Friday, May 27, 2016

Blog Tour: Happily Ever Afater: The Write More Publications: Fractured Fairy Tale Anthology by Various Authors: A Book Review

Happily Ever After: The Write More Publications Fractured Fairy Tale Anthology
by Various Authors
Release Date: April 17th 2016
Write More Publications
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Source: This book was given to me by YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Summary from Goodreads: From princesses and princes, to witches, ice queens, imaginary friends, and dorks, Happily Ever After: The Write More Publications Fractured Fairy Tale Anthology has it all! Seven unforgettable stories by seven talented authors! Some stories are fractured takes on classics, while others are originals that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page!  Featured Authors: Dana Piazzi, Jordan Hancock, Kim Stevens, Elaine White, Vanessa Hancock, Michelle Feury, and Stephanie Parke

     My Review: Happily Ever After is a fun anthology that is suited for lovers of fairytales. This anthology ranges from medieval to contemporary fairytales. These short stories have a different take to the fairytales that we know and love and there are a few original stories. Each of them end in a happy feel good way that will leave you gushing with happiness.


     One thing that I like about these stories is that they take these fairytale princesses and make them stronger. They are not the classic fairytale princesses who are damsels in distress. Instead, they can take care of themselves. They are smart and observant. Each of them are determined to make their own happiness and dreams come true. The heroines grow very confident and learn to rely on themselves. Therefore, I liked how these authors have portrayed these characters.

     Overall, this anthology gives us a twist on our favorite fairy tales. There were some stories that I did not like as well because I did not like their twist on a few of my favorite fairy tales, I did enjoy them all and found them entertaining. While I did not necessarily like the story, I did find them all very well-written. This anthology is filled with romance, adventure, humor, and action. My favorite stories in this anthology were “Blue Bird” by Kim Stevens, “The Legend of the Ember Bark Tree”, “Frost Bite” by Stephanie Parke. While each of these stories are different, they each end happily. This was also a very quick and easy read, and I believe that they are perfect for a bedtime story. I recommend this book for fantasy, romance, and fairytale lovers. Therefore, I suggest that you grab of cup of coffee and read this book. I promise that you will not regret it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Buy from Amazon.

About the Authors:

Dana Piazzi, Jordan Hancock, Kim Stevens, Elaine White, Vanessa Hancock, Michelle Feury, and Stephanie Parke


Giveaway: 

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Book Blast: A Pressing Engagement (Lady Darby Mystery #4.5) by Anna Lee Huber

02_A Pressing Engagement

A Pressing Engagement (Lady Darby Mystery #4.5) by Anna Lee Huber

Publication Date: May 17, 2016
InterMix
eBook; 83 Pages
Series: Lady Darby Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

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Summary: In this delightful novella from the national bestselling author of A Study in Death, Lady Kiera Darby has one last mystery to solve before she can walk down the aisle…

Scotland, 1831. With her wedding to fellow investigator Sebastian Gage only a day away, Kiera is counting down the hours. But just when matrimonial jitters threaten to consume her, Kiera receives a welcome distraction in the form of a mysterious gold necklace.

The Celtic torc, thought missing for decades, was directly involved in a recent investigation. Now, Kiera feels compelled to uncover the truth behind its sudden reappearance.

But with an overwhelming flock of wedding guests, a muddled cat, an unpaid favor, and a ferocious storm throwing things into disarray, it’s anyone’s guess whether Kiera and Gage will actually make it to the altar…

Includes an exclusive preview of the next Lady Darby Mystery, As Death Draws Near.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iBooks


Praise for the Lady Darby Mysteries


“[A] fascinating heroine…A thoroughly enjoyable read!”—Victoria Thompson, national bestselling author

“[A] clever heroine with a shocking past and a talent for detection.”—Carol K. Carr, national bestselling author

“[A] must read…One of those rare books that will both shock and please readers.”—Fresh Fiction


About the Author

03_Anna Lee Huber

Anna Lee Huber is the Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mystery Series. She was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, and graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN with a degree in music and a minor in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana, and when not working on her next book she enjoys reading, singing, traveling and spending time with her family.

