Monday, August 31, 2015

Imaginary Brightness: A Durant Family Saga by Sheila Myers

Synopsis:

Set in the 1870s, the dawn of the Gilded Age, and while the American economy is reeling from over-speculation in railroads, the Durant family saga re-imagines the life story of William West Durant and his sister Ella, the children of a powerful American industrialist and railroad tycoon. 

William and Ella find their fortunes and reputations threatened by their father’s questionable business dealings as head of the Union Pacific Railroad. As the family's finances teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, both brother and sister are whisked from their privileged lifestyle in high society London to the untamed Adirondack forests.  It is in this wilderness landscape that the tension between passion and propriety, their future and their family, turn their worlds upside down. Imaginary Brightness explores the early conquest of the great north woods, eavesdrops on America’s robber barons from the supper clubs of Manhattan, and unravels the mystery of William West Durant’s secret passions and conflicting loyalties.


Reviewer: Linda Fagioli-Katsiotas
Author of

This book is so full of tasty tidbits; I don’t know where to start. It’s an historical fiction in which the author adeptly juxtaposes two very interesting tales. In one, she shows the saga of Thomas Durant’s children, Ella and William, as their father unscrupulously uses the land in the Adirondack Mountains of New York during the late 1800s to amass the family wealth. The other is a modern love story, more than a hundred years later, between twenty-eight-year-old researcher, Avery, studying the habits of the owl in that same area and Jake, an inhabitant of the area. 

Both accounts as Myers switches between present and past, keep the reader riveted to the pages. I love how Meyers uses the owl research to symbolize Avery’s relationship with Jake, specifically the one male owl that she seems unable to catch and tag. A more overt example is when Avery responds to a question about her research by saying, “I’m trying to discover why males of the species are so hard to track.” Also, within the 1800s account, there is the underlying theme of profit versus preservation as Myers' characters describe Durant’s intentions by saying that he is going to “rape the Adirondack wilderness and bring crystal and fine china to the woods,” while at the same time, the government is being lobbied by others to preserve that land, and Myers interjects with the timeless frustration of people against power: “the unappreciative idiots in Albany have no idea . . . of the vast resources this region has to offer. ”

Myers also cleverly but subtly shows the clash of culture between the natives of the region and the aristocracy that will vacation there. In one example, William stops local boys from hunting in a way that he feels is unfair to the game and berates them asking what kind of sport would allow the game to be so unfairly challenged. The local boy responds, “ We ain’t doing it for sport sir. We’re doing it to feed our family.”

In addition to a wonderful story that keeps the reader engaged and unable to put the book down, Myers has some very nice imagery, such as “the sleigh slogged along, crushing the snow with a sound like thousands of eggshells breaking in its wake.”

The only complaint I have—and it’s a small one—is that the mystery behind the old diary belonging to someone named Minnie, that Avery finds and strings the reader along with its writer’s excerpts, is resolved too fast and simplistically. I wanted Minnie to have some kind of meaningful self-discovery. However, the overall story is very good and I recommend it wholeheartedly. It is a tale in which you will find yourself gasping in alarm at the unexpected turns in the story and you will miss the characters when they are gone. 
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

Opening Paragraph:  From her bed of bundled newspapers under the kitchen table, Rachel Rabinowitz watched her mother's bare feet shuffle to the sink. She heard water filling the kettle, then saw her mother's heels lift as she stretched up to drop a nickel in the gas meter. There was the sizzle of a struck match, the hiss of the burner, the whoosh of catching flame. As her mother passed the table, Rachel reached out to catch the hem of her nighdress.

Synopsis:  In this stunning new historical novel inspired by true events, Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before.
In 1919, Rachel Rabinowitz is a vivacious four-year-old living with her family in a crowded tenement on New York City’s Lower Eastside. When tragedy strikes, Rachel is separated from her brother Sam and sent to a Jewish orphanage where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research. Subjected to X-ray treatments that leave her disfigured, Rachel suffers years of cruel harassment from the other orphans. But when she turns fifteen, she runs away to Colorado hoping to find the brother she lost and discovers a family she never knew she had.
Though Rachel believes she’s shut out her painful childhood memories, years later she is confronted with her dark past when she becomes a nurse at Manhattan’s Old Hebrews Home and her patient is none other than the elderly, cancer-stricken Dr. Solomon. Rachel becomes obsessed with making Dr. Solomon acknowledge, and pay for, her wrongdoing. But each passing hour Rachel spends with the old doctor reveal to Rachel the complexities of her own nature. She realizes that a person’s fate—to be one who inflicts harm or one who heals—is not always set in stone.
Lush in historical detail, rich in atmosphere and based on true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful, affecting novel of the unexpected choices we are compelled to make that can shape our destinies.


