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.

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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.

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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.

Shriver by Chris Belden

In this charming, clever, and darkly satiric novel set at a writers’ conference, one man finds himself caught in a whirlwind of literary pretention, a suspect in a criminal investigation, and hopelessly in love with a woman who thinks he’s someone else.

Mistaken for a famous but reclusive author of the same name, lonely Shriver attends a writers’ conference at a small Midwestern liberal arts college. Completely unfamiliar with the novel he supposedly wrote and utterly unprepared for the magnitude of the reputation that precedes him, Shriver is feted, fawned over, featured at stuffy literary panels, and barely manages to play it cool. Things quickly go awry when one of the other guest authors suddenly disappears and Shriver becomes a prime suspect in the investigation. Amidst eager fans, Shriver must contend with a persistent police detective, a pesky journalist determined to unearth his past, and a mysterious and possibly dangerous stalker who seems to know his secret. But most vexing of all, Shriver’s gone and fallen in love with the conference organizer, who believes he’s someone else. When the “real” Shriver (or is he?) appears to claim his place among the literati, the conference—and Shriver’s world—threaten to unravel. Filled with witty dialogue, hilarious antics, and a cast of bizarre and endearing characters, Shriver is at once a touching love story, a surreal examination of identity, and an affectionate tribute to the power of writing.


Shriver has to be the most uniquely fascinating book I have ever read. It is vastly different, unclassifiable, and intensely entertaining. The back cover blurb aptly describes what the book is about, but it does little to express just how charming this little book truly is. Its pages are filled with quirky characters, outlandish situations, a protaganist who is a loser in real life, but who readers ultimately fall in love with. The books beauty is in its simplicity - easy to read, brief, witty. I definitely recommend this great little book, especially for readers who want something unique, whimsical, enchanting!  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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