Thursday, October 30, 2014

Blog Tour: Enchantress (Book 2 of Rav Hisda's Daughter's Trilogy) by Maggie Anton: A Book Review

02_Enchantress
Enchantress by Maggie Anton
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Plume
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 400
Series: Rav Hisda's Daughter
Genre: Historical Fiction/Historical Fantasy
Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

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     Fantastic tales of demons and the Evil Eye, magical incantations, and powerful attractions abound in Enchantress, a novel that weaves together Talmudic lore, ancient Jewish magic, and a timeless love story set in fourth-century Babylonia.

     One of the most powerful practitioners of these mysterious arts is Rav Hisda's daughter, whose innate awareness allows her to possess the skills men lack. With her husband, Rava--whose arcane knowledge of the secret Torah enables him to create a "man"out of earth and to resurrect another rabbi from death--the two brave an evil sorceress, Ashmedai the Demon King, and even the Angel of Death in their quest to safeguard their people, even while putting their romance at risk.

     The author of the acclaimed Rashi's Daughters series and the award-winning Rav Hisda's Daughter: Apprentice has conjured literary magic in the land where "abracadabra"originated. Based on five years of research and populated with characters from the Talmud, Enchantress brings a pivotal era of Jewish and Christian history to life from the perspective of a courageous and passionate woman.

     My Review: Enchantress tells the story of Hisdadukh, the daughter of Rav Hisda, who is frequently mentioned in The Talmud. Hisdadukh is a pupil under an enchantress called Em. Under her teaching, Hisdadukh is responsible for ridding out the demons who have taunted the people in her town. While she faces the demons and an evil sorceress she forms a budding relationship with a Jewish scholar, Rava. Based off of the characters in Talmud, this book shows us the Jewish history and culture.

     I have never read The Talmud nor am I familiar with it. Yet I know that second to The Torah, it is very important in Jewish religion. Because of this the story was very confusing, and I had to do some research of The Talmud to understand this novel. While the book can be a bit confusing and complicated, it is a very well-written and captivating story. Right on the first page, you are already drawn in to the world of fourth-century Babylon. Even though there is a lot of discussion on Jewish debates on Jewish customs that tend to be a bit dull to the reader, you get a taste of the Jewish customs and beliefs.


     I really like the protagonist, Hisdadukh. She is strong, observant, and intelligent. She also has feelings with her love for Rava, who is already married. My favorite interactions between Rava and Hisdadukh was when she contradicts Rava in her interpretation of The Torah study. She also has great power, and she uses her spells to expel the evil in their community. She is brave and doesn’t judge for she has no problem in befriending an outcast in society. Yet she is also emotionally-damaged for before the novel begins, she lost her first husband and child, and tries to cope with her loss. 


     Overall, this story is full of magic, loss, friendship, and love. The message of the book is that there is always hope. The characters are well-developed, and it has a luscious setting. While the book starts out as confusing, over time it becomes an enjoyable read. I recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, fantastical tales, and Jewish culture. Most of all, this novel is an encouraging story of courage, perseverance, hope, and the strength of love.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Praise for Apprentice (Rav Hisda's Daughter: Book I)


"A lushly detailed look into a fascinatingly unknown time and culture, a tale of Talmud, sorcery, and a most engaging heroine!" -Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling Outlander series

Anton, the author of the acclaimed Rashi's Daughters' trilogy, has penned her best book to date. Using her extensive knowledge of the Talmud and other historical Jewish writings, she immersed herself in the tractates to uncover a marvelous heroine for this historical novelÖ Complex discussions of Jewish law and tradition as well as detailed description of the culture and customs of the times enhance truly wonderful storytelling. VERDICT This absorbing novel should be on everyone's historical fiction reading list."-Library Journal (starred review)

"Fascinating reading await those who dive into the vividly depicted world of Babylonian Jewry. Anton succeeds brilliantly in drawing us into the formative period leading up to the Talmud. What we have is the work of a master craftswoman set upon repairing a major gap in Jewish literature"-Philadelphia Jewish Voice

"Rav Hisda's Daughter provides a wealth of historical detail about Jewish life in Babylon and Israel in the 3rd century CE. It depicts the daily life and coming of age of a prominent rabbi's daughter rather than propelling its reader through a traditional arc of action with a crisis and resolution. Its interest lies in its portrayal of the sorcery, incantations, and women's customs in this exotic, faraway period of time and place, sometimes against the backdrop of war."Historical Novel Society


Praise for the Rashi's Daughters Trilogy


"Anton delivers a tour de force . . . [Readers] will fly through the pages and come away wishing for more." -Library Journal (starred review)

"A compelling combination of drama, suspense, and romance."-Lilith magazine


Buy the Book


Amazon
Barnes & Noble


About the Author

03_Maggie Anton


     Maggie Anton was born Margaret Antonofsky in Los Angeles, California. Raised in a secular, socialist household, she reached adulthood with little knowledge of her Jewish religion. All that changed when David Parkhurst, who was to become her husband, entered her life, and they both discovered Judaism as adults. That was the start of a lifetime of Jewish education, synagogue involvement, and ritual observance. In 2006, Anton retired from being a clinical chemist in Kaiser Permanente's Biochemical Genetics Laboratory to become a fulltime writer.