Review by Mirella Patzer

Do you enjoy though-provoking books that have such heart-wrenching plots, such shocking storylines, that it moves you for many days to come? This gripping novel, based on actual, true events, provokes a plethora of deep thoughts and emotions. They are brought to the New York City Hebrew Orphans Home that existed in the early 1900’s. Rachel soon finds herself subjected to alarming medical experiments that leave Rachel scarred for life. The author does not shy away from describing the horrendously cruel experiments that included force feeding, physical restraints, and over exposure to radium through x-rays that left them bald. But Rachel survives and years later, she becomes a nurse. One of her patients, dying of terminal cancer, is the female doctor who subjected her to the medical trials. Now in a position of power over her previous tormenter, Rachel becomes obsessed with revenge.

The plot becomes rich with a bevy of emotion and thought-provoking twists regarding forgiveness, hate, love, trust, vengeance, and more. At the end of the book, the author has included photographs acquired in research. Tremendously stirring, this is one novel not to miss. So human, so real, so true!

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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Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich

Opening Paragraph: "Finally he sleeps," Ettore grumbled as he dipped a chunk of hardened bread into a shallow dish of olive oil. His arms rested upon the wooden kitchen tabletop. A lit candle cast no warmth and only enough light to reach his calloused hands. The oil caught the flame's reflection and glowed; he gazed past the golden orb, unseeing."

Synopsis:

Contessa and Ettore Saforo awake to a normal day in war-stricken, occupied Italy. By the end of the day, however, their house is in ruins and they must seek shelter and protection wherever they can. But the turbulent politics of 1944 refuses to let them be.
As Tito and his Yugoslav Army threaten their German-held town of Fiume, Ettore finds himself running for his life, knowing that neither side is forgiving of those who have assisted the enemy. His wife and children must also flee the meagre life their town can offer, searching for a better life as displaced persons.
Ettore and Contessa's battle to find each other, and the struggle of their family and friends to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a devastating war, provide a rich and varied account of Italian migration to Australia after World War II.
What can you do when you have nowhere left to call home? Port of No Return considers this question and more in a novel that is full of action, pain and laughter - a journey you will want to see through to the very end.

Review by Mirella Patzer

When it comes to stories set during World War II, I am always more interested in those that focus on the plight of the civilians rather than the military experience. This is why I was drawn to this novel as it reflects some of what my own family experienced before my parents immigrated to Canada. The story is set in the north east area of Italy in a city named Fiume which became part of Yugoslavia, or today's Croatia. Through the experiences of two families, the author does a great job of introducing the hardships the civilians faced living under the auspices of danger and war and occupation. The loss of home, displaced refugees, unbearable acts of terror and cruelty, and the severe hunger caused by enemy seizures. It is how many Italians of that era found themselves contemplating relocation as refugees to safer havens such as Australia, Canada, or the U.S. In this novel, it is Australia they seek. 

Through the eyes of the protagonists, Ettore and Contessa, we experience the danger, the many kindnesses, the poignanat and painful moments of war. These characters represent thousands of Italians forced to flee their beloved homeland.  The author did a wonderful job of describing the effects of the war, along with the history of how that area of Italy was affected. 

This novel is definitely a worth reading, especially for those whose roots are deeply embedded in Italy, like me! Recommended!

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Going Home by James D. Shipman

Opening Paragraph: Joseph woke to the high-pitched shrieking of the rebel yell. His heart nearly pounded out of his chest while he groped for his rifle in the rain and the mud. He grasped wood and steel, releasing his breath as he found his weapon. The screaming drew closer. He heard panicked shouting from the trenches of officers trying desperately to rouse the men. He peeked his head over the lip of the trench but could see nothing., not even a few feet in front of him. It had to be the middle of the night. Something was terribly wrong, but he couldn't focus.

