Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Review: I Am Abraham by Jerome Charyn


In I Am Abraham, Charyn returns with an unforgettable portrait of Lincoln and the Civil War. Narrated boldly in the first person, I Am Abraham effortlessly mixes humor with Shakespearean-like tragedy, in the process creating an achingly human portrait of our sixteenth President.

Tracing the historic arc of Lincoln’s life from his picaresque days as a gangly young lawyer in Sangamon County, Illinois, through his improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd, to his 1865 visit to war-shattered Richmond only days before his assassination, I Am Abraham hews closely to the familiar Lincoln saga. Charyn seamlessly braids historical figures such as Mrs. Keckley—the former slave, who became the First Lady’s dressmaker and confidante—and the swaggering and almost treasonous General McClellan with a parade of fictional extras: wise-cracking knaves, conniving hangers-on, speculators, scheming Senators, and even patriotic whores.

We encounter the renegade Rebel soldiers who flanked the District in tattered uniforms and cardboard shoes, living in a no-man’s-land between North and South; as well as the Northern deserters, young men all, with sunken, hollowed faces, sitting in the punishing sun, waiting for their rendezvous with the firing squad; and the black recruits, whom Lincoln’s own generals wanted to discard, but who play a pivotal role in winning the Civil War. At the center of this grand pageant is always Lincoln himself, clad in a green shawl, pacing the White House halls in the darkest hours of America’s bloodiest war.

Using biblically cadenced prose, cornpone nineteenth-century humor, and Lincoln’s own letters and speeches, Charyn concocts a profoundly moral but troubled commander in chief, whose relationship with his Ophelia-like wife and sons—Robert, Willie, and Tad—is explored with penetrating psychological insight and the utmost compassion. Seized by melancholy and imbued with an unfaltering sense of human worth, Charyn’s President Lincoln comes to vibrant, three-dimensional life in a haunting portrait we have rarely seen in historical fiction.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review/Giveaway: The Fairytale Keeper by Andrea Cefalo


Adelaide’s mother, Katrina, was the finest storyteller in all of Airsbach, a borough in the great city of Cologne, but she left one story untold, that of her daughter, that of Snow White. Snow White was a pet name Adelaide’s mother had given her. It was a name Adelaide hated, until now. Now, she would give anything to hear her mother say it once more.

A rampant fever claimed Adelaide’s mother just like a thousand others in Cologne where the people die without last rites and the dead are dumped in a vast pit outside the city walls. In an effort to save Katrina’s soul, Adelaide’s father obtains a secret funeral for his wife by bribing the parish priest, Father Soren.

Soren commits an unforgivable atrocity, pushing Adelaide toward vengeance. When Adelaide realizes that the corruption in Cologne reaches far beyond Soren, the cost of settling scores quickly escalates. Avenging the mother she lost may cost Adelaide everything she has left: her father, her friends, her first love, and maybe even her life.

Seamlessly weaving historical events and Grimm’s fairy tales into a tale of corruption and devotion, The Fairytale Keeper, leaves the reader wondering where fact ends and fiction begins. The novel paints Medieval Cologne accurately and vividly. The story develops a set of dynamic characters, casting the famous villains, heroes, and damsels of Grimm’s fairy tales into believable medieval lives. Though historically set, The Fairytale Keeper brims with timeless themes of love, loyalty, and the struggle for justice.

Book Review: Flamenco, Flan and Fatalities by Mary McHugh


Murder is nothing to tap at. . .

The high-kicking Happy Hoofers–Tina, Janice, Pat, Mary Louise, and Gini–have been booked to flaunt their fabulous flamenco footwork on a luxury train ride through northern Spain. But when a blowhard talk show host is found deader than four-day-old flan–with Gini as suspect numero uno–the feisty friends waste no time stepping into their sleuthing shoes to protect one of their own.

The dynamite dancers will have to step up their game before a clever killer brings the curtain down on one of them . . . for good!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Author Interview: Sam Thomas of The Witch Hunter's Tale

 
 
Check out my review of The Witch Hunter's Tale from yesterday!
 