     In the early 1990's, Anton learned about a women's Talmud class taught by Rachel Adler, now a professor at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. She became intrigued with the idea that Rashi, one of the greatest Jewish scholars ever, had no sons, only three daughters. Slowly but surely, she began to research the family and the time in which they lived. Much was written about Rashi, but almost nothing of the daughters, except their names and the names of their husbands. Legend has it that Rashi's daughters were learned in a time when women were traditionally forbidden to study the sacred texts. These forgotten women seemed ripe for rediscovery, and the idea of a trilogy of historical novels about them was born.

     After the success of Rashi's DaughtersAnton started researching the lives of women in 4th-century Babylonia, where the Talmud was being created. Surprised by the prevalence of sorcery among rabbinic families, she wrote Rav Hisda's Daughter: Bk 1 - Apprentice,which was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award Fiction finalist and a Library Journal pick for Best Historical Fiction.

For more information please visit Maggie Anton's website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Blog Tour: Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn: A Book Review

02_Night of a Thousand Stars

Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn
Publication Date: October 1, 2014
Harlequin MIRA
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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     New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn returns with a Jazz Age tale of grand adventure...

     On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat's wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father's quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.

     With only her feisty lady's maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.

     My Review: Night of a Thousand Stars is a follow-up novel to City of Jasmine but with different characters. It is a stand alone novel, where you don’t have to read the prequel. The protagonist of the story is Poppy Hammond, who is the niece of Lady Julia, the protagonist in the Lady Julia  mystery novels. In this novel, Poppy is a runaway bride who jilts a wealthy, boring aristocrat at the altar. A priest named Sebastian Cantrip helps her escape by driving her from London to Derbyshire, where her father lives. Her father helps her call off the wedding, and she lives with him for some time. Life begins to be boring for her and her maid, Masterman, so she decides to go to London to thank Mr. Cantrip only to find that no one has heard from him. He leaves clues to his whereabouts in the Middle East, and Poppy and her maid go off on an adventure to the Middle East to search for him.

     I have to say that most of the times I found Poppy quite annoying. She is quite immature, irresponsible, and stupid. Reading the story from her perspective, I was always ahead of her and it was very irritating and makes the story a bit dull to read. It is clear that she wouldn’t even have made it to the Middle East, if it wasn’t for her Masterman. Masterman was always a step ahead of Poppy, and she was one of my favorite characters because her actions reflects the readers.  Another character that I deserve to mention that steals the book was Poppy’s dad. He was a funny character. He is a boorish character that loves peace and quiet and likes to insult his ex-wife, yet it is clear that he holds authority and quickly resolves the problem of his daughter’s running away from her wedding.

    Overall, the story is filled with mystery, adventure, friendship, and romance. As for the plot, it was pretty predictable. The twists and turns of the book is no surprise because the reader is always ahead of the narrator. Though the book tries to be funny, I didn’t really find much humor in it, only silliness which led to annoyance. The reason of this is because of the narrator. Had it been a different narrator, I would have enjoyed it much more. One thing I liked about the book was the setting. The author brilliantly paints a realistic portrait of the Middle East, and I felt that I was there with Poppy. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in mystery, adventure, historical fiction, and romance.  I suggest that you should read City of Jasmine first because I didn’t read it and the references to the novel went over my head. I also suggest you read Improbable Women: Five Who Explored the Middle East by William Woods Cotterman because it gives you biographies of Hester Stanhope and Jane Digby, because they are Poppy’s role models in the novel. By reading about these famous women, you will appreciate these women much more when they are mentioned in Night of a Thousand Stars.

Rating 3 out of 5 stars


Buy the Book


Amazon (Kindle)
Amazon (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
Barnes & Noble (Paperback)
Books-a-Million
iTunes
Kobo



About the Author

03_Deanna Raybourn

     A sixth-generation native Texan, Deanna Raybourn grew up in San Antonio, where she met her college sweetheart. She married him on her graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history. During summer vacation at the age of twenty-three, she wrote her first novel. After three years as a teacher, Deanna left education to have a baby and pursue writing full-time.

     Deanna Raybourn is the author of the bestselling and award-winning Lady Julia series, as well as, The Dead Travel Fast, A Spear of Summer Grass, and City of Jasmine.