Synopsis:  Brought to the New World from Ireland, young Joseph Forsyth is soon betrayed by his alcoholic father and separated from his beloved family. As he grows older, he finds his kind nature exploited by others—including an alluring young woman named Lucy—until he gets swept away by the conflict that divides a nation.

After the bloody siege of Petersburg, Joseph floats in and out of consciousness at a Union army hospital. Keeping vigil at his side is Rebecca Walker, a nurse and widow all too familiar with the horrors of war. As Joseph fights for his life and Rebecca struggles to follow her heart, both face a devastating choice: whether to hang on to the wounds of the past or move on to an uncertain future.

From the fields of Ireland to the metropolis of Quebec to the battlefields of Virginia, Going Home follows one man’s quest for his place in a world still healing from the wreckage of war.


Review 
by 


Author 
of 

As I began reading this novel, it became immediately apparent why this has been a #1 Bestseller on Amazon. Based on a true story, author James D. Shipman has brought to life an utterly compelling protaganist by the name of Joseph Forsyth. The plight of this character from his childhood throughout the novel is at times heart-wrenching, victorious, and amazingly impressive, a very true and believable hero.

The characters in the story are so real, so believable, I could not help but become totally engrossed in many conflicts and trials they faced during the Civil War era. More importantly, the author has introduced the plight of the Irish immigrant who fled extreme poverty only to find themselves face to face with prejudice and new hardships.

More importantly, this is a story about a man of honor and great character, one who earned his respect and teaches us all what it means to truly be of high moral standard, perseverence, tolerance, and many more lessons. I urge you to purchase this rich and vibrant novel. You won't be sorry.   

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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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

Opening Sentence: "Can we go look, can we go look?" Eight-year-old Amelie tugged at Rachel's hand, pulling her towards the stairs.

Synopsis:  Raised by her widowed mother in genteel poverty in the 1920s in an isolated English village, for the past six years Rachel Woodley has been working in France as a nursery governess. When her mother unexpectedly dies, she returns to England to clear out the cottage, and finds a scrapbook full of cuttings from London society pages-all pictures of her supposedly deceased father, very much alive. He's an earl, socially prominent, with another daughter who is living a charmed life: a debutante, much photographed, and engaged to a rising Tory MP. Rachel's cousin confirms the horrible truth: her father is alive, with a legitimate, acknowledged family. Which makes Rachel...not legitimate. Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past-even her very name-is a lie.
Still reeling from the death of her mother, and furious at this betrayal, Rachel enters into an uneasy alliance with a mysterious man-about-town, who promises her access to her father. With his help, Rachel sets herself up in Roaring Twenties London under a new identity and insinuates herself into the party-going crowd of Bright Young Things, with a steely determination to unveil her father's perfidy and bring his-and her half-sister's-charmed world crashing down. Very soon, however, Rachel faces two unexpected snags: she finds she genuinely likes her half-sister, Olivia, whose situation isn't as simple it appears; and that Rachel herself might just be falling for her sister's fiancé.
From Lauren Willig, author of the New York Times best-selling novel The Ashford Affair, comes The Other Daughter, a page-turner full of deceit, passion, and revenge.

Review by Mirella Patzer 

I love a book that has many plot twists! And there are many in this novel! Each character kept evolving, and this kept me guessing as to what would happen next. A mother's lie, a father's denial, and the quest for revenge combined to make it a difficult story to put down. The novel is set in the early 20's, shortly after the First World War, a time of great upheaval and societal changes. The theme of abandonment by Rachel's father was rather poignant, as was the anger experienced that set her off on a course of revenge. Despite the need for vengeance, Rachel still came across as likable. The more she learned about the people involved, the more she became diswayed. In short, she had a strong conscience. As the story rushes to the climax, there are several shockers that change the protaganist's motivations. I loved this romantic, suspenseful family saga that often left me breathless. Well written! Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 


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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Blood Countess by Andrei Codrescu

Many authors have written about Elizabeth's life, the most recent is Andrei Codrescu.  




