Saturday, December 31, 2016

Favorite Books of 2016

     I can't believe that in a few hours I will be looking at 2017! This has been a good year! Before I write my reviews for books that I will read in the new year, I am going to list my favorite books that I have read this year.



    The Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe is a retelling of St. Augustine's Confessions but told from the perspective of St. Augustine's nameless concubine. This is a beautiful story of redemption and of finding one's identity and happiness.



     Platinum Doll by Anne Girard chronicles the early life of Jean Harlow. This novel shows us how Jean Harlow became a star and the sacrifices that she made along the way.  I really hope that Mrs. Girard will write a sequel that focuses on Jean Harlow's later years. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!



     Mrs. Houdini by Victoria Kelly is about the love story between Bess and Harry Houdini. I have always been fascinated by Houdini, and I feel that this book gives us a compelling love story that transcends life and death.


    Empress Orchid by Anchee Min chronicles the early life of Empress Dowager Cixi, one of China's most powerful and controversial figures. She is China's last empress, and her rule ended the Chinese Imperial era. I thought that this book gives a good portrait of Cixi. While it is sympathetic of Cixi, I really like how the author did not try to cover her flaws. This book shows us the hard decisions and sacrifices that she made to become the Empress Dowager.


    America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tells the story of Martha Jefferson Randolph, who was Thomas Jefferson's daughter and who undertook the role of First Lady when her father became president. She is often a forgotten woman in history. This book shows us that she is a woman who deserves to be recognized for her accomplishments.


   Sisi by Alison Pataki focuses on the later years of Empress Elizabeth of Austria. I really loved The Accidental Empress, and I was happy that this sequel surpassed it! This is a heart-breaking and tragic story about a vulnerable woman who spent her whole life searching for happiness that she was never truly able to find.


    I Am Livia is a biographical novel about Livia Drusilla, the wife of Emperor Augustus. I admired the relationship between Livia and Augustus. 



     The Moon in The Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel focuses on how Wu Zetian, China's only female emperor, becomes empress. I have always been fascinated by Wu Zetian, and The Empress of China starring Fan Bingbing, which is also about Wu Zetian, is one of my favorite tv series of all time. Because of this, I was more critical with this book than any other this year while reading this series. It is safe to say that this series did not disappoint, and I have re-read this duology three times this year, while re-watching my favorite series!



    The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard is a gothic, paranormal romance set in Victorian England and features a deaf protagonist. This was a very fun read with a beautiful love story. I look forward to reading more of the series!




     Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas is a biography of John Quincy Adams's wife. She is the only First Lady to have been born overseas. I really love this biography because she has been eclipsed by her mother-in-law, Abigail Adams. This book shows that Louisa Adams fought for women's rights. This biography reminds us that she should also deserve more recognition in history.




Child of the Morning by Pauline Gedge tells the story of Hatshepsut, one of the few female Pharaohs of Egypt.


     The Last Heiress by Stephanie Liaci tells the story of Queen Ankhesenamun, King Tut's wife. This was a beautiful story. The ending was very tragic and shocking.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Darkness Knows (Viv and Charlie Mystery #1) by Cheryl Honigford: A Book Review

The Darkness Knows (Viv and Charlie Mystery #1)
Author: Cheryl Honigford
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Bright lights. Big city. Brutal murder.

     Chicago, 1938. Late one night before the ten o'clock show, the body of a prominent radio actress is found in the station's lounge. All the evidence points to murder—and one young, up-and-coming radio actress, Vivian Witchell, as the next victim. But Vivian isn't the type to leave her fate in the hands of others—she's used to stealing the show. Alongside charming private detective Charlie Haverman, Vivian is thrust into a world of clues and motives, suspects and secrets. And with so much on the line, Vivian finds her detective work doesn't end when the on-air light goes out...

     The gripping first novel in a new series from debut author Cheryl Honigford, The Darkness Knows is a thrilling mystery that evokes the drama and scandal of radio stardom in prewar Chicago.

     My Review: Vivian just landed her role as a sidekick on a mystery radio show. Everything seems to be going well for her until before her ten o'clock show where she stumbles across the body of a famous radio star at the station’s lounge. It soon becomes clear that she is the next intended target. However, Vivian doesn't want to sit still and wait to be murdered. She teams up with Charlie Haverman, a private detective, to find the killer before she gets her name crossed off the list.

     I really didn't like the two main characters. Vivian is ambitious. She dreams of becoming famous and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. She makes many sacrifices to hang on to her role. While I did find her to be smart, inquisitive, determined, and observant, I didn't really think she was a strong heroine. She was very selfish, vain, and is more obsessed with men than solving the murder. Vivian didn't seem to have a heart or care about anyone. She was also judgmental and did not have anything nice to say to her co-workers. Therefore, it was really hard for me to like her as a protagonist. 