     For more information please visit Deanna Raybourn's website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


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Friday, October 24, 2014

Blog Tour: Consolamentum (Book #3 of The Tiger and The Dove Trilogy) by Rebecca Hazell: A Book Review

Consolamentum (Book #3 of The Tiger and The Dove Trilogy)
Author: Rebecca Hazell
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: CreateSpace
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 355
Source: This book was given to me as part of a book tour in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: In the finale of Sofia's memoir, Consolamentum, both dramatic and poignant, her dreams of home are shattered when her own family betrays her. Raising her child on her own, mourning the loss of her beloved knight, and building a trading empire, she seeks safe haven for her child and herself. Her quest takes her from Antioch to Constantinople to Venice. A surprise reunion in Venice leads her to France where she runs afoul of the newly established Holy Inquisition, possibly the greatest challenge she has yet faced. Can a woman so marked by oppression, betrayal, and danger ever find her safe haven, much less genuine happiness?

     My Review: Consolamentum is the final novel in The Tiger and The Dove Trilogy. It seems that the worst is over for Sofia, however, in this novel it still seems that Sofia has to endure more trials in order for her to get her happiness. In this novel, Sofia eventually reaches her destination of Constantinople, but events take her  to France and the Holy Inquisition. All the while she waits to find love.

     Sofia is very human. She makes mistakes. Yet, over time, she learns the lessons from her mistakes. She is independent and makes strong choices. She is a deep thinker, and knows that tremendous events in her life affects her. In this way, Sofia has matured since when she was first in the book. One of the most interesting parts of the novel that showed Sofia’s strengths in the novel was when her uncle imprisons Sofia and when she is charged for heresy in the Holy Inquisition. Though Sofia is a victim, she never gives up or loses hope. 

     While this is a historical novel, it also discusses a lot of philosophy. This novel also discusses the religion and cultures during that time. The main topic of the book is that it is the people that grip their ideas about God. Because of this, it makes us do harm to others and that is where the danger lies. There are famous historical characters, like Queen Marguerite, one of the four Provence sisters who all became queens, and King Louis. To me, my favorite part in the novel was the Holy Inquisition, where Sofia is suspected of heresy.

     Overall, this novel was a great conclusion to the series.  It is about betrayal, love, hope, and faith. It is about finding one’s identity. The message of the book is that every person in your life that you interact with gives you your identity and makes you stronger and wiser. For it is the people that Sofia met and her experiences that have made her overcome her obstacles and find her happiness. The novel can be a bit dull sometimes because it talks  a lot about philosophy and religion, yet the characters and the setting is well-developed. I recommend this to anyone interested in life in the middle ages, medieval Europe, the Holy Inquisition. This is a great historical epic about a woman trying to find happiness in a cruel world.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Guest Post by Maggie Anton: History From a Woman's Perspective

02_Enchantress

Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Plume
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 400

Series: Rav Hisda's Daughter
Genre: Historical Fiction/Historical Fantasy

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Fantastic tales of demons and the Evil Eye, magical incantations, and powerful attractions abound in Enchantress, a novel that weaves together Talmudic lore, ancient Jewish magic, and a timeless love story set in fourth-century Babylonia.

One of the most powerful practitioners of these mysterious arts is Rav Hisda's daughter, whose innate awareness allows her to possess the skills men lack. With her husband, Rava--whose arcane knowledge of the secret Torah enables him to create a "man out of earth and to resurrect another rabbi from death--the two brave an evil sorceress, Ashmedai the Demon King, and even the Angel of Death in their quest to safeguard their people, even while putting their romance at risk.

The author of the acclaimed Rashi's Daughters series and the award-winning Rav Hisda's Daughter: Apprentice has conjured literary magic in the land where "abracadabra" originated. Based on five years of research and populated with characters from the Talmud, Enchantress brings a pivotal era of Jewish and Christian history to life from the perspective of a courageous and passionate woman


Buy the Book


Amazon
Barnes & Noble


About the Author

03_Maggie Anton


Maggie Anton was born Margaret Antonofsky in Los Angeles, California. Raised in a secular, socialist household, she reached adulthood with little knowledge of her Jewish religion. All that changed when David Parkhurst, who was to become her husband, entered her life, and they both discovered Judaism as adults. That was the start of a lifetime of Jewish education, synagogue involvement, and ritual observance. In 2006, Anton retired from being a clinical chemist in Kaiser Permanente's Biochemical Genetics Laboratory to become a fulltime writer.

In the early 1990's, Anton learned about a women's Talmud class taught by Rachel Adler, now a professor at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. She became intrigued with the idea that Rashi, one of the greatest Jewish scholars ever, had no sons, only three daughters. Slowly but surely, she began to research the family and the time in which they lived. Much was written about Rashi, but almost nothing of the daughters, except their names and the names of their husbands. Legend has it that Rashi's daughters were learned in a time when women were traditionally forbidden to study the sacred texts. These forgotten women seemed ripe for rediscovery, and the idea of a trilogy of historical novels about them was born.

After the success of "Rashi's Daughters" Anton started researching the lives of women in 4th-century Babylonia, where the Talmud was being created. Surprised by the prevalence of sorcery among rabbinic families, she wrote "Rav Hisda's Daughter: Bk 1 - Apprentice," which was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award Fiction finalist and a Library Journal pick for Best Historical Fiction.