Synopsis:

A Hungarian-American journalist confronts the beauty and terror of his aristocratic heritage in this suspenseful chronicle of murder and eroticism. Turmoil reigns in post-Soviet Hungary when journalist Drake Bathory-Kereshtur returns from America to grapple with his family history. He’s haunted by the legacy of his ancestor, the notorious sixteenth-century Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who is said to have murdered more than 650 young virgins and bathed in their blood to preserve her youth. Interweaving past and present, The Blood Countess tells the stories of Elizabeth’s debauched and murderous reign and Drake’s fascination with the eternal clashes of faith and power, violence and beauty. Codrescu traces the captivating origins of the countess’s obsessions in tandem with the emerging political fervor of the reporter, building the narratives into an unforgettable, bloody crescendo. Taut and intense, The Blood Countess is a riveting novel that deftly straddles the genres of historical fiction, thriller, horror, and family drama.

Review by Mirella Patzer

Also visit Historical Novel Review for more fascinating historical fiction books!

In this dark book, the author delved deep into the inner thoughts and motivations of Elizaveth Bathory, and in this he excelled. I much preferred to stay with Elizabeth's point of view rather than switching back to a modern day descendent. But that's because I'm a purist when it comes to historical fiction and I tend not to be fond of books set in both present and past times. Codrescue does not shy away from the brutality, superstitions, terror, and beliefs of the time including the animosity of the people towards the wealthy nobles. There is much violence in this book, and that must be expected. The murderous acts are chilling and graphic, so brace yourselves. Not for the feint of heart, that's for sure, but Elizabeth's story is all about the murders, and cannot be writtenw without it. The author did a ton of research and this is definitely one of the strengths of this book. The world continues to be fascinated with this notorious woman and this is one book that definitely portrays her accurately, giving readers a glimpse as to what evil lurcked in her mind and heart.

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In her lifetime, Elizabeth Bathory became infamous as the "Bloody Countess". Obsessed with retaining her young, Elizabeth was convinced that bathing in blood was the way to achieve eternal youth. To keep herself stocked in blood, she tortured, murdered, and drank the blood of literally hundreds of innocent young women. 


Countess Elizabeth Bathory
August 7, 1560 – August 21, 1614


She was born in the year 1560, into very wealthy noble family of kings, politicians, and clerics. But not all was what it seemed within her family circle, for they dabbled in black magic, satanism, and sexual escapades. And Elizabeth was exposed to all of it. Beautiful, vain, self-centered, and of such high rank, she was betrothed when she was 11 and married to Count Ferenc Nádasdy, The Black Hero of Hungary, a famous count, when she was 15.



Count Ferenc Nádasdy

The couple moved to their new home nestled deep in the Carpathian Mountains. Their castle was surrounded by rich farmlands worked by superstitious peasants and a tiny village.

Being married to a war hero had its disadvantages. She found herself mostly alone except for brief interludes when the count would return home long enough to attempt to impregnate her. Despite her four children, Elizabeth was bored and left to entertain herself. Left to her own devices, her penchant for cruelty and her horrendous temper soon veered its ugly head. Vassals and villagers were terrified of her. To relieve her boredom she took on numerous lovers, even one believed to be a vampire. Her love was pale, thin, and had sharp teeth. One day, he vanished, without an explanation, never to be found. This fueled gossip and the people became even more fearful of her. They lived in fear of making her angry or inadvertently drawing her attention. Stories of how she beat and tortured her female servants with devices she found hidden deep in the bowels of her husband's castle. She surrounded herself with those most loyal, her beloved childhood nurse, and those who practiced witchcraft of which she became a most avid pupil.

Above everything, Elizabeth valued her beuaty. Giving birth to 4 children and finding herself in her middle to late twenties, she realized her beauty was fading. Her temper became sharper, quicker, more unpredictable. She took it out on her servants, punishing them, torturing them with the devices in her dungeon. Everyone was too terrified to speak out on behalf of Elizabeth's victims for fear of reprisal. 

In the year 1600, when she was in her early 40's, her husband died. Elizabeth was sole mistress of the estate, including surrounding lands and villages. Eager to be free, she got rid of her children by sending them to nearby relatives to look after. This is when her taste for blood came to life. Desperate to hang on to her youth, she searched for an answer because all other dark rituals and potions she had attempted failed miserably.

Then one day, when a new maid angered her, she struck the young woman in the face. Blood spurted from the poor woman's nose, splashing onto Elizabeth's hand and dress. Elizabeth wiped it away, and when she did, she was certain the flesh beneath the blood was more vibrant, softer. An idea was born and she ordered one of her male servants to execute the maid and drain her blood into a tub so that she could submerge herself in it. 