Today, Sam Thomas visits the Back Porch to discuss his book, "The Witch Hunter's Tale".  Huzzah!
 
~~~oOo~~~
 

1.  Is it easier to write characters that have similar traits (religion, gender, etc.) to you or different from you?

Great question! I don’t think I have much in common with any of my characters, even the men! The world of the seventeenth century was so different from our own time, that while there are some similarities, I would be very nervous if I saw too many.

My characters believe in witches (and that they should be hanged), that the Pope is Anti-Christ, and the Irish are savages. I don’t believe any of these things! My goal as an author is to understand these people and portray them in as realistic way as possible to my readers.
 

2.  What draws you to the time period in which Witch Hunter's Tale is set?

I decided to set the series during the English Civil War for a few reasons. Most obviously, it is a time of high drama. The first book in the series, The Midwife’s Tale, is set during the siege of the city – what more could you want than that?

It is also the time when radical political and religious ideas were everywhere. People argued that people should choose their own religious leaders, and some wanted women have the right to vote! Then you’ve got the trial of King Charles for treason, and the establishment of a (short-lived) republic...it’s a crazy time, to be sure!
 

3.  Can you tell us a little about the first book in the series for readers who are new to your work?

The Midwife’s Tale introduces my narrator Bridget Hodgson. Bridget is a wealthy and powerful midwife, but she has recently been widowed and lost both her children – she is almost entirely alone.

Early in the book a woman named Martha Hawkins appears at Bridget’s door, looking for work. Bridget takes her in, and ultimately the two become involved in a series of murders that may (or may not!) involve one of Bridget’s friends.

As it happens, Bridget is based on a real midwife who practiced in England at this time. I stumbled across her when I was working on my doctoral thesis, and she really stayed with me. Readers can learn more about the “historical” Bridget by going to my website: www.samthomasbooks.com
 

4.  Which writers have influenced your work?
 
Oddly enough, most of them are historians. I loved Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s book, A Midwife’s Tale, and would recommend it to anyone interested in colonial America. I’ve also been reading Cormac McCarthy: his work is incredibly violent, but the language is quite amazing.

Oh, and I’m about to read Anthonly Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. He graduated from the same high school where I teach!
 

5.  Does your family have any pets?

One cat, named Snickers. Here is a picture of him trying to keep me from doing any work.
 
 
 

6.  Can you tell us something on your bookish bucket list and why it's there?

Reading or writing? For reading, I’d like to find the time to read Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. But at 848 pages, it’s so imposing! Do I want to read that, or 3-4 other books?

As for writing, I’ve got a few projects on my list. I’m working on a stand-alone novel set in colonial New England, and looks at the relationship between wars between colonists and Native Americans, as well as witch-hunting.
 
 
7.  If you could time travel to any place in history, where would you go?

Civil War England, of course! Sure, the roads are mostly mud, but I can put up with that.
 

8.  What are your thoughts on the traditional vs indie publishing routes?

That’s a tough one simply because indie books can be beautifully written and carefully edited, or they can be something that an author threw together over the weekend, and it can be very hard for excellent books to distinguish themselves from ordinary ones.

My lone concern with indie publishing is that excellent authors might stop one draft too soon and publish something that is not quite done. If you believe in your work and want a traditional publisher, be patient. Set the book aside for a month or two and then revise it again. Write a short story, and then come back. And remember: most writers have a book in the drawer that has not yet come together, and that’s okay.
 
 
9.  What kind of advice would you give to young people who like to write?

Read, read, read! Write, write, write! And remember that right off the bat you won’t be very good, and that’s okay. Writing is a skill that takes years of practice to master. (I’d been writing more or less full time for nearly a decade before I started The Midwife’s Tale.)
 