For more information please visit www.annaleehuber.com. Connect with Anna Lee Huber on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Interview with Radha Vasal

     Today, I have the pleasure to interview Radha Vasal. She is the author of A Front Page Affair. It is the first novel in this historical mystery series that features the amateur sleuth, Kitty Weeks. Kitty Weeks is a journalist that writes for the "Ladies' Page" for The Sentinel. However, she wants to about other topics in within the newspaper. When she stumbles upon a murder, she finds an opportunity where her dreams may turn into reality. I have read and reviewed A Front Page Affair and enjoyed it immensely. I hope this interview will give you some further insight about her  debut novel. Thank you, Miss Vasal.


What drew you to write historical mysteries?

I love mysteries and I love period piece dramas. I also love learning about history. It seemed like a great fit to put all my interests together.

What drew you to that particular time period?

I’m fascinated by all the changes that took place during the 1910s. As readers, we may be more familiar with the robber barons of the late 19th-century, or the flappers of the 1920’s Jazz Age.   But the 1910s are the decade in which New York and America went from being Victorian to modern. How did so much change happen so rapidly?  We find out during the World War I decade.

Was it liberating to write about a strong nontraditional woman in a patriarchal society? 

It was very liberating to write about a strong nontraditional woman in a patriarchal society but I also felt I needed to create realistic obstacles for Kitty to navigate.  She’s young, she’s pretty, she’s well-off, and she drives her own car. That gives her a lot of freedom but it also creates problems and results in unanticipated consequences.  

How difficult is it to come up an original mystery that will keep readers interest but not too easy to solve?

It’s not easy at all!  I worked on A Front Page Affair for many years.  The trick, I think, it’s to keep the journey interesting. So even if the reader guesses who committed the crime, they want to know how it was done, why, or other details.

How did you do research for A Front Page Affair?

I look at secondary sources for general overviews but mainly I rely on sources from the 1910s.  I list many of these at the back of the novel, and you can see that they consist of a variety of materials: guidebooks, advice manuals, newspapers, magazines, and even advertisements.

What do you hope readers can take away from the novel?

For me, the takeaway is that we are where we are today because of series of events, some well known and others more unexpected. We shouldn’t take anything for granted but always ask questions about how things came to be.

This is the first novel in the Kitty Weeks series. How many novels do you have planned so far in this series?

I’ve already written the second book in the series, and I’m in the planning stages for book 3.  I’d like to series go on through the end of World War I and up to 1920—when women won the right to vote.

What should readers expect of Kitty Weeks in the next novel?

The next novel takes place between December 1915-January 1916. President Wilson has just remarried while in office and he urges the country to prepare for war, while Kitty investigates the death of a boarding-school student whose mother is a suffragist and whose father works for the Navy.

Radha Vasal is the author for A Front Page Affair. She lives in New York City and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America-NY, sisters in Crime-NY, and International Thriller Writers.


Also check out my review of her novel:



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Interview with Weina Dai Randel

     Today, I have the pleasure to interview Weina Dai Randel. She is the author of The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon. Both of these books are about the early life of Wu Zetian, China's only female Emperor. I have reviewed these books, and I enjoyed them immensely. I hope this interview will give you some insight into her writing, and also her subject, the fascinating Wu Zetian. Thank you, Mrs. Randel.



What is it about Empress Wu that fascinated you?

     I grew up watching a TV show about Empress Wu, played by a famous Taiwanese actress called Pan Yingzi. I don't remember much about what happened in the show, but I loved the show then and the fact that Empress Wu was the first and only female ruler in China was most fascinating to me.  

In history's judgement of Empress Wu, what qualities do you think have been misrepresented and which have been justified?

     I want to say many admirable qualities of Empress Wu were omitted, but it's not that simple, isn't it?

