Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Long Shade by Corinne West

The year is 1911 in drought-stricken rural Southern Alberta, and although times are hard, young Brian Dance’s future seems full of promise. But when tragedy strikes, one loss follows another, and words are spoken that can never be taken back. Many years later, as a grown man, Brian returns to the small town of his youth thinking he has left his past—and his pain—behind him. Instead, he finds that he is troubled about many things, in particular his deepening affection for the sister of an estranged childhood friend. Spiritually and emotionally bereft, he runs from the love he desperately needs. But a man can only go so far before coming to the end of himself. 

Set against the stark beauty of the prairies and the lofty majesty of the Rockies, A Long Shade traces a journey from the burgeoning centers of a young province to the rarefied mountain retreats of affluent jazz-age internationals. West explores both our yearning for meaningful connection and the buried reasons that drive us to resist it. 

In her debut novel, Corinne West has brought to life the turbulence of the early 1900's in the Canadian prairies. From Medicine Hat to Banff, West takes us on an unbelievable journey of sadness, despair, betrayal, love, and redemption. Brian Dance is a fascinating protagonist, troubled, solitary, enigmatic. Surrounded by a strong cast of colorful supporting characters, the story comes alive with credibility and poignancy. In this fascinating character driven story, the reader is swept into a rustic country setting and becomes immersed in the lives and troubles of the unforgettable characters. The author delves deeply into their mindset, their passions, their mistakes and the impact upon others. Reconciliation is a strong theme throughout. 

Corinne West is an excellent writer. A native Albertan, her research is thorough and accurate. There is a lot of factual information in the story, but it is incorporated seamlessly into the story and through dialogue. She is able to set a mood, a gentle but steady pace until the story's satisfying ending. Poignant scenes throughout evoke emotion - sometimes I laughed, sometimes I cried. From first page to last, this was a thoroughly compelling and engrossing tale. Highly recommended, especially for those with a passion for Canadian historical fiction. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Set against the historical reign of the Golden and Iron King, Bohemian Gospel is the remarkable tale of a bold and unusual girl on a quest to uncover her past and define her destiny.
Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Others call her an angel. Even Mouse doesn’t know who―or what―she is. But she means to find out.
When young King Ottakar shows up at the Abbey wounded by a traitor's arrow, Mouse breaks church law to save him and then agrees to accompany him back to Prague as his personal healer. Caught in the undertow of court politics at the castle, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other as they work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past. But when Mouse's unusual gifts give rise to a violence and strength that surprise everyone ―especially herself― she is forced to ask herself: Will she be prepared for the future that awaits her?
A heart-thumping, highly original tale in the vein of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Bohemian Gospel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice for historical fiction.

Review by Mirella Patzer
Also visit History and Women

The stunning cover of Bohemian Gospel shelters a wonderfully unique tale about a poor young girl of unknown birth circumstances named Mouse who saves King Ottakar's life and swiftly becomes his most trusted personal healer. But Mouse is no ordinary girl. She possesses numerous gifts - the gift of foresight, the gift of healing, the gift of unusual hearing and sight, name a few. She is reluctantly swept into court life with its many political machinations and intrigues. King Ottaker becomes her protector and a forbidden love burgeons between them.  

The first section of the novel was fast paced and gripping. As the story progressed, the pace did slow a little, but it did still managed to hold my interest. In many ways, Mouse was a sympathetic character, but she had too many "gifts" to make her completely credible. For me, this diminished the historical feel and gave the story a more fantasy/magical atmosphere. 

For those who are historical fiction purists, this novel many not completely please. However, for those readers who love historical fantasy, then this is definitely a blockbuster! Well written, wonderfully creative, and with plenty of twists and turns, this is one novel that should be on your to be read list.

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.
As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first. Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family. But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered. Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

This international bestseller has now been translated into English! This tale of World War II is a life and death tale about a young Jewish girl who escapes from a train bound for Auschwitz and encounters Jakob, a fighter for the Polish resistance who is determined to reunite her with her family. 