For more information please visit Maggie Anton's website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


 History From a Woman's Perspective:


     Where I first started studying Talmud over 20 years ago, I became determined to discover if the daughters of the great medieval Talmudic scholar Rashi were as learned as legends said. Eventually I found that not only were the legends indeed true, but that their lives, and the lives of other Jewish women in 11th-century France, were far better than I would have imagined for the Dark Ages. I was so impressed by all this evidence, information no one seemed to know about, that I decided to write a trilogy of historical novels, Rashi’s Daughters.

     Why novels? One answer is that I’m not a rabbi or professional scholar with the credentials necessary for a history text. But the truth is that I was always a voracious reader of fiction, so I wrote the book I wanted to read. A bigger truth is that if an author wants to delve into history from a woman’s perspective, she has to write fiction.

     Let’s face it – for most of human history, nobody recorded anything. Then, up until only the last thirty years or so, history was men writing about men for men. As the saying goes, “They don’t call it ‘his-story’ for nothing.”

     I, like most female readers, prefer a female protagonist, one unlikely to be found in war stories, political thrillers, and tales of adventure on the high seas. Give me a heroine who wields the power behind the throne or is caught up in historic events from within her household. Better yet, show me how women lived back in the old days – how they fit into society, how they struggled with or accepted their communities’ strictures, how they managed to cook, clean, sew, and raise children without our modern conveniences.

     And of course, I want a romantic hero who is worthy of my heroine’s affection.

     But most of all, make her special, either because she has a intriguing profession, lives in particularly interesting times or locations, or is involved with important people. Through her narrative, readers will learn all sorts of fascinating tidbits of women’s history that can only be gleaned today from fiction.

     Rav Hisda’s daughter Dada, the heroine of my newest novel ENCHANTRESS, certainly met these qualifications. Talk about interesting times and locations - she lived in 4th-century Babylonia (now modern Iraq), long associated with jinni and flying carpets, land where the word “magic” originated. She was friendly with Persian King Shapur’s mother and thus had knowledge of all sorts of palace intrigues. Her husband was not only head of the rabbinic community who created the Talmud, but a powerful sorcerer.

     As was Dada, my heroine. This is where I really got to write history from a woman’s perspective, and hopefully change the common view that female magic practitioners were reviled and feared crones who cast evil spells and lived apart from society. Judging from the many thousands of amulets archaeologists have unearthed from this period, the vast majority for healing and protection from demons and evil spirits, most sorceresses were seen as healers. 

      These women even formed some sort of guild that chose a head sorceress to lead them. The Talmudic rabbis consulted them and taught how to find an expert healer, one whose spells were proven. These days, when we know that the placebo effect is real, it’s not surprising that some spells were successful or appeared to be. 

     Dada, for example, knew the magic procedure for protection from the demons in privies (naturally demons lived in nasty, foul places like privies). It involved reciting a particular incantation while washing one’s hands three times. Those who didn’t follow this practice after leaving the privy would go blind if they touched their eyes and suffer all sorts of respiratory problems if they touched their nose. And if, Heaven forbid, they touched their mouth without washing the demons off their hands first, they would acquire unimaginable intestinal diseases. If there was ever a spell that worked, this is it.

     Even so, who would have imagined that sorcery was once such an honored and prestigious profession for women? This is where the historical novelist can really shine – by not only writing a fascinating story from a woman’s perspective, but by also uncovering a piece of previously ignored women’s history.

Check out my review of Maggie Anton's novel:

Enchantress (Book 2 of Rav Hisda's Daughter's Trilogy)

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Guest Post by Rebecca Hazell: The Magic Lie

Todays, guest writer is Rebecca Hazell. She is an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases.

     She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

     Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley. She has recently published The Grip of God and Solomon's Bride.  In her guest post, she talks about her  final novel in the trilogy, Consolamentum, which has just been released. Thank you, Mrs. Hazell.


THE MAGIC LIE

     The magic lie was a term one of my son’s elementary school teachers used to describe how a fiction writer writes: choosing details, building up a picture with a few strokes of the pen or keyboard. I fell in love with the term, as it describes the way it feels to bring to life a time long past. 

     In all three novels of my historical trilogy, this is what I sought to do with my heroine, Sofia, a princess of Kievan Rus’ who was captured and enslaved by Mongols (The Grip of God); then fled to Iran and virtual imprisonment among the Assassins, and who finally found her way to the Crusader state of Antioch, where she encountered love and loss (Solomon’s Bride). How to make such a long journey believable meant relying on accounts like Marco Polo’s: his father and uncle traveled from Venice to China twice! And in the last novel, she found adventure and danger in the Mediterranean cities, and more danger in France, where the Inquisition was founded (Consolamentum). 


     First, to recreate such a vast landscape, there are physical descriptions of place: what people wore, what their homes were like, their huts, buildings, or palaces; the weather and trees and roads; and even what they ate. When doing research, there’s often an extreme: too much information about some things and too little about others that I at least really wanted to know. How rare were soap or scissors in the thirteenth century? Were people really as opposed to baths as we have been taught to think they were? What kind of shoes would a noblewoman of Constantinople or Paris wear?