     Charlie was not much better. He seemed to be very one-dimensional. He is the same type of detective that never likes female characters to investigate murder cases because it is unladylike. Other than that cliche that has been done many times before, there wasn't much character development there. He didn't really do anything in this book except to tell the heroine over and over that she shouldn't get involved.

     Overall, this had unlikable characters in a predictable mystery. The romance felt forced. There was no reason except their looks as to why the two leads are attracted to each other. You could figure out the killer from the first page. I also did not think that there was much historical detail in this book because it seems as if it could take place in the modern day. The only thing I did like about this book is that it takes place at a radio station. As someone who for a radio station, I found the setting to be very fascinating. Even though this is the first book in the series, I'm still uncertain as to whether I should continue with the sequels since I didn't like the characters. I recommend this book to those who are looking for a light cozy mystery while snuggling up in front of the fireplace. However, I found this book had potential to be a starter in a new favorite historical mystery series. Sadly, it was just poorly executed.

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen (Six Tudor Queens #1) by Alison Weir: A Book Review

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen (Six Tudor Queens #1)
Author: Alison Weir
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 2016
Pages: 602
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir takes on what no fiction writer has done before: creating a dramatic six-book series in which each novel covers one of King Henry VIII's wives. In this captivating opening volume, Weir brings to life the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragon. Henry's first, devoted, and "true" queen.

     A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage - and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner. 

     Katherine's patience is rewarded when she becomes Queen of England. The affection between Katherine and Henry is genuine, but forces beyond her control threaten to rend her marriage, and indeed the nation, apart. Henry has fallen under the spell of Katherine's maid of honor, Anne Boleyn. Now Katherine must be prepared to fight, to the end if God wills it, for her faith, her legitimacy, and her heart.

     My Review: In the first of a new series about Henry VIII’s wives by Alison Weir, Alison Weir focuses on Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Katherine, a young Spanish princess, arrives in a foreign land that has a different language, customs, and scenery. She misses her homeland but is determined to make her parents proud. She marries Prince Arthur, Henry VIII’s older brother. She shortly finds herself a widow and at the mercy of Henry VII, her father-in-law. For six years, she struggles with poverty and is often neglected. Eventually, Henry VIII takes the throne and decides to make Katherine his wife. Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen chronicles Henry VIII’s longest marriage as well Katherine’s loves, triumphs, and her ultimate downfall.

     Ever since my early teens, I have been fascinated by the Tudor’s. I was excited when my favorite historian, Alison Weir, announced that she would write a historical novel of each of the six Tudor queens. I love Katherine of Aragon’s story because she never gave up fighting for her rights. However, this book took me forever to read, and it was not because of the length.

     Katherine of Aragon is a complex figure. However, in this novel, we never really get to see Katherine’s complexity. I didn’t think that Alison Weir fully developed Katherine of Aragon. Katherine seemed more like a cardboard cutout than an actual character. This is because Alison Weir mostly tells us what she is rather than show us. Thus, I really couldn’t get into Katherine of Aragon and it felt mostly like a rehash of her life. I could not emotionally get invested in her character. I felt as if I was mostly reading a biography about her. Therefore, I felt that Weir should have made this a biography rather than a historical fiction story.

     Overall, this was a good idea to write about the six wives of Henry VIII, however, it just was not executed well enough. The characters were not fully-developed, the writing was dry at times like a textbook, and there were some subplots that lead nowhere. The positives of this book is that Alison Weir is the most accurate historical writer that I have read about the Tudors. She makes very little changes to Katherine of Aragon’s story and mostly sticks to the facts. This will please many historical fiction fans who love their history to be mostly accurate. This is also good for those who do not really know much about Katherine of Aragon and would love to learn about Katherine’s story. Thus, while I didn’t love Alison Weir’s Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen, I’m sure her writing will improve more as the series progress. I am eagerly looking forward to reading her take on Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s most notorious and fascinating queens.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Here is a video of Alison Weir talking about her latest novel, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Blog Tour: Faithful by Michelle Hauck

Faithful
Author: Michelle Hauck
Pub. Date: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Pages: 384
Formats: eBook
Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Goodreads

About the Book: Following Grudging--and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall--religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck's Birth of Saints series!

     A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.

     Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?

     On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.

     What they find instead is an old woman.

     But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

     A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.


About Michelle:



     Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

     She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.