The story is steeped in historical fact as the two protagonists struggle to overcome the brutalities of war. There is an underlying Christian theme throughout that lends a tone of love and faith throughout. This is a lovely tale of inspiration and enduring strength with many fascinating layers. One cannot help but fall in love with Jakob and Gretl and their viewpoint over the war and resistance. Beautifuly written, easy to read, and poignant throughout, this is definitely one book to savor! Delightful in all its aspects.

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Bray

Lydia’s job at the library is her world—until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart.
Just months after the closure of the Chicago World’s Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.
Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.
Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn’t merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.
Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.

Review by Mirella Patzer
Also visit my other blog: History and Women

This is a charming cozy mystery set in the era of the Chicago's World's Fair, the third book in a series. This novel stands alone and one does not need to read the previous two books to get the full benefit. I think this book captures many things which appealed to me - a charismatic heroine/librarian, an enigmatic hero who is endearing but comes with a secret or two, and of course, an intriguing murder mystery. 

The story unfolds at a steady pace and is an easy read, and it kept me rooting for Lydia and Sebastian and the romance that was developing between them despite the darkness of the murder. The author did an excellent job of building in atmosphere and creating likable characters. The novel has a light air to it, nothing to heavy or provocative or controversial. I liked the fact that the story didn't glamorize Chicago. Rather, we got to see some of the seedier side of the infamous city. It had a good mix of good and bad and rich and poor. 

I liked this book a lot. It's a wonderful cozy mystery/romance for curling up in front of the fire on a cold winter's night. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Colm Tóibín’s New York Times bestselling novel—soon to be a film starring Saoirse Ronan and Jim Broadbent from the award-winning team that produced An Education—is “a moving, deeply satisfying read” (Entertainment Weekly) about a young Irish immigrant in Brooklyn in the early 1950s. “One of the most unforgettable characters in contemporary literature” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America, she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future. Author “Colm Tóibín…is his generation’s most gifted writer of love’s complicated, contradictory power” (Los Angeles Times). “Written with mesmerizing power and skill” (The Boston Globe),Brooklyn is a “triumph…One of those magically quiet novels that sneak up on readers and capture their imaginations” (USA TODAY).

Review by Mirella Patzer
Also visit my other blog, History and Women

For anyone who decides to read this award winning novel that has been made into a movie, you will find this novel's plot is most definitely character driven rather than plot driven. What this means is the plot unravels slowly, but if you persevere and focus on how the protagonist faces the struggles she faces, you will be rewarded with a fascinating, thought provoking story filled with engrossing characters and situations. The author is definitely talented with the ability to delve deep into the psyche of the people he has created, making them so human, so real, so believable!

I found that the heroine had a far easier immigrant experience than other Irish immigrants of the time. Nevertheless, the story is still credible in its own way. The more I read, the more I became absorbed by the story. It is the last quarter of the book that brings the satisfaction and a little conflict into the tale. Now that I've read the book, I most definitely want to see the movie. 

All in all, I found this to be a very solid read, albeit slow. For those who love character driven novels, and who love to explore the human psyche, this is one of the best. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Brethren and City of Wisdom and Blood by Robert Merle

The Brethren Synopsis:

Consisting of 13 books written across 26 years, the adventure-filled epic Fortunes of France is one of France's best-loved historical fiction series. Never before published in English, book one, The Brethren, makes its debut in the US in the spring of 2015, followed in the fall by book two, City of Wisdom and Blood.

Two veteran soldiers retire to a castle in the wildly beautiful Périgord of sixteenth century France. But the country is descending into chaos, plagued by religious strife, famine, pestilence, bands of robbers... and, of course, the English.