     The truth is Empress Wu, who lived in the 7th century, would regrettably remain a myth to us, despite of the historical record such as Tang Hui Yao and Old Tang Book. We don't really know what kind of qualities she possessed prior of her becoming the ruler of the country. Most of the qualities you read from The Moon In The Palace were of my imagination. 

     With that said, I would say traditional views of Empress Wu, painted by Confucian scholars, are mostly negative, vicious and slanderous. Empress Wu could possibly be the most resourceful, witty, charitable, strategic, possessing all the redeemable attributes that defined her as a brilliant ruler who ushered in the golden age in China, but she was not described in the history this way – for that, we have to understand that the historians who wrote the history were officials commissioned by emperors. If they wrote something the emperor disapproved, their ranks, and their heads, would be at stake.

     So what facts did the historians record? It was likely that she obliterated the sons of Emperor Taizong as she ascended to the throne; it was likely that a number of her ministers were corrupted and abused the power; it was also likely that she had a favorite male companion, thirty years after her husband's death. 

     What qualities do you think she have possessed? It all depends on what standards you use to measure her.
   
You wrote two books about Empress Wu's early life under two emperors, which book was more difficult to write about?

     The second book was more difficult to write in terms of emotions. I was very depressed, for months, when I was writing the second part of the novel, The Empress of Bright Moon, when she suffered great losses. I am a mother myself, and I simply couldn't bear to have her go through that trial. 

Consort Xiao, The Noble Lady in your story, has been one of Wu's main enemies siding with Empress Wang. Yet, in this story, you portray as a sympathetic character who does not have an antagonism towards Wu. What made you portray her in a non-traditional way?

     I decided to discard the images of Consort Xiao, and of Empress Wang too, painted by traditional Confucian scholars. Their views of women seemed misogynistic, and their portrayal of women in the palace often fell into two stereotypes: good women who were chaste, pious, and pretty, and evil women who were jealous, petty-minded, and quarrelsome. I'm saying this because I read three volumes of The Two-thousand-year History of Empresses and Chief Consorts in China and all the images of the women portrayed there belonged to these two categories.

     I didn't accept these images. It is my belief that women were capable of sharing the camaraderie and bond that Confucian scholars would not understand, and their relationship could go beyond the scholars' understanding as well.  
   
     The role of Consort Xiao was also reduced in the Empress of Bright Moon duology for creative necessities. It is the story of Empress Wu, and since Empress Wang was set up as the major obstacle for Empress Wu, to focus on Consort Xiao as another enemy would repeat the rivalry similar to Jewel and Mei, as seen in The Moon in the Palace.   

The Tang was known to give women many freedoms. How was that particular dynasty different to the more restrictive dynasties? Do you think she could have become Emperor of China in another dynasty, or was she born into the right period?

     You're right that women in the Tang Dynasty had more freedoms: they could walk, stroll and ride horses and even play polo. After the Tang Dynasty, as you know, women were forced to break their toes and bind their feet. When a woman's movement was restricted even in her own household, and when she had to suffer the constant pain on her body, many resources would be limited and many dreams would have died before they were even lit. So would Empress Wu become Emperor in another dynasty? I don't think so. 

In the West, there have not been many historical biographies of Asian female figures. Why do you think there are so little authors writing about these women?

     Novels are fragrant trees that bloom on its own cultural soil and beckon at people attracted to their scent. Male writers, even though they might be interested in the Chinese culture, are less likely to be drawn to a woman's journey; women writers, on the other hand, might be likely attached to female heroes bred from their own culture. 

     I hope with more people traveling and more interactions, this confinement within cultures will change! 

Do you think there is a bias against multiple cultures in the publishing industry?

     I'm constantly told that publishing industry is a business, means, it has to make money. I can see this clearly now. If no one is buying multi-cultural books, then it's likely that the book, and future books of this type, won't be published. But if these books are well received and profitable, and it's likely the publishers will publish more of the books.     