An obsessions was born. Before long, her accomplices set to work and a long line of unmarried virgins were offered good paying positions to work for Elizabeth. And thus they came to the castle, but not to work in the upper chambers like promised, but forced into the torture chamber in the dark dungeon. he dark  Under Elizabeth's direction, her accomplices used the most gruesome methods to extract their blood. When their bodies were drained of blood, they were secreted away in the dead of night for burial.

Soon it became more difficult to acquire virgins. Desperate, Elizabeth and her aides had to come up with another clever plan to fool potential victims. Under the pretense of hiring a governess to tutor her children, she soon resumed her murderous ways.

Things were not that easy, however, for when poor village or peasant girls went missing, no one dared ask too many questions. But when young women of higher rank went missing, a cacaphony of suspicions arose. Elizabeth had grown careless. Instead of burying her victims, she simply allowed her henchmen to leave them out for the wolves. Soon, the authorities began to suspect something untoward was happening behind her castle's walls. The remains of one or more girls was discovered. Rumors swirled anew and the suspicons were brought to the king. He ordered an investigation, headed up by a close relative of Elizabeth's. .

On a cold night in December 1610, he and his men rode to Elizabeth's castle. Upon their arrival, they were met with a grisly scene - almost a dozen dead or dying young women, all of them horrifically tortured. A search revealed even more bodies strewn about. They immediately arrested Elizabeth and her henchmen and brought them to trial. All but one were found guilty and executed, many in a way as gruesome as those their victims faced.

But Elizabeth escaped that fate. Under Hungarian law at the time, a citizen of noble birth could not be brought to trial or executed. Determined to hold Elizabeth accountable for the murder of over 600 young women, the government passed a law that allowed her to be sealed alive in a room in her castle. The only contact she was allowed was from her guards who passed food to her through a narrow slot in the thick, locked door.

Four years later, one of those guards discovered her dead on the floor. Elizabeth was 54 years old. During her incarceration, she refused to speak about her atrocious crimes, and showed no remorse.

Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Pilgrim by Davis Bunn

Opening Paragraph:  Helena stood upon the ship's deck and surveyed the army sent to kill her. Before her stretched the harbor of Judea's provincial capital, Caesarea. The city was rimmed by hills, and the hills were crowned by temples and palaces. The might of old Rome was firmly established here, and it was her enemy.

Synopsis:  In his latest historical epic, worldwide bestselling author Davis Bunn takes readers on a journey through an ancient landscape. Travel with Empress Helena from Caesarea to Judea. Abandoned by her husband, in danger because of her faith, but with an implacable will to do what God calls her to, she takes a perilous pilgrimage. Along the way she meets those who would help her (the wizened and wise bishop Macarius; the rough-edged but kind-hearted sergeant Cratus; the young soldier Anthony, a man who has lost everything, including his faith) and those who would harm her (the menacing and murderous Roman assassin Severus). Miracles seem to follow this humble but determined woman as she wins many over to the faith, and changes lives forever—including her own. This unforgettable story of the discovery of the True Cross will thrill readers with its adventure, and with its vivid portrait of one of Christian history’s most important women. 


Review by Mirella Patzer
The Pilgrim is a brief novel (165 pages) Helena, a wealthy Roman noblewoman who was cast by her high ranking husband. In accordance with her heaven-sent visions, she travels to Judea where she could be executed for being a follower of Jesus Christ. As assassins tail her and her small group, other followers and believers of Jesus join up with her and her army slowly grows. The setting is the Holy Land during the 4th century. This small but powerful novel is about the courage and faith of Saint Helena and the forgiveness of sins. It is a tale about the True Cross, told by a master storyteller who knows how to engage the reader with his simple, but powerful prose. With each page, Davis builds tension with dangerous circumstances and fascinating characters. This unforgettable story is highly recommended!

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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At Home in Persimmon Hollow by Gerri Bauer

Opening Paragraph: A fine man, indeed. What had that woman in Jacksonville been thinking? Agnes Foster sighed. She didn't need this discouraging first encounter, not when she was already tired, bedgraggled, and disappointed in her new surroundings. The Persimmon Hollow train station was nothing more than a log shelter in a hot, isolated wilderness. It was definitely not what she expected."