In the course of their story we are introduced to a slew of vivid characters, including the fiery Isabelle, mistress of the castle, refusing to renounce her religious beliefs despite great pressure; the petty and meal-mouthed Francois, unlikely heir to the estate; the brave and loyal Jonas who lives in a cave and keeps a wolf as a pet; the swaggering soldier Cabusse; the outrageously superstitious Maligou, and Sarrazine, who once roamed as part of a wild gypsy band.

A sprawling, earthy tale of violence and lust, love and death, political intrigue and dazzling philosophical debate, The Brethren is the first step in an engrossing saga to rival Dumas, Flashmanand Game of Thrones.

The City of Wisdom and Blood Synopsis:

Montpellier in 1566 is one of the greatest seats of learning of the age, a cradle of Renaissance humanism. But even this proud city of philosophers is not safe from the menaces that endanger the peace of France--the city militia are struggling to contend with the lawlessness and religious hatred that threaten to tear the whole country in two. Only fools walk the streets at night unarmed, while a profession of faith in the wrong company can lead to a knife in the back. 

Now an adult, Pierre de Siorac must leave the family stronghold of Mespech, and travel south on dangerous roads to the great university city, accompanied by his strapping but naive brother Samson and the crafty Miroul. Well-armoured, with swords and pistols at their belts, the trio are confident of repelling any bandits who cross their path, but their new life away from the safety of their home will bring with it many other new dangers and delights.

Following on from The Brethren, City of Wisdom and Blood is the second book the sweeping saga, Fortunes of France.

In Book 1, The Brethren, Robert Merle has written an intensive historical novel set in France during one of its most turbulent periods. In 16th century France, battle rages between the Huegenots and the Catholics with murderous results from both sides. At the heart of the story are two compelling protagonists - Siorac and Sauvterre who try to hide their Protestant roots from the world as they amass their fortune. They swore an oath to become brothers, hence the title of the first book - The Brethren.

Merle does an excellent job of interweaving accurate historical detail with an interesting plot. This is pure historical fiction - with a strong focus on historical fact! This novel teaches as well as entertains. There are violent scenes throughout, a testament to the times, as well as struggles each character faces. 

Book 2 takes the reader a little further into the future. The point of view character is a Huguenot nobleman named Pierre. With his half-brother, Samson struggle to study in Montpellier which is predominantly Catholic. The religious battles and troubles continue in the second volume.

Robert Merle's strength is in his character development. His characters literally leap off the pages because they are so authentic, so complex, so human! And he likes to throw in the odd humorous scene which only serves to endear one to the characters more fully. 

The main theme throughout the books is the religious conflict that plagued France during the 16th century. Merle's novels are very strong in historical detail which sometimes overpowers the plot/storyline. For those who love rich historical fiction, this series is definitely for you!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks

Annabelle Aster doesn't bow to convention-not even that of space and time-which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more peculiar is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds.

Annie and Elsbeth's search for an explanation to the hiccup in the universe linking their homes leads to an unsettling discovery-and potential disaster for both of them. Together they must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen...and yet somehow already did.

Scott Wilbanks has written a unique, one of a kind story that captured my heart. It is a tale of two women who find themselves locked together in a specific time described as a "hiccup" in the universe. They soon stumble upon a murder and a mystery that binds them together. I liked the numerous little plot twists and the way the mystery was carefully revealed. The author writes in an easy to read format, while describing breath-taking vibrancy. A brilliant, creative little book that will ultimately entertain! Highly recommended. Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Serpent and the Staff by Barbara Wood

Ugarit, Syria, 1450 B.C.E. Eighteen-year-old Leah, the eldest daughter of a wealthy winemaker, is past the traditional age of betrothal. Vowed to wed the wealthy but cruel shipbuilder Jotham, Leah declines his offer of marriage after discovering that he and his family suffer from “the falling sickness.” Enraged by her refusal and his ruined reputation, he blackmails Leah’s father, a punishment forgiven only by offering Leah’s hand in marriage. With no more options for another suitor and no male heir for her family, Leah must seek out the cure for Jotham’s sickness or her family will face permanent ruin.