     An example of too little known: I spent three years trying to get a picture of what Constantinople was like during the Frankish occupation, and finally found a single line in one book. What I learned was everything, though: they destroyed one of the great cities of the medieval world, turning it into a virtual ghost town. From that I was able to build a magic lie based on what I knew about its earlier, happier days.

      Beyond the physical background I created, bringing a time to life without burdening the story meant choosing details that evoke much more than is said, and leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination. And when we don’t know what it was really like, there is a temptation to be creative—or to take a magic lie too far and invent things that couldn’t be possible, just for the sake of plot. Then the lie can stop being magic and misrepresent history, something I tried not to do. After all, while some historians can write beautifully, wouldn’t we rather find out about a time while also being entranced by a compelling story? 

     And within the story, there are more ‘magic lies’. Historians tell us about what people valued, and in the thirteenth century that was religion and how it could benefit them. It turned out to be the driving force for just about everything from war to love to trade. So I interwove that topic into what is essentially a romance. After all, if love isn’t what writing is about, whether as romance or as appreciation for the past, why bother with lies, magic or otherwise?

Check out my reviews of Rebecca Hazell's novels

The Grip of God (Book One of The Tiger and The Dove Trilogy)

Solomon's Bride (Book Two of The Tiger and The Dove Trilogy)


Consolamentum (Book Three of The Tiger and The Dove Trilogy)












Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blog Tour: Steampunk Carnival and Guest Post by Cassandra Leuthold- The Joys of Writing Historical Fiction

 


 STEAMPUNK CARNIVAL

By Cassandra Leuthold


Genre: Science Fiction/ Steampunk



     Katya Romanova gave up everything to work at the one-of-a-kind Steampunk Carnival – her family, her home, her reputation.  She wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. As a guide to the guests, Katya enjoys more freedom than most.  She makes time to gossip with her best friend, Magdalene.  She basks in the elaborate costumes that bring her awed attention, hoping they might also win her a husband.  And no man pays her more attention than her boss and carnival owner, William Warden.

     But in the summer of 1887, death threats against Mr. Warden break the spell.  Katya knows he might be as underhanded as he is charming, but who would actually want him dead?  

     When Katya finds unexpected evidence about the carnival’s true origins, the stakes jump even higher.  Not sure whom they can trust, Katya and Magdalene work to unravel the carnival’s mysteries.  Who really invented the innovative rides?  Is Mr. Warden protecting his employees or only himself from the looming violence?  And will Katya cling to the better side of his nature or eventually turn her affections for him into a powerful rivalry?



BOOK LINKS



 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cassandra Leuthold




     Cassandra grew up in the small town of La Porte, Indiana, exploring wooded parks and sparkling lakes. Making South Bend her home, the scenery hasn’t changed much - inspiring trees and a long, winding river. From the time she started writing in second grade up to the projects she works on now, the nature, history, and people around her inspire the stories she tells. You can find her work listed under many different genres, but the heart of each story remains the same. What keeps us together, and what pulls us apart?


     She lives with her writer husband and their moody cat, Gaia, in a house three sizes too big. She holds a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies and a Master’s in English. When she’s not writing, you can find her sewing, enjoying nature, listening to music, researching family history, and watching TV.



The Joys of Writing Historical Fiction

     Writing Steampunk Carnival was a lot of fun.  I love to learn new facts and stories, so even though gathering information for it took work, I discovered something fascinating every day.  Once I decided to set most of the book in 1887 Indianapolis, I really had my work cut out for me.  I spent countless hours researching the original street names, what kinds of people lived in different areas of the city, and some of the various real-life businesses that operated there.  This was very personal for me, having visited Indianapolis dozens of times and spent five nights there as part of my honeymoon.  It was amazing to not just see Indianapolis as it was 127 years ago but also recreate it for my book along with a colorful cast of characters who might’ve lived there.

     I’ve learned from researching my family history how short a time it takes for information and stories to be lost.  Even the passing of one or two generations can cover up a lot of struggle, comedy, and triumph.  Looking into the 1880’s for my book was no different.  I never knew how much technology the Victorians already had or were close to developing.  I never imagined them asking the same social and political questions we talk about today: Should birth control be available? How should women act and be treated? Should a man with a complex past be elected into office? A picture emerged of people being people no matter what age we live in.  We’re all trying to puzzle things out, make a difference, and find the best ways to navigate an unpredictable world.

     The most unexpected thing about writing Steampunk Carnival as historical fiction was the effect it had on my characters.  They had to look the part - men in top hats and suits, women in gloves and long dresses.  But they also had to act the part.  Katya might be more forward than most of the other women in the book, but she’s still restricted by decorum and not wanting to ruin her reputation completely.  Magdalene possesses a sharp, discerning mind and the willingness to act for what’s right, but she hides them behind the humility and soft-spoken manner expected of her.  Women had few jobs in the workplace, mainly cooking, cleaning, and running boarding houses, so that dictated most of the women’s work in my book.  The character of Mrs. Weeks, who runs the Weekly Boarder where Katya lives, grew entirely out of learning that renting out rooms was a good way for widows to earn an income.  Her story represents the way thousands of women must have lived after their husbands passed away, and my book gained a kindly matron standing in as Katya’s mom away from home.