~~~oOo~~~
 
Author Links:
 



http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thewitchhunterstaleblogtour/
 
Click the logo link just above to follow the tour, featuring more reviews and interviews!  (You an also apply to review books of HFVBT while you are there!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Blast: I Am Abraham by Jerome Charyn


Narrated in Lincoln’s own voice, the tragicomic I Am Abraham promises to be the masterwork of Jerome Charyn’s remarkable career.

Since publishing his first novel in 1964, Jerome Charyn has established himself as one of the most inventive and prolific literary chroniclers of the American landscape. Here in I Am Abraham, Charyn returns with an unforgettable portrait of Lincoln and the Civil War. Narrated boldly in the first person, I Am Abraham effortlessly mixes humor with Shakespearean-like tragedy, in the process creating an achingly human portrait of our sixteenth President.

Tracing the historic arc of Lincoln’s life from his picaresque days as a gangly young lawyer in Sangamon County, Illinois, through his improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd, to his 1865 visit to war-shattered Richmond only days before his assassination, I Am Abraham hews closely to the familiar Lincoln saga. Charyn seamlessly braids historical figures such as Mrs. Keckley—the former slave, who became the First Lady’s dressmaker and confidante—and the swaggering and almost treasonous General McClellan with a parade of fictional extras: wise-cracking knaves, conniving hangers-on, speculators, scheming Senators, and even patriotic whores.

We encounter the renegade Rebel soldiers who flanked the District in tattered uniforms and cardboard shoes, living in a no-man’s-land between North and South; as well as the Northern deserters, young men all, with sunken, hollowed faces, sitting in the punishing sun, waiting for their rendezvous with the firing squad; and the black recruits, whom Lincoln’s own generals wanted to discard, but who play a pivotal role in winning the Civil War. At the center of this grand pageant is always Lincoln himself, clad in a green shawl, pacing the White House halls in the darkest hours of America’s bloodiest war.

Using biblically cadenced prose, cornpone nineteenth-century humor, and Lincoln’s own letters and speeches, Charyn concocts a profoundly moral but troubled commander in chief, whose relationship with his Ophelia-like wife and sons—Robert, Willie, and Tad—is explored with penetrating psychological insight and the utmost compassion. Seized by melancholy and imbued with an unfaltering sense of human worth, Charyn’s President Lincoln comes to vibrant, three-dimensional life in a haunting portrait we have rarely seen in historical fiction.


Book Review: The Witch Hunter's Tale by Sam Thomas

 
(Be sure to come back tomorrow for my interview with the author, Sam Thomas!)

Sam Thomas takes readers back to Puritan England with midwife Bridget Hodgson, hailed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction.”

Winter has come to the city of York, and with it the threat of witchcraft. As women and children sicken and die, midwife Bridget Hodgson is pulled against her will into a full-scale witch-hunt that threatens to devour all in its path, guilty and innocent alike.

Bridget—accompanied once again by her deputy Martha Hawkins and her nephew Will Hodgson—finds herself playing a lethal game of cat and mouse against the most dangerous men in York, as well as her sworn enemy Rebecca Hooke. As the trials begin, and the noose begins to tighten around her neck, Bridget must answer the question: How far will she go to protect the people she loves?


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review/Kindle Giveaway: Between the Cracks by Carmela Cattuti


Join Angela Lanza as she experiences the tumultuous world of early 20th century Sicily and New York. Orphaned by the earthquake and powerful eruption of Mt. Etna in 1908, Angela is raised in the strict confines of an Italian convent. Through various twists of fate, she is married to a young Italian man whom she barely knows, then together with her spouse, immigrates to the U.S. This novel is an invitation to accompany the young Angela as she confronts the ephemeral nature of life on this planet and navigates the wide cultural gaps between pre-World War II Italy and the booming prosperity of dynamic young America. Author, artist, and teacher Carmela Cattuti created Between the Cracks as an homage to her great-aunt, who survived the earthquake and eruption of Mt. Etna and bravely left Sicily to start a new life in America.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Book Review: Close to the Sun by Donald Michael Platt


Publication Date: June 15, 2014
Fireship Press
eBook; 404p
Genre: Historical Fiction

Close to the Sun follows the lives of fighter pilots during the Second World War. As a boy, Hank Milroy from Wyoming idealized the gallant exploits of WWI fighter aces. Karl, F├╝rst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field.