     Her epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. She's repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

     Visit her: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr


Giveaway Details:



2 winners will receive signed paperbacks of book 1, Grudging, US Only.
Tour Schedule:

 Week One:
11/7/2016- Books, Dreams, Life- Interview
11/8/2016- Bibliobibuli YA- Review
11/9/2016- Book in the Bag- Interview
11/10/2016- History from a Woman's Perspective
11/11/2016- Marty Mayberry- Guest Post

Week Two:
11/14/2016- Book for Thought- Review
11/16/2016- Always Me- Review
11/17/2016- Dazzled by Books- Interview
11/18/2016- The Autumn Bookshelf- Review



Thursday, October 27, 2016

Guest Post: Andrew Joyce: Fighting Woman

     Today's guest writer is Andrew Joyce. He is the author of Molly Lee, Redemption, and Resolution. He has just released his latest, novel Yellow Hair, a historical fiction novel that documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation. In this guest post, he gives us some information about the legend of Fighting Woman. I hope this guest post gives you some insight into his novel and writing. Thank you, Mr. Joyce!





Fighting Woman


     My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living—mostly historical novels. While doing research for my books, I come across a lot of interesting tidbits. I thought I’d share a few of them with you today. And just to get the commercial out of the way, please check out my latest book, Yellow Hair.

     Now we can get down to business.

     Beginning on January 2, 2016, women were finally allowed to serve in all combat positions in the United States military. It was a long, hard battle, and it took a couple of lawsuits, but in the end, the Pentagon did the right thing. However, American women were fighting alongside men long before the Pentagon existed.

     During the Revolutionary War, more than a few women signed up to fight for their new country. But they had to do it disguised as men. One such woman was Deborah Sampson. In January of 1782, she donned men’s clothing. bound her breasts with a cloth, and using a man’s name, enlisted in the American Army. Her deception was soon discovered and she was discharged. But she was back a few months later and enlisted, using another name, in a different unit of light infantry. She fought bravely until the end of the war, but she was found out just before her discharge and the army withheld her pay. However, in 1792, with the help of Paul Revere, the Massachusetts State Legislature relented and paid her what was owed plus interest going back nine years.

     There were other women who helped the cause, but did not actually join the army. There was Catherine Berry, who scouted for the Americans, and sixteen-year-old Sybil Ludington, who was known as the “female Paul Revere.” She rode forty miles, skirting the enemy, to warn the Dutchess County Militia that the British were sacking and burning the town of Danbury.

     During the Civil War, Sarah Seelye enlisted as a man in the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Jennie Hodgers fought as a man in forty engagements. Frances Clayton, also disguised as a man, was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh while fighting with the 4th Missouri Artillery. These three women fought for the North, but there were Southern women who fought for their cause in the same manner.

     Before there was a Pentagon and before there was a country called The United States of America, Native American women, on occasion, fought alongside their men. Here is the legend of Fighting Woman, a Sioux woman of great determination.

     Fighting Woman was the first female of her band to become a warrior. Until her fourteenth winter (year), she was known as Red Eagle Woman. However, in The Winter of the Falling Snow, she followed a Mdewakanton raiding party that had set out to steal horses from the Chippewa. She did not know exactly what she was going to do when they met the enemy. But she did know she wanted to participate in some way. She thought it unfair that men should have all the fun.

     Before they could reach the Chippewa camp, the raiding party was attacked. Red Eagle Woman, without thought, charged into the battle, wielding a tomahawk. She embedded it in the skull of the first Chippewa she met. Unwilling to let go of her weapon, she was pulled to the ground by the weight of the dead Chippewa as he fell from his pony. Her head hit a boulder, knocking her unconscious. After the Mdewakanton prevailed, they found her still holding onto the tomahawk embedded in the Chippewa’s head.

     The braves returned to the village with Red Eagle Woman still unconscious and brought her to her father’s lodge. Seeing his daughter, Big Eagle feared the worse, but when told she was alive and had a strong heartbeat, his anguish turned to anger. The brave carrying Red Eagle Woman placed her on her skins, and Big Eagle sat down and waited for his daughter to regain consciousness.

     A little while later, Red Eagle Woman was sitting up, rubbing her head, wondering what had happened while her father waited patiently; he wanted her fully awake before he scolded her. But before he could do so, a brave who had been on the raid called out, “Dećiya wauŋ Mi՜ye?”

     “Of course you may enter my lodge. You are always welcome,” replied Big Eagle.

     The brave asked Big Eagle if he would allow Red Eagle Woman to attend the Kill Dance and tell of her coups. (Feathers were given to braves who had shown courage in battle. They were called coup feathers and presented during the celebratory dance known as the Kill Dance.)