You have been a model of resilience with eighty-two rejection letter and ten years of writing. Yet, you never gave up. What advice do you have for other authors struggling to get published?

     Thank you! I'm pleased to hear my experience offers inspiration. I would suggest that, if you intend to get published, sit down, read and write. Reading is actually very important, and try to read the books whose style appeal to you. And write, yes, write every day! 

What projects are you currently working on?

     I'm working on another project set in China. It's completely unrelated to Empress Wu!

     Weina Dai Randel is the author of The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon. She lives in Flower Mound, Texas with her husband and two children. Visit her website.



Also check out my reviews of her novels:


Friday, May 13, 2016

Grendel's Mother by Diana Stout: A Book Review

Grendel’s Mother
Author: Diana Stout
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Sharpened Pencils Productions
Release Date: March 16, 2016
Pages: 113
Source:  This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: A 15-year-old girl dreams of freedom, with a desire to marry the young man she loves. A horrific event changes her life forever. Pregnant and having brought shame to her family and community, she is sacrificed to the dragon to die, but instead, the dragon saves her unbeknownst to her family and the community. 

     This literary novel reveals a journey of societal injustice, a girl's love for Nature that enables her to survive life in the wild alone, of her giving birth and raising a baby—deemed a monster—entirely on her own. 

     In the end, not only does she battle Grendel to keep him safe, but she battles her son’s killer, Beowulf, as well. 

     My Review: Grendel’s Mother is one of the main antagonists in Beowulf. While reading the tale, the reader always cheers in delight when Beowulf kills Grendel’s Mother. Yet, is Grendel’s Mother really a monster or a villain? There is hardly any information about Grendel’s Mother, and she does not make an appearance till after Grendel is dead. In this novel, Grendel’s Mother is portrayed as a victim of injustice in a brutal world and a patriarchal society.

     Grendel’s Mother is unnamed and she narrates this story. In this story, she dreams of a happy future and dreams of being married to her young lover. However, she eventually realizes that she does not have the future she deserves. For as a woman, she is merely regarded as a chattel and a pawn for a stronger marriage alliance. One day, after a horrible event, she finds herself pregnant out of wedlock. Because of this, she is ordered to be sacrificed to a dragon. However, the dragon does not kill her, and helps her escape. Soon, Grendel’s Mother must learn to survive on her own.

     I really loved the character of Grendel’s Mother. She is very relatable and sympathetic. At first, she is very naive and idealistic. However, due to the cruelties of life, her dreams are taken away. It is because of the injustice in her world that she hardens a hatred for those who have done her harm. I also found her to be a strong, wise, and resourceful woman. She is a woman who has not given up and fights for herself and her son. She also loves her son very much and tries her best to protect him. She is also very respectful to nature. Thus, this woman is not the monster as she is portrayed in Beowulf.

     Overall, this book is about love, family, dreams, choices, and freedom. This novel is about a woman who is trying to find peace and happiness. This novel was a very short read, and I would have liked it to be longer. I wanted more characterization of Grendel. This book also had many unanswered questions, and I would have liked them to have been resolved. Still, this was a faithful retelling of Beowulf told from a different perspective. The story is very beautifully written, and readers will admire how strong Grendel’s Mother is and experience the heart-breaking tragedy that will unfold within these short pages. I recommend this story for fans of Beowulf, origin stories about infamous villains, and survival stories.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Prophetess: Deborah's Story by Jill Eileen Smith: A Book Review

The Prophetess: Deborah’s Story 
Author: Jill Eileen Smith
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biblical Fiction, Christian
Publisher: Revell
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Pages: 370
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Canaan has ravaged Israel. The people are in hiding. All that stands between surrender and hope is one untested woman. 

     Deborah will never forget the day her father and brothers left to worship at the Lord's tabernacle--or the wails of her mother after finding their bodies at the city gates. The memories of Canaan's cruelty haunt her and all of Israel. Now in this dark time, the Lord calls on Deborah to lead His people away from the idols of other nations and back to Him. 