Synopsis:  At Home in Persimmon Hollow is the first book in a series chronicling the world of Agnes Foster and the people of frontier-era Florida. In 1886, Agnes Foster is forced to leave the Catholic orphanage in New York where she grew up to start a new life as a teacher in Persimmon Hollow, Florida, a town she has only ever seen in a newspaper ad. With nothing but her strong Catholic faith to sustain her, she leaves behind the only home she’s ever known and the little girl she hopes to adopt, and encounters a wild and beautiful new landscape, and a town full of hardworking, faith-filled people. She also meets the difficult, yet handsome and hard-to-ignore Seth Taylor, a man whose heart has been hardened to God after a terrible loss. Just as Agnes starts to feel Persimmon Hollow could be a good home for her and her daughter, and that Seth could be her love, tragedy strikes in the form of a trio of evil men from both their pasts, intent on doing them more harm. Will their fragile new love survive? Will Seth return to his faith? Can Agnes finally escape her dark past and find a bright new future?

Review by Mirella Patzer
Also visit History and Women for bios and biographical book reviews

At Home in Persimmon Hollow by Gerri Bauer is a Catholic / Christian based historical romance novel. Set in 19th century Florida, at the heart of the story is a young woman named Agnes Foster who was raised in a Catholic orphange by nuns. After an incident with a villain, Rufus Smith, she is compelled to leave the orphanage and strike out on her own as a teacher in Persimmon Hollow. There, through a young 12 year old boy named Billy, she encounters his uncle Seth, a handsome loner. Soon, her past catches up to hger, throwing her into grave danger. In this heartwarming story-line, we experience good vs evil as entire town comes together to either aid or hamper poor Agnes. And of course, love blossoms with Seth. 

What a stunning cover! It definitely drew me to the book. I enjoyed reading a Catholic romance novel, my first, and the unique setting of 19th century Florida. The Christianity in this novel is a bit stronger than other novels, which will appeal to some and discourage others. For me, it was pure enjoyment. A nice story indeed! 

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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Maud's Line by Margaret Verble

Opening Paragraph:  Maud was bent over one row suckering tomato plants and Lovely was bent over the next one. They were talking about a girl Lovely had his eyes set on. But a cow's bawling interrupted that. Maud unfolded and looked toward the river. Lovely did the same. The bawling was loud, unnatural, and awful, and it set them to running. They ran first toward the house, not toward the sound, because neither had taken a gun to the garden. Maud stopped on the steps; Lovely rushed in for their rifles. Armed up and not bothering to talk, they both ran straight toward the pump to get to the pasture below the ridge where the howling was coming from...

Synopsis:

A debut novel chronicling the life and loves of a headstrong, earthy, and magnetic heroine

Eastern Oklahoma, 1928. Eighteen-year-old Maud Nail lives with her rogue father and sensitive brother on one of the allotments parceled out by the U.S. Government to the Cherokees when their land was confiscated for Oklahoma’s statehood. Maud’s days are filled with hard work and simple pleasures, but often marked by violence and tragedy, a fact that she accepts with determined practicality. Her prospects for a better life are slim, but when a newcomer with good looks and books rides down her section line, she takes notice. Soon she finds herself facing a series of high-stakes decisions that will determine her future and those of her loved ones.


Maud’s Line is accessible, sensuous, and vivid. It will sit on the bookshelf alongside novels by Jim Harrison, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and other beloved chroniclers of the American West and its people.

Review by Mirella Patzer
Also visit A Touch of Italy and History and Women

Maud's line is a tale about the author's own family. The story is set in beautiful Oklahoma, and delves into the culture of the First People of the land and the settlers of the era. The story includes all the expected hardships: hazards, dangers, illnesses - mental and physical, and the violence of the wild American west. The writing is simple to fall into and the story has many fascinating characters. Unfortunately, the heroine, Maud, came across as selfish and prone to foolish decisions. Nevertheless, the story is a portrait of the times and a good history of Oklahoma. 