      Big Eagle’s first thought was to throw him out of his tipi, but when he saw the sparkle in his daughter’s eyes, he relented. “She may do as she wishes; I am only her father,” he said with a smile.
At the Kill Dance, when the time came for her to receive her feathers, two braves stepped forward, and each, in turn, told how they had found her with the dead Chippewa. Little Crow, the chief, asked Red Eagle Woman to stand and approach. He handed her two feathers, one for striking the enemy and one for killing him. He then asked her to recount her coups.

     She stood in silence for a moment, looking dazed. She looked to her father for help. He shrugged as if to say, This is your doing, not mine.

     At length, she said, “I am sorry, I remember nothing. The last thing I remember is kicking my pony; I wanted to get into the fight before it was over.”

     All those assembled burst into laughter, even her father.

     In the Indian culture, male children usually did not keep the name given them at birth. After a young brave had distinguished himself in battle, he would receive a new name.

     Big Eagle walked over to Little Crow and after a few moments of discussion, Little Crow sat down while Big Eagle remained standing. He held up his hands for silence. When all eyes were on him, he said, “Little Crow and I have decided that my daughter has earned a new name for herself. She may have her choice of two. Choose your name, daughter. Is it to be Forgets Woman or Fighting Woman?”

     That was his and Little Crow’s way of chastising her for going on the raid in the first place. They knew what name she would choose, and from that day forward, she was known as Fighting Woman.

     It looks as though my time is up, so we’ll have to end it there. I would like to thank Lauralee for allowing me a little space on her blog to promote my new book, Yellow Hair.


Yellow Hair


Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: William & Assoc.
Release Date: September 28, 2016
Pages: 498
Synopsis: Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage written about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in this fact-based tale of fiction were real people and the author uses their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.

     This is American history.

     Buy from Amazon and Smashwords.


About the Author:


     Andrew Joyce is the author of Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, for which he won a 2013 Editor's Choice Award for best Western novel, Molly Lee, and Resolution: 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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Queen of the Heavens by Kingsley Guy: A Book Review

Queen of the Heavens
Author: Kingsley Guy
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Middle River Press
Release Date: 2012
Pages: 284
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: What is it like to awaken to the divine, and know that our lives are informed and shaped by spiritual guidance from other realms? Queen of the Heavens helps us open the gateway to those unseen worlds.

     Respected journalist Kingsley Guy takes us back to ancient Egypt, where gods and goddesses were not merely images carved in stone. They were as real as the sunset and the wind blowing through papyrus reeds. Known as the neters, they passed back and forth between the dimensions, working magic in people's lives.
   
     Come meet Tuya. Through her gifts as a healer, this extraordinary woman gained the attention of the royal court and rose from commoner to queen. Tuya inspired and transformed the lives of those she touched during the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. Allow her to do the same for you. 

     My Review: Tuya was queen to Seti I and the mother of Ramesses II. Yet, she was once a commoner. How did a commoner become the Queen of Egypt? The historical novel, Queen of the Heavens attempts to answers these questions. At an early age, Tuya was marked by the Egyptian gods. Called by Isis herself, she will help restore light to Egypt. A devoted woman to the gods, Tuya is determined to do their will. Little does she know that she is called to be the Queen of Egypt and will give birth to one of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs.

     At first, Tuya is a precocious and happy child. Yet, when she is called by Isis, she makes a tough decision to do Isis’s will, even when her family objects. Her family does not understand Tuya’s actions and are befuddled by them. This is because Tuya has the gift of healing and she heals both nobles and commoners alike, which is very improper for a young girl of marriageable age. Yet, Tuya’s healing has captured the attention of Ramesses, who will eventually be Ramesses I. He believes that because of Tuya’s healing powers that she has the ear of Isis. This makes Tuya a very promising bride and marries her to his son, Seti.

     I really admire Tuya. She is a strong and bright woman. I liked how she followed Isis’s will to heal both commoners and nobles. Yet, sometimes Tuya suffered some obstacles. It is because of these difficulties that she questions her faith and her abilities. Eventually, she learns that faith involves both the good and the bad times. Because of this, it is what makes her a stronger and wiser person.