     Deborah never asked to be a prophetess or a judge over God's people. Still, she cannot deny His voice or the visions that accompany it. Can her family ever understand? Will her people believe God's calling on her life? And can the Canaanite menace be stopped?

     With her trademark impeccable research and imaginative storytelling, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the story of Israel's most powerful woman in this intriguing and inspiring novel.

     My Review: The Prophetess is a retelling of the Biblical Deborah. Deborah is briefly mentioned in the Book of Judges. She is the only female judge in the Bible. She was a prophet that led a successful rebellion of King Jabin. However, because she is briefly mentioned, there is not much that we know about Deborah except that she was the wife of Lapidoth. In this retelling, Jill Eileen Smith has given us a backstory to Deborah and shows us a strong and courageous woman who is willing to do God’s will.

     It is hard to do a novel about Deborah because there is so little information about her. Yet, Jill Eileen Smith manages to flesh her out. Deborah, in this story, is bold and wise. She is also very strong willed. She is a very loving and caring woman. She could also be overprotective and overbearing sometimes, which causes frequent arguments with her daughter, who is also strong-willed and stubborn. However, she strongly believes in God and yearns to follow his will. She does have some trials and obstacles in her life where she does question God’s judgement. However, at the end, she remains resilient and unyielding in her faith, which causes her to triumph.

     Overall, this book is about faith, love, family, courage, and second chances. The message of this book is to always trust in God’s will and that there is always hope even when there is a lot of darkness and suffering. I loved all the characters, and I found them to be fleshed out. My favorite is Jael, who is headstrong and protective like Deborah, and Barak, who is very honorable and who is undergoing a slow healing process over the death of a loved one. This book is also filled with romance, suspense, political intrigue, and action. I also loved how this novel shows strong women and how these women made a difference in the biblical world. I look forward to reading more books from this author. I recommend this book to fans of Angela Hunt, Joan Wolf, Rebecca Kanner, and Tosca Lee. Deborah’s story will be sure to inspire you and linger with you long after you have finished reading the last page.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Guest Post by Andrew Joyce: Belinda Mulrooney: Queen of the Klondike

     Today, I have the pleasure to host Andrew Joyce again. He has written the book Molly Lee, and has just released his new novel, Resolution: Huck Finn's Greatest Adventure. This novel stars not only Huck Finn but also Molly Lee. In this guest post, he discusses a historical figure, Belinda Mulrooney, whom he came across while writing, Resolution. I hope you find her story interesting and that this gives you some insight into his new book. Thank you, Mr. Joyce.



Belinda Mulrooney: Queen of the Klondike


     While doing research for my latest novel, Resolution: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure, I came across an astounding woman—one who bested some of the toughest men in the world at their own game. Her name was Belinda Mulrooney. 



     The setting for RESOLUTION is the Yukon Territory in the year 1896. The biggest discovery of gold had just been made and the outside world was flocking in by the tens of thousands. The women who made the arduous climb over the Chilkoot Pass and flowed down the Yukon River to Dawson City—the hub of the goldfields—all travelled with their menfolk. All, that is, except the twenty-five year old Belinda. She came to Dawson City in 1897 . . . alone.

     She arrived without a dime to her name, but she had had the foresight to bring along something that she knew would be in great demand in that hostile environment. She brought one bolt of silk and another of cotton along with fine and delicate ladies’ undergarments. She had trudged over the pass carrying dresses, petticoats, and things that the women who had been in the vicinity before the gold strike—and those that were pouring in—would pay a hefty price for.

     Belinda constructed a crude cabin from scrap lumber to live in; its roof—a piece of canvas. The cabin also doubled as a makeshift store. She set up a wood plank to act as a counter and went into business.

     After months and sometimes years of wearing coarse, men’s clothing, the women were more than ready to feel a little softness against their skin. They had their men pulling out their pokes of gold dust and lining up with them to purchase the frilly treasures before they were all gone.

     Once the last camisole had been sold and Belinda had a substantial poke of her own, she cast an eye about to see how she would next separate the miners from their dust.