     History also played a huge part in how my characters react to each other.  They’re living in a time before child labor laws.  There were no rules governing how bosses hired employees or how employees could expect to be treated.  This gave me new ways to represent my characters from when I write contemporary stories.  Katya disagrees with Mr. Warden’s hiring of children at the carnival, but there’s nothing she can do about it.  When Mr. Lieber, the head of security, takes his anger out on Katya in a frustrated tirade, she’s powerless about that, too.  In a year when unions were fragmented and disenfranchised, the carnival workers are far from united.  Mr. Warden hires and fires as he pleases, and Katya’s coworker Irina spends quite a few nights worrying about losing her job over issues beyond her control.

     It surprises me I’ve come to write so many historically based stories, but it makes sense when I think about it.  I gained an interest in history when I was a kid between hearing about my great-grandparents immigrating from Europe and going on family vacations to places like Gettysburg and Fort McKinley.  I had a great history professor in college who further cultivated that interest in me for other times, places, and cultures.  I think the trick with history, as with other subjects like science and math that some misrepresent as dull or boring, is to make it personal.  Find the parts of it that are fun and useful to you.  That’s probably the best thing about writing historical fiction.  I get to choose what I learn about and how many details I want to get bogged down in.  Then I get to make history fresh and vibrant for people who are living now.  How can I ask for more than that?




TRAILER



 PLAYLIST

  

“What I Wouldn’t Do,” She Swings, She Sways

The first chapter of Steampunk Carnival is different than the rest of the book.  It’s narrated by someone whose name isn’t revealed for several chapters.  The reason he’s obsessed with filling a journal with his ideas isn’t clear until we find out who he is, but the song gives insight into his situation.  He’s a man driven by longing, loneliness, and desperation.  It adds extra layers and emotions to what’s shared at that point in the book.

“Kill The Lights,” The Birthday Massacre

I’m a big fan of the movie “Moulin Rouge.”  In the director’s commentary, Baz Luhrmann talks about the interesting difference between points of view in the climactic scene when Satine dies after the big, pulse-pounding performance.  The audience applauds.  They loved what they saw.  But what they missed was a murder attempt, and what they can’t see after the curtain closes is Satine’s heartbreaking death.  This song represents that for Steampunk Carnival.  All the guests see are beautiful costumes, spectacular rides, fun games, and delicious treats.  They don’t know about the death threats, the violence, and the arguments.  They never find out the games are rigged.

“Common Reaction,” Uh Huh Her

As the story unwinds, Katya finds herself in deeper and deeper trouble.  She acquires more to lose – friends, her safety, a boyfriend – and realizes there are fewer things she can be sure of.  A lot she took for granted isn’t true.  This song expresses Katya’s confusion and caution.  She doesn’t know how much to trust her boss, William Warden.  She hopes everything will work out all right, but she knows any ending is possible.

“Hold My Hand,” Mister Heavenly

This song reminds me of Maddox’s approach to Katya in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way.  If Maddox has one thing going for him, it’s persistence.  He tries several different tricks to get Katya to go out with him, and she turns him down several times.  She’s not easily persuaded to trade her love of money for appreciation of simple fun.

“Shake It Out,” Florence & the Machine

This song provides the perfect backdrop to the night Katya finally gives in to spending time with Maddox.  She leaves her fear, her distrust, and her rigid ideas about dating behind.  Katya and Maddox ride three attractions at the carnival, which thrills Katya more than she anticipated.  But more importantly, they’re finally able to share more about themselves and build a solid foundation for their relationship.

“Baptized by Fire,” Spinnerette

The lyrics and driving guitar in this song mirror what Katya and her friends are feeling by the time they confront the forces conspiring against them.  Katya has seen William Warden’s inner nature, and she doesn’t like it.  His security guards, allegedly hired to keep the employees safe, have been watching Magdalene like a hawk for weeks.  Katya’s tired of meeting in secret, worrying about how the carnival’s reputation will survive the truth about its origins.  But true to the song, with going to battle against powerful rivals comes a new beginning for all of them.





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Friday, October 10, 2014

Blog Tour: Yakimali's Gift by Linda Covella: A Book Review

Please join Linda Covella on her Blog Tour with HF Virtual Book Tours for her YA historical novel, Yakimali's Gift, from October 6-10. Three $10 Amazon Gift Cards are up for grabs, please see below to enter the giveaway.