     Overall, this book is about faith, family, and choices. It is about a woman who is determined to follow her beliefs and do what is right. The message of this book is that even though there are difficult times in your life, you will overcome them. The obstacles in your life are what makes you a stronger person. I really thought this book was very well-researched, and I thought all the characters were very complex. The only thing I did not like about this book was the long separation between Seti and Tuya. I thought the reason for their separation was absurd and could easily be remedied. Still, I love how Queen Tuya is portrayed in the book because she is a very caring, tough, and wise character. I recommend this book to fans of Michelle Moran, Stephanie Dray, and Libbie Hawker. Queen of the Heavens is an excellent tribute to this obscure woman.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars





The Last Heiress: A Novel of Tutankhamun's Queen by Stephanie Liaci: A Book Review

The Last Heiress: A Novel of Tutankhamun's Queen
Author: Stephanie Liaci
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Release Date: 2010
Pages: 587
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: Beside the Golden Pharaoh Tutankhamun was a woman whose words were buried with her in the sands of the Valley of the Kings. She was the wife of two pharaohs, and a born princess. She was the last surviving daughter of the famed beauty Nefertiti. She bore children to sit on the throne of Egypt. Together with her husband, she brought prosperity back to her wounded nation. But after the shocking death of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, she became the unwilling bride of her husband's most trusted servant, made a desperate offer to an enemy king, and then... She vanished. This is her untold story. This is the story of the last heiress of the glorious eighteenth dynasty, Ankhesenamun.

     My Review: Everyone knows about Egypt’s famous pharoah, King Tutankhamun. However, few know about King Tut’s queen, Ankhesenamun. This novel, chronicles the life of Queen Ankhesenamun and also the reign of four pharaohs. She was the daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Despite being a princess, Ankhesenamun was lonely. Because of her royal blood, men would use her as a pawn for becoming pharaoh. However, one pharaoh only loves her as she is, and that is King Tutankhamun. Together, Queen Ankhesenamun and King Tutankhamun are determined to rule together and make Egypt great. The only problem is that time is not on their side. Ankhesenamun has premonitions that King Tutankhamun may face an early death. Ankhesenamun is determined to fight the will of the Gods and to determine her own fate.

     Before I read this book I did not know anything about Queen Ankhesenamun, except that she married King Tut. Yet after reading this book, I was inspired to learn more about her life. While there are still more details to learn about her, the fact is that Queen Ankhesenamun had a tragic life. Reading The Last Heiress retells the life of Queen Ankhesenamun from her point of view. In this story, we see a girl who was a political pawn. When she was a child she was forced to marry her father and give him a stillborn daughter at an early age. It is because of this traumatic event that it was hard for her to find love. Yet, the slow romance between her and Tutankhamun eventually softened her scars.

     Overall, this story is about love, friendship, healing, and recovery. I really felt sorry for Ankhesenamun. She was a woman who was determined to find happiness. Yet, she was a smart queen. She was also very strong. She was willing to be tough in order to get her way. The only thing that I did not like about the book was I did not understand her reasoning for why she sent a letter to the Hittite King asking him to send one of his sons to marry her. I thought the reasoning was foolish and it did not make sense. I also did not like the way it ended. It was very surprising and unbelievable. Still, despite these flaws, I really did love the book. This book was meticulously researched, and I felt that she brought the Amarna period to life. I also thought this book felt like a sequel to Nefertiti by Michelle Moran. I liked Ankhesenamun’s friendship with Mutnodjmet. The Last Heiress is full of political and courtly intrigue, mystery, drama, and romance. I did not want this book to end. This book is an excellent tribute to King Tut’s queen, and will leave you wanting to learn more about Queen Ankhesenamun's tragic life.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Child of the Morning by Pauline Gedge: A Book Review

Child of the Morning
Author: Pauline Gedge
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Release Date: 2010
Pages: 416
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: Thirty-five centuries ago the sun had a daughter: Hatshepsut. Youngest daughter of the Pharaoh, she was a lithe and magical child. But when her older sister died, it became her duty to purify the dynasty’s bloodline. She was to wed Thothmes, her father’s illegitimate son, who was heir to the throne. But fearing his son’s incompetence, Hatshepsut’s father came to her with startling news. She was to be Pharaoh, ruler of the greatest empire the world had ever known--provided, of course, that the unprecedented ascension by a woman did not inspire the priests to treason or instill in her half-brother and future consort sufficient hatred to have her put to death.

     This is the premise for Child of the Morning, based closely on the historical facts. Hatshepsut assumed the throne at the age of fifteen and ruled brilliantly for more than two decades. Her achievements were immortalized on the walls of her magnificent temple at Deir el-Bahri, built by her architect and lover, Senmut.


     Sensuous and evocative, Child of the Morning is the story of one of history’s most remarkable women.