During her quest Leah begins to burn with desire for Daveed, the handsome household scribe whose culture forbids their union. Daveed has been called by the gods to restore the Brotherhood, an elite fraternity of guardians at the great Library of Ugarit, rumored to contain the secret symbol of immortality within its ancient archives. If his plan succeeds, it may also save Leah’s family from disaster. But even Daveed and Leah cannot fathom the extent of Jotham’s sinister schemes to make Leah his bride once and for all.

With rich historical detail, The Serpent and the Staff is a sweeping tale of love, betrayal, and how one family's faith can overcome the obstacles that life has in store for them.

Ancient history never ceases to fascinate me and this novel set in 15th century B.C. in Syria is no exception. At the heart of the tale is a love story between Daveed and Leahd, and a spurned potential spouse who unleashes the full extent of his wrath upon Leah and her father. The revenge lasts for years, ultimately devastating Leah's family, financially and otherwise. It is the slow degradation of family life that kept me turning the pages. Just when I thought matters could not possibly become worse, BAM! They did! The characters are so real, they leap off the pages, stirring emotions with each turn of the page. This is one unforgettable story! Compelling and rich, told in a clean, easy style of writing. Highly recommended!  

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper by David Barnett

In an alternate nineteenth century where a technologically advanced Britain holds sway over most of the known world and the American Revolution never happened, young Gideon Smith is firmly established as the Hero of the Empire.

Back in London, Gideon and his colleagues: journalist Aloysius Bent, airship pilot Rowena Fanshawe, and Maria, the mechanical girl to whom Gideon has lost his heart, are dragged into a case that is confounding the Metropolitan Police. For the city is on the edge of mass rioting due to the continuing reign of terror by the serial killer known only as Jack the Ripper, who is rampaging though London's less salubrious quarters.
While chasing the madman, a villain from their past strips Gideon Smith of his memory and is cast adrift in the seedy underbelly of London, where life is tough and death lurks in every shadowy alley.
With mob rule threatening to engulf London, the Empire has never needed its hero more...but where is Gideon Smith?
Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper is the latest in David Barnett's riproaring steampunk adventures about a Britain that never was...but should have been.

This is the first book with David Barnett's memorable character, Gideon Smith, that I've read. This book can stand alone so it wasn't necessary to read the first two books in the series, A bit mystery, a bit gothic, a bit steampunk, is the best way to describe this novel. Gideon Smith is a daring character who sets off on an adventure to find The Ripper. The setting is an alternative, or dystopian Victorian London. 

There are plenty of fascinating plot twists that kept me reading as Gideon encounters one crisis after another while prostitutes are being horrendously murdered. Compelling characters are often not what they appear to be, and each chapter has something new to offer. Every once in a while, the author injects some humor amid all the dark mystery. The steampunk/dystopian setting may not appeal to all readers, but it is entertaining as long as one allows themselves to fall into the story. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Molly Lee by Andrew Joyce

Molly is about to set off on the adventure of a lifetime . . . of two lifetimes. 
It's 1861 and the Civil War has just started. Molly is an eighteen-year-old girl living on her family's farm in Virginia when two deserters from the Southern Cause enter her life. One of them--a twenty-four-year-old Huck Finn--ends up saving her virtue, if not her life. 
Molly is so enamored with Huck, she wants to run away with him. But Huck has other plans and is gone the next morning before she awakens. Thus starts a sequence of events that leads Molly into adventure after adventure; most of them not so nice. She starts off as a naive young girl. Over time, she develops into a strong, independent woman. The change is gradual. Her strengths come from the adversities she encounters along the road that is her life. 
We follow the travails of Molly Lee, starting when she is eighteen and ending when she is fifty-six. Even then Life has one more surprise in store for her.

