eponymous heroine, Gracelin O’Malley weaves a spellbinding story of courage, hope, and passion.

Opening Sentences:  Campfire flickered in the woods along the far bank of the River Lee. It was early spring and the tinkers had come. If they had waited but another day, they would not have witnessed the terrible thing that happened there. 

First, let me say that this is one of the finest books I have ever read - and that's saying a lot because I read one or two novels every week. At the heart of the story is Irish born Gracelin O'Malley who is one of the most endearing, memorable characters I have encountered. I have ever read about. Just as fascinating are the other characters in the story, chiefly, her family. This is a tightly-bonded family that works hard not only to survive, but to succeed. For the benefit of the family, Gracelin's father betroths her to Squire Donnelly, a wealthy nobleman. Gracelin enters willingly into the marriage with the promise that her family will be looked after. At first, everything goes well, but it does not take long for Donnelly's dark side to show. Angry and evil, he physically abuses Gracelin and their child. His crude and callous personality creates enemies wherever he goes, whoever he encounters. Despite the horrendous cruelties Gracelin endures, she does all that she can to help her family and people who suffer immense devastation by the potato famine that is ravishing Ireland. The story brings to light the aloofness of the English and their direct contribution to the starvation and hundreds of thousands of Irish. The story is powerful, poignant, and gripping, accurate in historical detail, and vibrant in its telling. Ann Moore is truly a masterful writer  who has penned a true epic in three novels, of which Gracelin O'Malley is the first. This extraordinary trilogy is definitely one to be savoured and kept in the personal collections of readers everywhere. 

I have not yet read the other two books in the trilogy, Leaving Ireland and 'Til Morning Light, but rest assured, they are on my list! Incredibly delicious - you have to read this book! I can't rave enough about it.

Sanctuary by Robert Edric

Haworth, West Yorkshire, 1848.
Branwell BrontĂ« - unexhibited artist, unacknowledged writer, sacked railwayman, disgraced tutor and spurned lover -finds himself unhappily back in Haworth Parsonage, to face the crushing disappointment of his father and his three sisters, whose own pseudonymous successes - allegedly kept secret from him – are only just becoming apparent.
With his health failing rapidly, his literary aspirations abandoned and his once loyal circle of friends shrinking fast, Branwell lives in a world of secrets, conspiracies and seemingly endless betrayals. To restore himself to a creative and fulfilling existence in the face of an increasingly claustrophobic environment, he returns to the drugs, alcohol and the morbid self-delusion which have already played such a large part in his unhappy life.
Sanctuary is a lacerating and moving portrait of self-destruction. In it, Robert Edric has reimagined the final months of one of the great bystanders of literary history, and, in so doing, has shone a penetrating light on one of the most celebrated and perennially fascinating families in our creative history.

Opening Sentence:  I met a pack man on Sober Hill, leading a string of Galloways and carrying half a load himself.  

My Review:

Branwell Bronte is the only son of the Rector of Haworth. He has three highly successful sisters, all writers, Charlotte, Anne and Emily Bronte. While his sisters seen to enjoy good fortune with everything they do, Branwell struggles to strike out with a career. Whatever he writes never sees the same level of success as that of his sisters - and each attempt ends in miserable failure. No one seems to understand him. With one failure after another, his live spins into decline, and he begins to sqauander his opportunities. 

This is a well written, but painful story about a protagonist who is neither stellar nor heroic, but rather someone who is a dismal failure at all he attempts. It is a study about human nature and how the power of one's attitude in life has a powerful effect upon us all. A nice historical novel about the lesser known brother of the famous Bronte sisters. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fiery Arrow by Sheila R. Lamb

Brigid, a gifted druid priestess, seeks to preserve Ireland’s ancient religion when Christianity broaches its shores.

Through a dangerous ritual, Brigid remembers her past life – a rare power – as a goddess of the TĂșatha de Danann. 