02_Yakimali's Gift

Yakimali's Gift by Linda Covella
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Astraea Press
eBook; 206p
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

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Synopsis: It is 1775 in Mexico, New Spain, and 15-year-old Fernanda Marquina, half Pima Indian and half Spanish, can't seem to live up to her mother's expectations or fit into the limited female roles of her culture. While she tends her garden, matches wits with buyers and sellers at the weekly market, and avoids Mama's lectures and the demands of Nicolas, the handsome soldier pursuing her, Fernanda grabs any opportunity to ride the horses she loves, racing across the desert, dreaming of adventure in faraway lands.

But when a tragic accident presents her with the adventure she longed for, it is at a greater cost than she could have ever imagined. With her family, Fernanda joins Juan Bautista de Anza's historic colonization expedition to California.

On the arduous four-month journey, Fernanda makes friends with Feliciana, the young widow Fernanda can entrust with her deepest thoughts; Gloria, who becomes the sister Fernanda always wished for; and Gloria's handsome brother Miguel, gentle one moment, angry the next and, like Fernanda, a mestizo, half Indian and half Spanish. As Fernanda penetrates Miguel's layers of hidden feelings, she's torn between him and Nicolas, who has joined the journey in the ranks of Anza's soldiers and whose plans include marrying Fernanda when they reach California.

But propelling Fernanda along the journey is her search for Mama's Pima Indian past, a past Mama refused to talk about, a past with secrets that Fernanda is determined to learn. The truths she discovers will change the way she sees her ancestry, her family, and herself.

     My Review: Yakimali’s Gift tells the story of Fernanda, a mestizo, that embarks on a colonial expedition from Mexico to California. Along the way, Fernanda finds herself drawn to her Pima roots and wants to learn the truth about her mother’s past. Fernanda also ponders her future about what she wants to do when they arrive in California and if she should marry her fiance, Nicolas, a Spanish soldier. Therefore, this is a coming-of-age tale as Fernanda goes on a quest for self-discovery and acceptance.

     Fernanda’s relationship with her mother is the main theme of this story. Fernanda and her mother had an argument and Fernanda said cruel words to her mother. Before she could reconcile with her mother, her mother suddenly dies. Feeling regret for how she treated her mother, Fernanda decides to make it up to her by finding out the truth of her mother’s broken relationship with her own grandmother. Throughout this novel, Fernanda deals with the pain and loss of her mother. She wonders if her mother is happy in the afterlife and if her mother is proud of her. Because of her mother’s death, she finds herself drawn to her mother’s Pima heritage. She soon finds herself proud of her heritage, and that her Pima heritage links her with her mother.

     Fernanda is an average young girl. She wants to please her parents and to follow their expectations to marry Nicolas and to be a wife. Yet, she has doubts. She is uncertain of her future and ponders if this is the right choice for her. She ponders if being a good wife is the key to her happiness. Fernanda is constantly pressure by her family and society, but over time she finds her independence. Fernanda is described as wild. Yet she yearns for freedom and the ability to make her own choices. She is also passionate, caring, and loving. She is the rock of her family. Fernanda is also brave and courageous. Because of these attributes, she captures the attention of the mysterious, brooding, and sullen Miguel.

     Overall, this book is about family, friendship, loss, love, regrets, choices, and hope. The message of this book is to be proud of your heritage and to follow your heart. Even though the plot is pretty predictable, and has an angsty love triangle, the heart of the story is a mother and daughter relationship. I recommend this book to anyone interested U.S. history and culture. I also think this book is a great read for anyone coping over the death of a loved one. For Fernanda is on a personal quest to find happiness after the loss of her mother.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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Praise for Yakimali's Gift


Linda Covella brings the early settlement of California to life in this tale of adventure, drama, romance, and mystery.The novel is full of imagination and wisdom and speaks to the universal need of young people to rebel and to find the courage to invent their own lives. - Dr. Virginia M. Bouvier, author of Women and the Conquest of California

Yakimali's Gift is written for the young, the old, and everyone in between. It is about a young girl named Fernanda, and her adventure in 1775, when King Carlos III of Spain ordered Juan Bautista de Anza to lead an expedition of settlers from Mexico to California. This book is written with such detail I felt like I could reach out and touch the desert sand, or pet the beautiful horses:) The other characters in this book are just as wonderful as Fernanda. You can't help but feel their pain or smile when there happy. Linda is an excellent writer, she grabs you from the beginning and takes you on an exciting adventure. This is a story you can read and then pass along to your daughter, that means a lot to me as my thirteen year-old usually can't read the books Im asked to review. I recommend this book to everyone! ~Tanya Watt, reviewer/designer

Quarter-finalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award:

The dialogue, character development, and historical details all serve the story and come together seamlessly...Although tagged as Young Adult...would also appeal to adult readers.
~Amazon ABNA Judge

Clear and imaginative writing. Excellent eye for descriptive detail. I am feeling a very strong sense of place as you describe the scenes...
~Amazon ABNA Judge



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About the Author

03_Linda Covella


Linda Covella's varied job experience and education (associate degrees in art, business and mechanical drafting & design, a BS degree in Manufacturing Management) have led her down many paths and enriched her life experiences. But one thing she never strayed from is her love of writing.