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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The Barcelona Journal Murders by Jonathan Coan Daifuku

Opening Paragraph: "It's after midnight, so it must be Thursday. It's my fault, he must be dead. How could I have been so gullible? I'll never forgive myself. How could it have happened? My head's throbbing, too many things screaming for attention, I can't think, like the time I got lost in a thick fog in Sitges. I was seven and close to home but I got lost, an ominous silence enveloped me, the world stood still as if waiting for me to make my decis8ion, turn right, turn left? I don't know, I can't even see what's up or down. I panicked at the time, I couldn't move, but this is much worse. No silence; a voice I can't hush - his - and a pit of anguish at the bottom of my stomach. My body aches so. I spent the better part of last night walking on the Garraf heights, the moon was full, the air clear, so unlike Barcelona; at least you could see where to put your foot." 

Synopsis:

Barcelona, 1906. 

A tale of crime and mystery. Of love found, love lost and found again. Professor C… teaches a photography course at an upper-class all-women’s school. A serial killer has the city terrified; elaborately tied prostitutes are turning up in the historical medieval sector, strangled on dates ending in 4. Hired to photograph the victims, the Professor unwilling finds himself drawn into a treacherous, riddle-filled plot. Will the camera prove mightier than the sword? Are the two witty, strong-willed women in his life part of the problem or part of the solution? As C… begins to make sense of the serial killer puzzle things turn terribly personal: he and his wealthy love and student are blackmailed for what happened between them in the school’s darkroom. If they put their heads together could they find a way out of their predicament? Richly detailed and exhaustively researched, this work is written for those who enjoy who-done-it historical novels with a pinch of erotic romance. .. Or who plan to visit the old section of Barcelona … Or those interested in heroic days of early photography... The reader will be in close touch with a place: a bustling Mediterranean port-city; and a period: that of our forefathers before our modern era (pre-World War I). A time just four generations ago; a time where the mores and technical achievements are relevant yet so curiously different to ours. For over two decades Jonathan Coan Daifuku has worked in Barcelona as an architect, designer and creative advertisement agency director. He is a Rhode Island School of Design and Columbia University graduate and currently a university professor. For more information follow the Author on Facebook.

Review by Mirella Patzer
Also visit History and Women for biographical book reviews and bios of notorious women 

The Barcelona Journal Murders is both a love story and a murder mystery. Set in 1906k the protaganist is photographer who teaches a class to young women. He begins to receive anonymous messages as he is drawn in to photographing the bodies of strangled prostitutes by a serial killer. 
It is evident the author is comfortably familiar with not only the setting, but the history of photography. A lot of historical details are interwoven into the story. I especially enjoyed the toilet snippets taken from newspapers convieniently ripped into to squares for use as bathroom tissue. At a whopping 693 pages, be prepared for a long, but satisfying read. The book is divided into short chapters and scenes, which makes it easy to read. 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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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Jasper's Lament by Katherine Pym




PUBLISHER’S BLURB

London 1664. The 2nd Anglo/Dutch war is imminent, and England prepares against the threat.

After his father’s mysterious death, Jasper’s world is thrown into chaos. Coded messages, letters penned with invisible ink, and chests of gold appear from unknown sources. Dangerous symbols in unexpected places drag Jasper deeper into a conspiracy not of his making.

Torn between his new found love for a Dutchman’s daughter, and his loyalty to the king, Jasper struggles with dark forces. If he ferrets out the plotters that plan to tear England apart, will he lose the one woman he loves?



REVIEW BY ANITA

This novel draws an atmospheric and accurate picture of 17th Century London where the population is poised for a war everyone dreads and no one wants. The restoration of King Charles is still new and his having married a Catholic princess is not a popular decision for everyone. Matters of religion are also uppermost in everyone’s minds as after twelve years of Puritan rule, the Anglican Church flexes its muscles and Jasper Pitt finds himself on the wrong side.

Having reconciled to the death of his rigid and parsimonious father, Jasper discovers his parent wasn’t all his son believed. Both friends and relatives have secrets which Jasper unearths with disbelief then shock. When he falls for Placidia, a Dutch girl who may be involved in the plot for the war everyone believes will come, he is thrown into a quandary as to whether to expose her relatives, or risk being accused of spying by association.

Ms Pym's extensive research portrays the narrow streets of London, where Jasper has weaved a complicated web for himself among religious zealots and political schemers with skill and suspense. An enjoyable read for historical fans interested in a side of 17th Century London outside the royal court.


Anita Davison author of ‘Royalist Rebel’ under the name Anita Seymour. Her latest venture is a Victorian cosy mystery scheduled for release in June 2015 from Robert Hale. 


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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.