I loved the premise of this book - a young woman named Molly Lee is saved by a charismatic hero named Huck Finn - the same Huck Finn out of the pages of the famed Mark Twain novel. But Huck is a wanderer and he leaves. Molly, desperately in love with him sets off alone to find him. And thus begins her quest / adventure.

Her journey is fraught with pitfalls and danger, for a woman alone is a target. She is attacked and then rescued by the town Madame who helps her learn the ropes of the world's oldest profession. In Molly's travels she is also sold to an Indian chief, commits a murder or two in self-defense, and acquires and loses several fortunes! But Huck proves to be illusive, no matter where she wanders. Just as she's about to give up, Huck re-enters her life. 

This is a wonderfully fun book about a courageous young woman forced to endure every mishap that befalls her. Great storytelling in an easy to read style, credible characters, and plenty of plot twists make this western a sure win! Definitely recommended!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In Love and War by Alex Preston

In Love and War weaves fact and fiction to create a sweeping portrait of a city at war. The novel is told through the eyes, letters and journals of Esmond Lowndes, who comes to Italy a lost and lonely young man in the shadow of his politician father. Through his friendships with a striking cast of contemporary characters, from the poet Ezra Pound to Alice Keppel, a former royal mistress, Esmond begins to leave his early disappointments behind him. On the cobbles of Florence's many-storied streets, he deepens his appreciation of art and literature, and falls in love.
With the coming of war, Esmond finds himself stranded in a city of enemies, hunted by the malevolent Mario Carità, head of the Fascist secret police. He retreats into the hills above Florence, taking with him a painting that has come to assert a profound hold over him. When the Nazis arrive, Esmond is drawn into Giustizia e Libertà, the Resistance movement, and is soon helping to spirit refugees to safety, to hide the city's Jews. With his lover, Ada, at his side, he is at the centre of assassination plots, shoot-outs and car chases, culminating in a final mission of extraordinary daring.
In Love and War is a novel that will take you deep into the secret heart of history, meticulously researched and full of period detail. It is a novel of art and letters, of bawdy raconteurs and dashing spies. With Esmond Lowndes you will see the beauty of Florence as never before, and feel the horror of war as it sweeps over the city's terracotta rooftops. Inspired by a host of real-life stories, In Love and War is both epic and intimate, harrowing and heartwarming.

In Love and War is a tale that is set in Florence during the years prior and during World War II. The author writes in such a way that it evoked the sights, smells, and sentiment of the time of a city rich with culture and untarnished by modernity. 

The novel is multi-layered with several intriguing subplots and a bevy of colorful characters. Through their eyes, and their interaction through letters, radio programs, and telegrams, the tale unfolds with poignancy. The author was able to evoke many emotions where the brutal realities of war was skillfully intermixed with themes of love, endurance, and family. It is not an easy read because of its rich complexities, but one that should be taken seriously and read at leisure to learn and experience Italy and how its people suffered and survived World War II. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Two Gun and Sun by June Hutton

In 1922 a lone woman arrives in a filthy frontier mining town in the Pacific Northwest. Her goal: to resurrect her dead uncle's newspaper. Within two days a naked man is shot dead, a famous man is rumoured to be heading their way and the only man capable of fixing her broken-down press so that she might spread this news is a Chinese printer from the nearby forbidden settlement of Lousetown. Over the next month, Lila Sinclair will take even bigger risks to see her business thrive-from her questionable news reporting to her negotiations with a partner who's a liar and a gambler. Reckless, stubborn and with a maddening tendency to shed tears when provoked, Lila works long hours next to her printer to see her dream through, only to discover all that she could lose. Inspired by the historical figures Morris "Two Gun" Cohen and Dr. Sun Yat-sen, whose joint pursuits would later bolster a revolution that ushered in the modern era for China, and further informed by Puccini's LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST, with its themes of intercultural love in the Old West, June Hutton blends fact with fiction in a dramatic tale that is part historical novel, part steampunk opera and part otherworldly Western. Brutally beautiful, at times playful and absurd and then swiftly tragic, TWO GUN & SUN explores themes of truth, love and independence.