The young men encounter friends, rivals, and exceptional women. Braxton Mobley, the hotshot, wants to outscore every man in the air force. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German Intelligence. Elfriede Wohlman is a frontline nurse with a dangerous secret. Miriam Keramopoulos is the girl from Brooklyn with a voice that will take her places.

Once the United States enter the war, Hank, Brax, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and the firebombing of entire cities. As one of the hated aristocrats, Karl is in as much danger from Nazis as he is from enemy fighter pilots, as he and his colleagues desperately try to stem the overwhelming tide as the war turns against Germany. Callous political decisions, disastrous mistakes, and horrific atrocities they witness at the end of WWII put a dark spin on all their dreams of glory.


Book Review: The Monster that Ate My Socks by A.J. Cosmo


SYNOPSIS

A young boy, who is about to be grounded for going through so many socks, discovers that a monster has been eating them.

Max is a young boy who is constantly getting in trouble for his socks disappearing. He doesn’t know where they go, but he does know that if he doesn’t do something quickly his mom will ground him for summer. Max soon discovers that a little green monster is sneaking into his room at night and eating his sweaty socks. His mother, of course, doesn't believe him, so Max calls on his best friend to come for a sleepover to catch the monster.

They devise a trap and capture the monster only to learn that the creature can speak. It hasn’t meant to cause any harm, it's just trying to feed its family. The monster shows them his home and his three little children and begs the boys not to turn them over to the adults. Adults, he says, want to destroy monsters. 

The boys are left in a pickle. Allow the monsters to be and get grounded, or turn the monsters in knowing what will happen to them? Neither idea seems good, so they come up with a new plan!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Review: Community Affairs by Michele Lynn Seigfried


A tale of kidnapping, murder, and neighbors you’d like to kidnap and murder…

 Bonnie Fattori is a sexy, sassy, Italian Princess living in New Jersey. She’s loving life with a rich husband, beachfront living, and a promotion at work—until a new neighbor, Lyla Spratt, is determined to destroy her happiness.

 After several run-ins with the unstable woman next door, Bonnie starts to suspect a connection between her new neighbor and the untimely death of a local resident, Polly Pitcher. She recruits her good friend Chelsey to help figure out if her suspicions are correct.

As the neighbors go head-to-head in a hilarious battle, Lyla is pushed to the brink of insanity. The more unhinged Lyla becomes, the more Bonnie’s life and the safety of her family are at risk. Can Bonnie find out what really happened to Polly Pitcher before it’s too late? A perfect read for those who like laugh-out-loud humor in their mysteries!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Book Review: Scent of Butterflies by Dora Levy Mossanen


SYNOPSIS

Betrayal, forgiveness, identity and obsession churn against the tumultuous landscape of the Islamic revolution and seemingly perfect gardens of southern California in this compelling novel from bestselling author Dora Levy Mossanen.

Amidst a shattering betrayal and a country in turmoil, Soraya flees Iran to make a new life for herself in Los Angeles. The cruel and intimate blow her husband has dealt her awakens an obsessive streak that explodes in the heated world of Southern California, as Soraya plots her revenge against the other woman, her best friend, Butterfly. What she discovers proves far more devastating than anything she had ever imagined, unleashing a whirlwind of events that leave the reader breathless.

A novel singed by the flavors of Tehran, imbued with the Iranian roots of Persepolis and the culture clash of Rooftops of Tehran, this is a striking, nuanced story of a woman caught between two worlds, from the bestselling author of Harem, Courtesan, and The Last Romanov.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book Review: Death of a Beauty Queen by Barbara Jean Coast


It’s the 1950’s in Santa Lucia, California, and the height of the social season. Time for the new Miss Santa Lucia, Nora Burbank, to display her loveliness at a high society fashion show produced by the city’s own fashionistas–Margot and Daphne, owners of Poppy Cove, the most elegant and “in” little dress shop in the county.