     My Review: Child of the Morning chronicles the life of one of Egypt’s Female Pharaohs, Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut is the youngest daughter of Thutmose I. However, she is also his favorite. She is smart, ambitious, and strong. When her older sister dies, Hatshepsut is now prepared to be Chief Royal Wife for Thutmose II. However, it is clear that Thutmose II is not suited for the role of Pharaoh because he has no interest in politics Instead, it seems that Hatshepsut would be a better pharaoh than him. Thutmose I proposes to make Hatshepsut his heir instead. Yet, when Thutmose I dies, Hatshepsut realizes that all of her father’s dreams of making her king have been in vain because Egypt cries for a male king to rule. Hatshepsut reluctantly gives up her crown and becomes Chief Royal Wife for Thutmose II. When Thutmose II died, Queen Hatshepsut steps in and crowns herself Pharaoh. However, her stepson Thutmose III is determined to destroy Hatshepsut and take the throne that is rightfully his.

     I really love Hatshepsut. She is a strong female pharaoh. She is ambitious and dreams that she can help make Egypt great. However, despite what she has done for Egypt, people still want a male to rule Egypt. Hatshepsut can be arrogant, stubborn, and defiant. Yet, there were moments where she did not have any confidence in herself. There were very weak moments in her life and difficult problems that she did not want to face. Yet through the encouragement of her friends and followers, she eventually picked herself up and faced her obstacles head-on. Thus, Hatshepsut is a relatable character. She is a woman who struggles with tough problems in her life, but with her friends, she is willing to fight any battle that comes her way.

       Overall, this book is about love, friendship, duty, and responsibility. It is about a woman’s love for Egypt. In a world dominated by men, Hatshepsut acted every bit like a king. She believed that she was the chosen Pharaoh. Her actions astounded many men, and even her enemies admired her. I also found this book to be meticulously-researched, and Mrs. Gedge made Ancient Egypt come alive. While some information in this novel is outdated, I still think that this is a gem in historical fiction. I loved Child of the Morning so much that I have read it twice! Child of the Morning is full of political and courtly intrigue, romance, and drama. I recommend to fans of Michelle Moran, Stephanie Thornton, and Libbie Hawker. Child of the Morning is an excellent tribute to one of Egypt's most successful pharaohs.



Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Friday, October 21, 2016

Guest Post: Cuyler Overholt: The Inspiration of Writing a Female Detective

     Today's guest writer is Cuyler Overholt. She is the author of A Deadly Affection, the first in a historical mystery series featuring female amateur sleuth, Dr. Genevieve Summerford.  I have always been interested in novels that star women detectives. There are not many novels that have these type of women detectives. In this guest, Mrs. Overholt discusses what drew her to write having a female detective as a protagonist. I hope this guest post gives you some insight into the novel. Thank you, Mrs. Overholt.


The Inspiration of Writing A Female Detective



     When I first started thinking about writing a mystery set in 1907 New York City, I didn’t intend to have a female psychiatrist as my amateur sleuth. In fact, if you’d asked me what the odds were of running into a female doctor back then, I would have guessed slim to none. I’d always assumed that women first entered the professions in any significant numbers as a result of the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. But as I was fascinated to discover when I started researching the era, I was wrong.

     To be sure, up through the 1880s women were almost completely excluded from mainstream medical schools. A handful had managed to gain admittance by then, usually with the help of a male mentor, and a few more had attended all-woman medical colleges. But these women, despite their fierce desire and determination, had no access to the postgraduate training programs that were so critical to professional competence, and were not welcomed by professional societies or hospital and clinic staffs. As Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American woman to obtain a medical degree, wrote to her sister Elizabeth around this time: “a blank wall of social and professional antagonism faces the woman physician that forms a situation of painful loneliness, leaving her without support, respect or professional counsel.”

     A number of reasons were generally put forward as to why women should not be allowed to practice medicine. It was believed, for one thing, that the sight of unveiled bodies and the blood and gore of the operating room was naturally repugnant to the modesty and delicacy of women. Females were also claimed to be intellectually inferior to men, and too prone to impulsivity and hysteria to exercise good judgement. Dr. Edward Clarke, a respected Harvard professor, declared in a widely disseminated treatise that “higher education for women produces monstrous brains, puny bodies, abnormally weak digestion and constipated bowels”, and should therefore be avoided at all costs. This thinking kept women out of mainstream medical schools right up to the last decade of the nineteenth century. But by 1893, change was in the air.