Review by Mirella Patzer

Two-Gun and Sun is the epitome of unique storytelling - characters, setting, and plot go beyond the norm to reveal a creative tale! Add to this a boldy courageous heroine whose determination knows no bounds and you've got a great story. I would definitely classify this novel as intelligent, cerebral, and intensely entertaining. This is wonderfulf literary fiction. The author's style is to not use quotation marks for dialogue which took a while to get used to, but the great story superceeded this issue. June Hutton is one of my favourite Canadian authors, a gifted writer with talent. I highly recommend her books! 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Hell Bent Kid by Charles O Locke

Hailed by the Western Writers of America as one of the top twenty-five Westerns ever written: The harrowing story of an innocent young man pursued across west Texas by a relentless posse 

A crack shot more skilled with a rifle than are men twice his age, eighteen-year-old Tot Lohman has no intention of using his genius for evil. But when a fight erupts at a schoolhouse dance, Lohman is forced to defend himself, and a young rancher named Shorty Boyd winds up dead. The Boyds are numerous, powerful, and vicious, and they want revenge. With no one else to turn to, Lohman sets out across canyon country to reunite with his ailing father in New Mexico Territory. The journey will be long, hot, and perilous, and to survive it, this mild-mannered boy must become the cold-blooded killer he never wanted to be. 
Based on real events, The Hell Bent Kid is a tale of pursuit as stark and mesmerizing as the Southwestern landscape in which it is set. Unrelenting from first page to last, it ranks alongside The Ox-Bow IncidentTrue Grit, and The Searchers as one of the most unique and artful stories of the West ever told. In 1958 it was adapted into the film From Hell to Texas, directed by the famed Henry Hathaway and starring Don Murray, Diane Varsi, Chill Wills, and Dennis Hopper.

Review by Mirella Patzer

A good western novel is always in demand. The Hell Bent Kid has been classified as one of the top 25 westerns of all time! And I can clearly see why. The protaganist is named Tot who in defense of himself ends up killing a member of a wealthy, notorious family. He must flee for his life as the men of this family vow revenge and pursue him. In his flight he faces numerous adversities, serious circumstances where his life is in danger. Tot is a character with a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. Through every conflict, luck and wisdom help him survive. 

The story unfolds through Tot in first person narrative and later in documents, letters, and statements. The author does a stellar job of bringing the harsh west to life. His writing is succinct and to the point, and the novel is a quick read with never a dull moment. Plenty of action filled scenes and fascinating, well-developed, credible characters line the pages. The ending is fabulous! One of my favourite westerns! Go and read it!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon USA       Amazon Canada

The Secret Life of Winnie Cox by Sharon Maas

1910, South America. A time of racial tension and poverty. A time where forbidden love must remain a secret.
Winnie Cox lives a privileged life of dances and dresses on her father’s sugar cane plantation. Life is sweet in the kingdom of sugar and Winnie along with her sister Johanna, have neither worries nor responsibilities, they are birds of paradise, protected from the poverty in the world around them.
But everything can change in a heartbeat… When Winnie falls in love with George Quint, the post-office boy, a ‘darkie’ from the other side, she soon finds herself slipping into a double life. And as she withdraws from her family, she discovers a shocking secret about those whom are closest to her. Now, more than ever, Winnie is determined to prove her love for George, whatever price she must pay and however tragic the consequences might be.
A breath-taking love story of two people fighting to be together, in a world determined to break them apart.

Review by Mirella Patzer
I have always enjoyed a good story set in a unique place and time. The Secret Life of Winnie Cox by Sharon Maas is unique in that it takes us to British Guiana in the early 1900s where Black vs Indian vs White continue to unsettle the population and prejudice runs rampant. Winnie Cox is a compelling character who falls in love with an Indian man who runs the local post office. As the story progresses and their clandestine love affair blossoms, Winnie learns of his political affiliations and struggles to be with the man she loves despite their love is forbidden. 