A writer for over 30 years, her first official publication was a restaurant review column in a local newspaper, and as a freelance writer, she continued to publish numerous articles in a variety of publications. But when she published articles for children's magazines (Games and Toys in Ancient Rome and Traveling the Tokaido in 17th Century Japan, in Learning Through History magazine, and Barry's Very Grown Up Day in Zootles magazine), she realized she'd found her niche: writing for children. She wants to share with kids and teens her love of books: the worlds they open, the things they teach, the feelings they express.

Yakimali's Gift, a historical novel for young adults published by Astraea Press, and middle grade paranormal The Castle Blues Quake published by Beau Coup Publishing are her first novels.

No matter what new paths she may travel down, she sees her writing as a lifelong joy and commitment.

She is a member of Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She blogs about writing on her website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blog Tour: The Novice: A Love Story by Mirella Sichirollo Patzer: A Book Review

02_The Novice

The Novice: A Love Story by Mirella Sichirollo Patzer
Publication Date: September 15, 2014
H&W Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback; 380p

Genre: Historical Fiction/Historical Romance
Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour in exchange for an honest review.


A young woman on the verge of taking her vows to become a nun.

A desperate flight from a murderous massacre.

One honorable man comes to her rescue.

Another becomes her nemesis and captor.

And a life and death search to reunite with her one true love.

     Synopsis: In 10th century Naples, Saracens run rampant, annihilating villages, murdering women and children. Death and despair is everywhere. Alone in the world, Sara is a young novice plagued with doubts about taking her final vows to become a nun. When her convent is attacked, she flees for her life straight into the arms of a group of Saracens who leave her to die alone in the woods. An honorable cavaliere named Nicolo comes to her rescue and offers to take her to the safety of Naples. As they journey together, they are irresistibly drawn to each other. Believing Sara to be a nun, the honorable Nicolo is torn between love and duty to respect her vows. Heartbroken, he does what honor demands and sets her free before she can tell him the truth that she is not a nun. In her search to reunite with Nicolo, she encounters Umberto, a dark and dangerous man who will stop at nothing in his obsession to possess her. With her sharp intellect, and her heart, Sara must rely on her own courage and strength to escape her abuser and find the only man she will ever love. A story that burns with intensity, intrigue, and passion from the author of the highly successful novel, Orphan of the Olive Tree.

     My Review: Sara is a novice who has not yet taken her final vows. Her life was changed when she and a group of nuns ran away before a group of Saracens destroyed her village. On the run, with the Saracens in hot pursuit, Sara decides to be the diversion while the others nuns flee to safety. However, she was rescued by a mysterious knight in shining armor. The knight and Sara soon fall in love, but because Sara lied to him about being a nun, the chivalrous knight leaves her almost as soon as they approach Naples. Sara decides to live with her uncle and cousin, and soon catches the eye of the evil Count Umberto. In order to find happiness Sara is on the hunt to find her mysterious knight. Will Sara and her knight ever be reunited or is Sara bound to be the wife of Count Umberto?

     I found the setting of 10th century Italy to be beautifully written. Sara and her knight met and fall in love during a great tragedy. This shows that while there are cruel events that happen in the world, there is also good. For while bad things happen, people should also focus on the good things that happen in life. I also loved how she described the countryside and the woods. The rustic atmosphere symbolizes freedom and liberation. Whereas the city and the convent symbolizes oppression, constraint, subjection, and incarceration.

     Sara is a strong-heroine. She is passionate and is often described as wild and hard to control. She is her own self and makes her own decisions. She is also faithful to her love. She is a good judge of character. She has a good heart. Sara can be selfless too. She is also persistent, determined, and never gives up. Sara is also wise, calm, and cunning. She does not let emotions get in the way of her planning. She sees the problem and comes up with a solution. Also, even when she confronts many obstacles, Sara always gets back up.

     Overall, this story is about love, loss, regrets, and hopes. The message of the book is to be honest with the person you love or you may end up losing that person forever. It is also about not giving up, even in the face of adversity. The book is beautifully written and the characters are well-developed. However, there is one or two instances of profanity. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Italy and strong heroines. This love story is also a good inspiration for women who are being abused and is searching for their quest in happiness. For if Sara, who in the middle ages was abused by a powerful nobleman, was able to find happiness, then surely you can too.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


About the Author

03_Mirella Patzer Author Photo


A true blue Taurean in every way, Mirella Sichirollo Patzer grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a city famous for the Calgary Stampede, oil companies, and the wild west. Historical fiction books are one of her obsessions, especially those that pertain to medieval eras and with Italy as a backdrop. Her fascination for women of history and Italy is often reflected in her work, her various blogs, and website. She lives in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada with her husband and family. Her house is brimming with books and toys. For her, life couldn’t get any better.

For more information please visit Mirella's website. Mirella also blogs at History and Women & Historical Novel Review. Connect with Mirella on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.


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