     That was the year the country went into a major depression, which made it impossible for Johns Hopkins University to find the funding it needed to finish its state-of-the-art new medical school. Sensing opportunity, four female donors stepped forward and offered to give the university $500,000 toward the school’s completion, if—and only if—it would accept women students. With no other alternative in sight, Johns Hopkins agreed. Other schools felt compelled to follow suit, and within five years women were filling more than 35% of the seats at some of the country’s most prestigious schools. They were also winning a large share of the academic honors. By 1900, over 7000 women had earned their medical degrees, and almost all of them went on to work in the field.

     Unfortunately, this influx caused more competition for patients and fees, and pretty soon the American Medical Association was grumbling that the profession was overcrowded to the point of starvation. Instead of solving the problem by making entry requirements more rigorous for everyone, and letting the cream rise to the top, the schools simply, and quietly, cut or reduced their admissions of women once more. By 1903, just ten years after Johns Hopkins opened its doors to women, overall female enrollment had dropped to 3%. It would stay in the single digits for the next seventy years, except for a slight uptick around World War II, until Title IX and other anti-gender bias legislation opened the doors again in the 1970s.

     Those pioneering women doctors from the turn of the twentieth century became the inspiration for my mystery’s protagonist, Dr. Genevieve Summerford, who has graduated third in her class from Johns Hopkins Medical School and has chosen to work in the brand new field of medical psychology. It was clear to me that a woman doctor at that time would have to be intelligent, resilient, open to new ideas, and more than a little stubborn—all excellent qualities for an amateur sleuth. 

     Occasionally, a reader will ask me, “was it really possible for a woman to pursue a career as a doctor back then?’ When that happens, I love to tell them that yes, over a hundred years ago a determined cadre of women doctors really did manage to claim their day in the sun.

A Deadly Affection:

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Pages: 445
Synopsis: In 1907 New York, a psychiatrist must prove her patient's innocence...or risk being implicated in a shocking murder

     As one of the first women practicing in an advanced new field of psychology, Dr. Genevieve Summerford is used to forging her own path. But when one of her patients is arrested for murder-a murder Genevieve fears she may have unwittingly provoked-she is forced to seek help from an old acquaintance.

     Desperate to clear her patient's name and relieve her own guilty conscience, Genevieve finds herself breaking all the rules she's tried so hard to live by. In her search for answers, Genevieve uncovers an astonishing secret that, should she reveal it, could spell disaster for those she cares about most. But if she lets her discovery remain hidden, she will almost certainly condemn her patient to the electric chair.


About the Author:


      After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law, Cuyler Overholt practiced as a litigation associate for four years before leaving the law to start up a freelance writing business. Over the next decade she transformed technical jargon into entertaining prose for a New York-based public relations firm. She finally found her true calling when she started scribbling a novel during her young sons’ naptimes. A Deadly Affection, her award-winning debut, was reissued by Sourcebooks in September 2016 as the first installment in the Dr. Genevieve Summerford historical mystery series.

      Cuyler shares a keen interest in human motivation and behavior with her husband, a psychologist, who is still working on perfecting her. When she isn’t reading or writing she can usually be found on a bike, in the cobra pose, designing her next dream house or enjoying a good movie. For more information, visit her website.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dido's Crown by Julie K. Rose: A Book Review

Dido's Crown
Author: Julie K. Rose
Publication Date: September 26, 2016
Pages: 340
Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Set in Tunisia and France in 1935, Dido's Crown is a taut literary-historical adventure influenced by Indiana Jones, The Thin Man, and John le Carré.

     Mary Wilson MacPherson has always been adept at putting the past behind her: her father's death, her sister's disappearance, and her complicated relationship with childhood friends Tom and Will. But that all changes when, traveling to North Africa on business for her husband, Mary meets a handsome French-Tunisian trader who holds a mysterious package her husband has purchased — a package which has drawn the interest not only of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, but the Nazis as well. 

     When Tom and Will arrive in Tunisia, Mary suddenly finds herself on a race across the mesmerizing and ever-changing landscapes of the country, to the shores of southern France, and all across the wide blue Mediterranean. Despite her best efforts at distancing herself from her husband's world, Mary has become embroiled in a mystery that could threaten not only Tunisian and British security in the dangerous political landscape of 1935, but Mary's beliefs about her past and the security of her own future.

     My Review: Mary MacPherson arrives at a party in Tunisia to retrieve a package for her husband. At the party, she is reunited with her two best friends, Will and Tom, who also want to know the package’s contents. Soon Mary, Tom, and Will find themselves amidst a dangerous conspiracy that could threaten both Britain and Tunisia. Mary and her three friends are determined to unravel the mystery of the package.
      