This rich story grabbed me from the start! It is powerful, fulfilling, thought-provoking and a whole lot more. Definitely a must read! Totally engrossing!  

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon USA       Amazon Canada       Amazon UK

Into the Americas by Lance and James Morcan

INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story) is a gritty, real-life adventure based on one of history’s greatest survival stories. It was inspired by the diary entries of young English blacksmith John Jewitt during his time aboard the brigantine The Boston and also during his sojourn at Nootka Sound, on North America's western seaboard, from 1802 to 1805. 

Written by father-and-son writing team Lance & James Morcan (authors of The World Duology and The Orphan Trilogy), INTO THE AMERICAS is a tale of two vastly different cultures – Indigenous North American and European civilization – colliding head on. It is also a Romeo and Juliet story set in the wilderness. 

Nineteen year-old blacksmith John Jewitt is one of only two survivors after his crewmates clash with the fierce Mowachaht tribe in the Pacific Northwest. A life of slavery awaits John and his fellow survivor, a belligerent American sailmaker, in a village ruled by the iron fist of Maquina, the all-powerful chief. Desperate to taste freedom again, they make several doomed escape attempts over mountains and sea. Only their value to the tribe and John’s relationship with Maquina prevents their captors from killing them. 

As the seasons pass, John ‘goes Indian’ after falling in love with Eu-stochee, a beautiful maiden. This further alienates him from his fellow captive whose defiance leads to violent consequences. In the bloodshed that follows, John discovers another side to himself – a side he never knew existed and a side he detests. His desire to be reunited with the family and friends he left behind returns even stronger than before. 

The stakes rise when John learns Eu-stochee is pregnant. When a final opportunity to escape arises, he must choose between returning to civilization or staying with Eu-stochee and their newborn son. 

INTO THE AMERICAS has been adapted to a feature film screenplay and is in early development with Morcan Motion Pictures.

Review by Mirella Patzer:

I have been an avid follower of all books by these authors, thoroughly loving each book. This book was no exception. There is a beautiful cadence to the story, flowing at a perfect pace while striking an easy balance between detail and plot. The characters, especially the protaganist and his cohort, are fascinating in every aspect. They are deeply complex with differing motivations as they struggle to survive as slaves of the native people. Of course there is a bit of a romance, although that is a small contribution to the plot. 

What I enjoyed most is that it is based on the true story of John Jewitt, the son of an English blacksmith who sailed on The Boston and was captured by the Indians and later escaped. Of all the Morcan novels, this is by far my favourite. It is understandable why this was chosen to be made into film! An awesome tale! 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime. The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn't imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides.
But everything changes when a baby is found dead...and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer.
She didn't commit the crime, but clearing her name isn't so easy when her innocence is not quite as simple, either. She knows things, and that's dangerous. Invited into her neighbors' homes during their most intimate and vulnerable times, she can't help what she sees and hears. A woman sometimes says things in the birthing bed, when life and death seem suspended within the same moment. Gracy has always tucked those revelations away, even the confessions that have cast shadows on her heart.
With her friends taking sides and a trial looming, Gracy must decide whether it's worth risking everything to prove her innocence. And she knows that her years of discretion may simply demand too high a price now...especially since she's been keeping more than a few dark secrets of her own.
With Sandra Dallas's incomparable gift for creating a sense of time and place and characters that capture your heart, The Last Midwife tells the story of family, community, and the secrets that can destroy and unite them.