     She noticed that the few eating establishments in town offered a very dull bill of fare, so she hired herself a man to do the cooking and converted her store into a restaurant. The food she served was so far superior to her competitors’ that the miners were soon lining up outside her cabin, waiting for a seat at one of the few tables inside.

     Her poke grew even heavier.

     When Belinda saw that the influx of people to the area was not abating, but growing, she went into the property development business. She bought empty lots in town, hired men to build cabins on them, and sold the cabins for an astronomical profit. 

     Her poke grew heavier still.

     At the time, all the mining took place up Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks. When the men needed supplies or just a respite from their back-breaking labors, they would have to hike into Dawson. But first they would have to trek down-creek anywhere from five to ten miles to where the creeks converged. Then it was an additional sixteen miles into Dawson.

     Belinda looked at the spit of land where the creeks met and thought it would be a good place to build a hotel and save the miners a thirty-two mile roundtrip hike into Dawson. And at the same time, add a little dust to her poke. Hence, she built the Grand Forks Hotel—a two-story affair. The downstairs housed the bar and the dining room. Upstairs were bunk beds for the miners to catch forty winks before heading back to their claims. The place was always filled to capacity . . . and then some. The hotel was such a success that Belinda built another one. The Fairview Hotel was the first three-story structure in Dawson.

     The gold dust continued to pour in.

     With no sewers or sanitary conditions to speak of, the water around Dawson soon became polluted. So Belinda started the Yukon Hygeia Water Supply Company, which sold boiled and purified water. The endeavor paid off handsomely. She also bought stakes in numerous claims up and down the creeks. Within a year of landing in Dawson as a penniless, single woman, she had amassed a fortune of almost three million dollars.

     The next year, she married a man that was more in love with her money than with her. After he had gone through a good portion of it, she caught on and divorced him.

     In 1908, she settled in Washington State where she built herself a grand mansion. She lived there until the 1920’s when her money ran out forcing her to take menial jobs such as housekeeping and sewing dresses for the wealthy ladies of Seattle.

     She died in 1967 at the ripe old age of 95, feisty to the end.

     Belinda Mulrooney left the Yukon Territory with as much gold, if not more, than any of the miners. And she did so without panning for an ounce of it while standing stooped over in the freezing waters of a creek. She did it without turning one shovelful of frozen earth. She did it using her wits and the brains that the good Lord had given her.

     Belinda Mulrooney was one helluva woman!

Resolution: Huck Finn's Greatest Adventure


Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure, Romance
Publisher: William Birch & Assoc.
Release Date: April 13, 2016
Pages: 370
Synopsis: It is 1896 in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The largest gold strike in the annals of human history has just been made; however, word of the discovery will not reach the outside world for another year. 

     By happenstance, a fifty-nine-year-old Huck Finn and his lady friend, Molly Lee, are on hand, but they are not interested in gold. They have come to that neck of the woods seeking adventure. 

     Someone should have warned them, “Be careful what you wish for.” 

     When disaster strikes, they volunteer to save the day by making an arduous six hundred mile journey by dog sled in the depths of a Yukon winter. They race against time, nature, and man. With the temperature hovering around seventy degrees below zero, they must fight every day if they are to live to see the next.

     On the frozen trail, they are put upon by murderers, hungry wolves, and hostile Indians, but those adversaries have nothing over the weather. At seventy below, your spit freezes a foot from your face. Your cheeks burn—your skin turns purple and black as it dies from the cold. You are in constant danger of losing fingers and toes to frostbite. 

     It is into this world that Huck and Molly race. 

     They cannot stop. They cannot turn back. They can only go on. Lives hang in the balance—including theirs. 


About the Author: 

     
     Andrew Joyce is the author of Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn, Molly Lee, and Resoultion: Huck Finn's Greatest Adventure. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he lives with his dog, Danny. He is currently working on his next novel, Yellow Hair. For more information, visit his website.