     I really did not like Mary as the protagonist. I felt the author tried too hard to make her a strong character. Instead, I found her to be a very annoying character. She came across to me as a smart-alec. I did not find that to be very endearing. I honestly did not see why she was very likeable to the other characters. If she was not being smart, then she would whine and complain a lot. Despite her flaws, she is very intelligent and inquisitive. She is determined to get answers. I did like Will and Tom. I found them to be very engaging, likeable, and complex characters. I liked them better than Mary.

     Overall, this book is full of political intrigue, action, adventure, mystery, and a dash of romance. I liked all the characters except for Mary, for they seem to be very complex. I also thought that this book was a very fast-paced and quick read. There were some slow moments in the book. I also did not like how it switched back and forth between 1935 and 1916, for I thought the time jumps to be confusing and distracting to the main plot. Nevertheless, the mystery and the adventure element kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end because I could not wait to find out what happens. I recommend this story for fans of Alone in Berlin, The Unlikely Spy, and A Chance to Kill.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Blog Tour: The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet by Natasha Farrant: A Book Review


THE SECRET DIARY OF LYDIA BENNET
Author: Natasha Farrant
Pub. Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: The Chicken House
Pages: 336
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Goodreads
Source: This book was given to me by Rockstar Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: A fresh, funny, and spirited reimagining of Jane Austen's beloved Pride and Prejudice, The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet brings the voice of the wildest Bennet sister to life.

     Lydia is the youngest of the five Bennet girls. She's stubborn, never listens, and can't seem to keep her mouth shut -- not that she would want to anyway. She wishes her older sisters would pay her attention, or that something would happen in her boring country life.

     Luckily, that something is right around the corner, and it's the handsome Wickham, who arrives at Longbourn to sweep her off her feet. Lydia's not going to let him know THAT, of course, especially since he only seems to be interested in friendship. But when they both decide to summer in the fasionable seaside town of Brighton, their paths inevitably become entangled again.

     At the seaside, Lydia also finds exciting new ways of life and a pair of friends who offer her a future she would have never dreamed possible. Lydia finally understands what she really wants. But can she get it?
   
     My Review: Lydia is one of the most annoying and hated characters in Pride and Prejudice. When she marries George Wickham, we are happy that she is sent to live a life of unhappiness. Yet, in The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet, we are given a look from Lydia’s perspective during her romance with George Wickham. Thus, we the reader not only get to hear her side of the story, but we get a glimpse of Lydia’s character.

      Lydia is still childish and silly. However, she is still a teenager. She makes mistakes. She is very naive and idealistic. She is bored with her life in the country and wants to go to the city and experience the world. She dreams of marrying a handsome rich man. Yet, she falls for Mr. Wickham because he seems to understand her. Thus, Lydia is often misunderstood. She is a woman who does not want to live strictly within a society. She wants society to conform to her ideals. Because of this, Lydia is represented as a victim. However, because Lydia is very romantic and stubborn, she is determined to get her way.

      Overall, this book is about choices, responsibility, and love. I found the characters to be believable. I also thought that this book fits well with not only, Pride and Prejudice, but also as a Jane Austen novel. I did find the writing to be a little too modern, but I thought that it suited Lydia’s voice. After reading this book, I found that I like Lydia a bit better than I originally did. The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet is a light and fast-paced read. This novel is also perfect while eating dessert or sipping coffee. I recommend this story not only to fans of Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen, but those who want to see Lydia Bennet in a different light.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


About Martina: 



     I am one of those rarities, a Londoner born and bred.  And like most true Londoners, I’m not completely English, but three-quarters French with a little bit Dutch thrown in.  I can’t imagine living anywhere else, though I would like a horse, a big old house with a secret passage or two, a fig tree, a walnut tree, lots of dogs and a vista of rolling hills on one side and the sea on the other.  All of which are sadly incompatible with both life in the city and my income.

     I write partly because in my stories I can live the lives I’m not…

     I have two teenage daughters, Justine and Lily, who provide endless inspiration for my books.  I am pleased to say inspiration works both ways. One of them has dyed her hair pink, and the other has taken to hanging out on the roof in the middle of the night.

     The “person” I talk to most is my tortoiseshell cat, Amber.  This is because as a writer you spend a lot of time alone, which makes you go slightly mad.  Amber repays me for my conversation by trashing my house.  Soon we are going to buy a dachshund puppy called Blue, and presumably he will be equally destructive.

     I get very grumpy if I don’t have a good book to read, if I’m not writing, if I’m hungry, tired or don’t get enough exercise.  Otherwise I am a generally cheerful person.

     Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about my life as a writer.



Giveaway Details:


3 winners will receive finished copies of THE SECRET DIARY OF LYDIA BENNET, US Only.