Review by Mirella Patzer 
History and Women

What a pleasure it has been to read this novel. I had never read a novel by Sandra Dallas before, but I will be avidly reading her others. This novel was so utterly satisfying that she is now one of my favourite authors and I've added her website to the links on the side of this blog: 

Brilliantly researched, Sandra captures the essence of the times and the numerous hardships faced by women of all ages. The stories has roots in the historical past - she studied the plight of midwives who found themselves face to face with the law when a birth went awry. There is a strong tone of doing the right thing, no matter the injustices the main character faces. The protaganist is a woman called Gracy Brookens, a skilled and respected midwife. Clearly unselfish, caring, and dedicated to helping women, there is much to laud in this character. Courageous and determined, she faces adversity in a way that is startling stoic. 

The prose is lovely and flowing, and the descriptions perfect - enough to bring the scene to life without slowing the pace. Although on the surface, this novel looks like it might be purely historical or women's fiction, there is a mystery at its heart, a bonus to an already rich tale. I admire Sandra Dallas' talent and am eager to read more of her novels. Thorough enjoyable! 5 stars and more!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

The Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and her Frankenstein

Mary Shelley is most famous for the enduring classic novel, Frankenstein. But who was Mary Shelley and how did a 19th century woman write such a story, one that would transcend generations? 

Storytelling came to her honestly. She was the daughter of two of England's most prominent writers: William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, but never knew her mother who died two days after giving birth to her.  

When she was sixteen, she ran off with a married man, but not just any married man - the renowned poet Percy Shelley who became her greatest love, despite all his faults, one of which was his love affair with Mary's half-sister.  

Mary and Percy travelled about Europe. They joined the scandalous poet Lord Byron in Switzerland. Lord Byron, a well known rogue and ladies man, led a debauched life, which had an impact on Mary and Percy. During their time together, the writers challenged each other to see who could write the most compelling horror story. Little did they know that Mary, unpublished and unknown, would be the hands down winner. 

Meanwhile, Percy's wife, devastated at being abandoned by her husband, committed suicide by jumping into a lake and drowning. Nevertheless, Percy and Mary got hitched not long thereafter. 

Mary finished writing Frankenstein at the age of twenty and the book was published anonymously when she was 20. The literary critics of the day gave bad reviews, but the public at large loved it, especially more so after it had been developed into plays. 

Sadness and grief plagued Mary for most of her short life. She gave birth to four children, but sadly, they all died except for one. Then, before she and Percy turned 30, Percy died when his boat sank. She never fell in love again and never remarried. She spent her days writing until she died at the age of 53 of a brain tumor.

Author Antoinette May has written deeply emotional and detailed account of Mary Shelley's life in the novel, THE DETERMINED HEART: THE TALE OF MARY SHELLEY AND HER FRANKENSTEIN.

The Determined Heart reveals the life of Mary Shelley in a story of love and obsession, betrayal and redemption. 

The daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley had an unconventional childhood populated with the most talented and eccentric personalities of the time. After losing her mother at an early age, she finds herself in constant conflict with a resentful stepmother and a jealous stepsister. When she meets the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, she falls deeply in love, and they elope with disastrous consequences. Soon she finds herself destitute and embroiled in a torturous love triangle as Percy takes Mary’s stepsister as a lover. Over the next several years, Mary struggles to write while she and Percy face ostracism, constant debt, and the heartbreaking deaths of three children. Ultimately, she achieves great acclaim for Frankenstein, but at what cost?


Antoinette May has re-envisioned Mary's life in a most comprehensive and compelling way. She brings to life the famous poets who were integral to Mary's life, namely Percy Bysshe Shelly and Lord Byron. In doing so, she shows us the darker side of these famous men, their human failings as well as their genius talents. The writing of Frankenstein is not foremost in the novel. Rather, the reader discovers the elements of Mary's life that gave rise to novel and the monster's creation. 

What I enjoyed about this novel is that the characters were presented without prejudice, leaving the reader to decide whether they liked them or not, including Mary. Secret affairs, obsession, friendship, and debauchery line this novels pages, demonstrating their effects upon the main characters. Congratulations to the author for writing such an indepth biographical fiction novel about this fascinating woman's life. Truly unforgettable!

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Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.