She must hide this secret from druids in her own order who are jealous of the talent she possesses and would use their combined magic to seize her power. When she confronts Patrick, the charismatic leader of the newly-arrived Christians, she realizes they have a shared history, tied together by a bond formed lifetimes before. As Brigid persists in reminding him of their past and of his promise to help her revive the Danann, Patrick denies the deal he made as a lonely slave boy to a goddess he believed to be only in his imagination. 

Fiery Arrow is a delightful, highly imaginative story about an unlikely man and woman who come together despite their vastly different backgrounds. It is a continuation of the tale that began with a previous novel entitled, Once A Goddess. Brigid is the love child of an already married druid father who fell in love with a servant woman. His first wife refused to accept her as a second wife, so they lived separately, estranged. Patrick, the son of a wealthy nobleman is a Christian, who, through an unfortunate set of circumstances, is captured by enemies and forced into servitude. A secret bond from a time long past ties them together, as together they must unite to preserve Ireland's pagan religion.

Although Fiery Arrow follows Brigid's story that began with Once A Goddess, this novel does stand alone, and it is not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy the sencond. However, having read both stories, I recommend you read them both.

Written in an easy to enjoy prose, the story is shared between the two main characters, until they come together in their quest to resolve the past. Plenty of threatening danger to both the hero and the heroine added to the tension and conflict that kept the story unpredictable and fresh. European pagan history as Christianity swept through, gatherine momentum, is a fascinating period in history. Sheila Lamb worked hard to ensure her story educated as well as entertained. This is indeed a very rich story for anyone interested in ancient history and with Celtic roots. Highly recommended. 


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Ever wonder why candy cane's are associated with Christmas? Here's the legend!

Historical Novel Review wishes all our readers, authors, and publishers, 
a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Mascherari by Laura Rahme


In this late medieval tale of mystery and the supernatural, Laura Rahme evokes a Venice long forgotten. From the dark sottoporticos of the Arsenal, to the wealthy mansions of Castello, and deep within the secret passages of the Ducal Palace, The Mascherari is an occult tale rich with history. Venezia, 1422. Doge Tommaso Mocenigo is on his death bed. An evil has come to Venice. An evil that will set the course for the future of La Serenissima. The following day, the Venice Republic's security council, the most feared Council of Ten, summons the Florentine inquisitor, Antonio da Parma, to hold an inquest on a most baffling case. During a sumptuous banquet, four of the merchants, including Giacomo Contarini, have met a chilling death. Enter the dashing Esteban dell Valle, a formidable Dardi-trained swordmaster of Nubian origins. Esteban grieves his stolen inheritance and the death of his Catalan adopted father. He survives, mysteriously, through the influence of high ranking patricians. He never removes his mask and has sworn to reclaim his wealth. Noble Catarina Contarini has a sad tale to tell. Her husband's death weighs upon her and so too, do the scandalous accusations that have been made against him. In her grief, she confides in Antonio da Parma and reveals her shocking secrets. But Catarina's darkest secret concerns a witch; a Napoletana named Magdalena. Despite himself, Antonio da Parma is drawn ever closer to the magnetic Magdalena. He unveils the truth behind the merchants' murders and comes face to face with a machination of monstrous evil. Through this fascinating Magdalena, an enchanter of admirals and merchants alike, Antonio begins to realize that his true quest is one he could never have imagined.


The Mascherari is an epistolary gothic-occult mystery novel set in 15th century Venice, The story unfolds through the written testimony, journals, and letters of the main characters. This clever style allows the story to unfold, one exciting turn after another. This is a murder mystery with a luscious plot and a touch of the occult. Venice’s fame for mask making and disguises adds a magic touch to the grandiose vibrancy of the fascinating city known as La Serenissima. Page by page, as each character adds a new revelation to the story, a sinister truth is revealed. Author Laura Rahme is a talented writer who knows how to keep the suspense rising while unveiling a story so rich with atmosphere, decadence, political climate, and societal practices of this wealthy city. And boy what a climax! It is one that kept me flipping the pages so fast to devour every detail that culminated in great satisfaction. This is one author to keep an eye on, not only for her talent in writing style, but in her ability as a wonderful storyteller.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thieving Forest by Martha Conway