Nora steals the show in her designer gown and custom-made necklace created by local jeweler Isaac Mendelson, and used on the sly by his apprentice son-in-law, Efrem Goldberg. At the conclusion of the show, the young queen is allowed to keep her dress and a replica of the necklace for her own. But Monday morning, Efrem arrives in a panic at Poppy Cove to beg Margot and Daphne’s assistance in tracking down the real necklace, which he believes was inadvertently switched for the replica backstage. The girls get involved in Efrem’s dilemma and try to help him before Isaac’s any the wiser. But before that can happen, Miss Santa Lucia is found dead in her bed and the necklace is missing.

Who killed Nora Burbank? Is it someone jealous of her new royal position and all of its perks? Or did she just happen to be in the way when a thief attempted to steal her diamond-studded necklace? Did Nora have the real or the fake necklace, and how much did the thief and murderer know about it? But, of course, before the girls can find the killer, they’ll have to create several beautiful ensembles, calm numerous irate clients, and flirt with their ever-so-attentive boyfriends, before solving this mystery.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Blast: Red Fury Revolt by J. F. Ridgley


Publication Date: January 31, 2015
Publishers:  R Pride Publishing
Format:  eBook; 412p
ASIN: B00QJJFCYK
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Book One, The Agricola Series

~~~oOo~~~

SYNOPSIS

Something keeps drawing G. Julius Agricola to Britannia again and again…

This is where it starts… book one, Red Fury…Revolt

A.D. 60…

Camulodunum! Londinium! Verulaneum!

Three towns writhe under the Iceni queen’s wrath, as she leads her warriors intent on destroying all things Roman – be it Roman temples, Roman villas, or entire families sympathetic to Rome. At stake is Suetonius Paulinus’s reputation. With only 80,000 legionaries, will he destroy Boudica or will he endure the disgrace in Rome for losing–to a woman?

Julius Agricola-Rome’s tribune, and Rhianna-Boudica’s youngest daughter, become ensnared in this horrific historical revolt against Roman injustice. Just as Julius and Rhianna reveal their love to each other, they are hurled back into the harsh reality of their differing worlds that are determined to destroy each other.

Who will survive?


Monday, February 2, 2015

Cover Reveal: A Dish Best Served Cold by Rosie Genova


The national bestselling author of The Wedding Soup Murder returns to the Jersey Shore where a killer is stirring up trouble during a hurricane…

At the Casa Lido, the end of summer means a party, and hit whodunit writer Victoria “Vic” Rienzi and her family are cooking like crazy for the restaurant’s seventieth anniversary celebration. As they chop onions and garlic, old family friend Pete Petrocelli stops by, saying he knows something that would make for a good mystery novel. Curious, Vic asks Nonna to elaborate on Pete’s claim and learns of a relative who mysteriously disappeared back in Italy…

The night of the party brings a crowd—and a full throttle hurricane. When the storm finally passes, everyone thinks they’re in the clear—until the first casualty is found, and it’s Pete. Remembering his visit, Vic isn’t certain Pete’s death was an accident and decides to dig deeper into his story. What she finds is meatier than Nonna’s sauce… 

~~~oOo~~~


A Jersey girl born and bred, national bestselling author Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. The atmosphere of the Jersey shore is present in the details, whether it’s the smell of the sea, the sound of a Springsteen song, or the taste of a frozen custard on the boardwalk. And no summer is complete unless she has sand in her shoes.

Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. The first book in the series, Murder and Marinara, was voted a Best Cozy of 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was a finalist for a 2014 Daphne Award.

~~~oOo~~~

I was fortunate enough to review Wedding Soup Murder, book 2 in the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, in September of 2014, and interviewed the author!