One woman's desperate obsession to unite with her kidnapped sisters

2014 North American Book Awards Winner for Best Historical Fiction 



On a humid morning in 1806, seventeen-year-old Susanna Quiner watches helplessly from behind a tree while a band of Potawatomi Indians kidnaps her four older sisters from their cabin. With both her parents dead from Swamp Fever and all the other settlers out in their fields, Susanna rashly decides to pursue them herself. What follows is a young woman's quest to save her sisters and the parallel story of her sisters' new lives.

Fast-paced and richly detailed, THIEVING FOREST explores the transformation of all five women as the Quiners contend with starvation, slavery, betrayal, and love. It paints a fascinating new picture of pioneer life among Native American communities, while telling a gripping tale of survival.

Thieving Forest is an extraordinary story about four sisters who live in the wilds of Ohio. One day, native people wander onto their homestead and capture three of them. Susanna manages to evade detection. Alone, penniless, and with little help, she risks her own life to find her sisters. Obsessed with reuniting with her siblings, she enters into a journey that will have many twists, calamities, and devastation.

The author has done a great deal of in-depth research into the day to day life of native tribes in the area that gave the story much credibility and literally brings the characters to life. There is desperation, trust, betrayal, and much courage to endure the hardships of life in the wilds. The pace moves steadily along with plenty to keep the reader engaged. Most importantly, the novel explores the adaptability of the human spirit in the face of great adversity. Another underlying theme is one of finding happiness whatever the circumstance one finds themselves in. It is not surprising that this novel won such a prestigious award. Very well done and a wonderful reading/learning experience. It leaves you with a deep appreciation of what our pioneer ancestors endured to build the great country of the United States of America. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Giveaway - The Betrothal by Mirella Patzer

Leave a comment to win a copy!
Contest expires January 7th!
eBook version only and open to internatinal candidates!

An absorbing novel about wicked intentions, murder, obsessive love, undisclosed secrets, unstoppable destinies, and the woman whose secret will either destroy or restore lives. 
In a world filled with danger, one secret will change everything!

Book Giveaway - Blackmail, My Love: A Murder Mystery by Katie Gilmartin

A scintillating noir mystery! Leave a comment to win a copy!

Winner will be announced the first week of January! 

First-time novelist Katie Gilmartin breaks into noir fiction with her brilliantly conceived, illustrated thriller, Blackmail, My Love: A Murder Mystery. With a doctoral background in Queer Studies, Gilmartin reveals secret histories of San Francisco's mid-century queer underground as we follow her into a world of corruption, coercion, murder, and mystery. Josie O'Conner travels to San Francisco in 1951 to locate her gay brother, a private dick investigating a blackmail ring targeting lesbians and gay men. Jimmy's friends claim that just before he disappeared he became a rat, informing the cops on the bar community's nascent resistance to raids, graft, and brutality. Josie adopts Jimmy's trousers and wingtips as well as his investigation, battling to clear his name, halt the blackmailers, and exact justice for the mounting number of Queer corpses.
Set in such legendary locations as the Black Cat Cafe, the Fillmore, the Beat movement's North Beach, and the sexually complex Tenderloin,the novel's action is fueled by a 1951 California Supreme Court ruling that homosexuals have a right to congregate: the decision incited tavern owner resistance to customary payoffs in exchange for police protection, but provoked new tactics to justify raids and extortion. Blackmail, My Love distills fiction and queer history into a singular, visually stunning experience.
Katie Gilmartin received a Ph.D. in cultural studies from Yale, with an emphasis in queer history. After teaching the history of sexuality and queer studies for a decade at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the University of California, Berkeley, and The New College, she became a printmaker. Her prior publications are academic essays based on interviews she conducted with lesbians about their lives in the 1940s and 1950s. This is her first work of fiction. Gilmartin lives in San Francisco.

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