Friday, July 29, 2016

Guest Post: "Writing a Woman Sleuth" by Cheryl Honigford

     Today's guest writer is Cheryl Honigford. She is the debut author of The Darkness Knows. It is the first in a mystery series set in Chicago and features Vivian Witchell and Charlie Haverman.  In this guest post she discusses writing about a woman sleuth. I have a lifelong passion for female sleuths, and I will also review The Darkness Knows soon! I hope this guest post will give you some insight into her writing and her novel. Thank you, Mrs. Honigford!



Writing a Woman Sleuth


     I didn’t set out to write a woman sleuth. It’s just that my main character, radio actress Vivian Witchell, discovers the body of a murdered co-star in the station’s lounge and becomes a sleuth by happenstance. My debut novel, THE DARKNESS KNOWS, is a historical mystery set in a radio station in 1938 Chicago. Women sleuths in historical mysteries are generally of the amateur and accidental variety - meaning they are not detectives by profession, but they stumble into murder and mayhem and have a personal stake in solving it. Like Vivian.

     Vivian is career-minded and independent – not common qualities found in even the most spirited of young women of 1930s Middle America. Sure, women went to college then, some even had jobs outside the home, but a career was not something most aspired to have. Society dictated that most women get married and have children. Period. Women usually only held jobs temporarily until they found a husband to “take care” of them. 

     So Vivian is already something of an outlier even before she discovers the murder. She is in her mid-twenties and unmarried. She doesn’t need to work. She does, however, want to work (gasp!). Vivian is headstrong and independent, something that modern readers can relate to. But I knew that to be historically accurate I also had to balance those character traits with the gender attitudes of the time period. After all, in the late 1930s the women’s lib movement is still about thirty years in the future. So Vivian needs to be aware of, and at least partially conform to, the 1930s-era ideas about a woman’s place in society: a woman’s never going to run a company much less run for president of The United States (ahem). The professional fields open to women at the time are narrow and options for advancement almost non-existent. The average woman can reasonably hope to become a teacher, nurse, or secretary – which is Vivian’s profession before she becomes an actress. 

     Society’s restrictions are stifling to a bright young woman, as you can imagine, so when she gets the chance to solve the murder she jumps at it. After all, this murder has threatened her burgeoning career in radio and her sense of self as a result. What can she do but find the killer and put a stop to all of it, so her star can continue to rise? But once she starts sleuthing she finds that she actually likes it – the darkness, the danger, the challenge. 

     Vivian, like most amateur historical women sleuths, finds a way to use her wits in a world that wants to confine her to a pretty little box. I think a lot of historical women sleuths are like this – desperately searching for an outlet for the workings of their agile minds. Then they stumble upon sleuthing quite by accident and find solving a good puzzle is what they crave. I’m not going to tell you whether Vivian’s successful in her investigation - you’ll have to read the book for that. But I will tell you that she’s more than up to the challenge.

The Darkness Knows by Cheryl Honigford


Genre: Historical Mystery
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: August 2nd, 2016
Pages: 352

Book Description:


     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.

About the Author:


     Born and raised in Ohio, Cheryl Honigford has been writing stories since she could read (and telling stories even before that). She received her BA in Journalism, with a minor in English, from The Ohio State University.

     The Darkness Knows began life as a Nanowrimo novel, inspired by Cheryl's love of mysteries, Chicago, and old-time radio (and all things 30s). It was a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest and the overall winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense (Unpublished Category).

     Cheryl lives with her family in the suburbs of Chicago where she enjoys what her husband likes to call "the interests of an 80-year-old woman" (knitting, canning, cozy mysteries, and Fred and Ginger movies). The Darkness Knows is the first book in the Viv and Charlie Mystery series. Visit her website.




Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hanging Mary by Susan Higginbotham: A Book Review

Hanging Mary
Author: Susan Higginbotham
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Pages: 402
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: The untold story of Lincoln's Assassination

     1864, Washington City. One has to be careful with talk of secession, of Confederate whispers falling on Northern ears. Better to speak only when in the company of the trustworthy. Like Mrs. Surratt.

     A widow who runs a small boardinghouse on H Street, Mary Surratt isn't half as committed to the cause as her son, Johnny. If he's not delivering messages or escorting veiled spies, he's invited home men like John Wilkes Booth, the actor who is even more charming in person than he is on the stage.

     But when President Lincoln is killed, the question of what Mary knew becomes more important than anything else. Was she a cold-blooded accomplice? Just how far would she go to help her son?

     Based on the true case of Mary Surratt, Hanging Mary reveals the untold story of those on the other side of the assassin's gun.

     My Review: Mary Surratt was a woman who was involved in the conspiracy of Lincoln’s assassination and was the first woman to be executed by the U.S. government. She was also the person who had the chance to save Abraham Lincoln. Even though she knew about the conspiracy, she did not alert the authorities. However, despite her notoriety, there are very few details as to her motives. In this historical novel, Mary Surratt is allowed to tell her own story, and to the motives of why she held her tongue as Booth made his decision to assassinate President Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre.

     The story is told from the viewpoints of both Mary Surratt and her boarder, Nora. I did not really like these two protagonists. I found them both unsympathetic. They each seemed very emotionally-detached, and Mary up until she was hanged seemed passive. There was not really much information as to Mary’s motives for it was hardly discussed. Throughout the novel, Mary never fully realized the depth of the crime she had committed, nor was she repentant. She never felt the guilt that she had help murder President Lincoln, nor was she sorry about the victim. All she thought about was herself. She was also a bad parent, for if she was a good parent, she would have held her son, who was part of the conspiracy, to be held for accountable of his actions. Therefore, this woman was not a likable character and never fully realized the consequences of her actions.

     Overall, this book is supposed to be an in-depth psyche of a complex woman, yet I found this woman to be very distant to the reader. She still seemed to keep her secrets, for instance, the motive of why she decided to aid John Wilkes Booth. I really did not like any of the characters in this book, and they never seemed very well-rounded. This book was very slow, boring, and tedious. In the first half, hardly anything happens. They just discuss the tedious everyday details of their life. The only interesting parts were the trial and the execution, but it happens near the the end of the book. I recommend this book if you love reading about Lincoln’s assassinations and political conspiracies. However, I suggest that you skip this for there are better books about Lincoln’s assassination out there. You will not be missing anything in this novel because nothing happens that is not already stated in history books.


Rating 2½ out  of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dreamwielder (Book One of The Dreamwielder Chronicles) by Garrett Calcaterra: A Book Review

Dreamwielder (Book One of The Dreamwielder Chronicles)
Author: Garrett Calcaterra
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Diversion Books
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 288
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: In a world shrouded by soot and smoke, young Makarria has literally been forbidden to dream… 

     Legend has foretold the demise of Emperor Thedric Guderian at the hands of a sorceress with royal blood, and the Emperor has made it his legacy to stamp out all magic from the Sargothian Empire in favor of primitive coal fired smelters and steam powered machines. When Guderian’s minions discover a Dreamwielder on a seaside farmstead, a chain of events forces Guderian’s new threat—the young Makarria—to flee from her home and embark upon an epic journey where her path intertwines with that of Princess Taera, her headstrong brother, Prince Caile, and the northman Siegbjorn, who captains a night-flying airship. 

     Dogging their every step is the part-wolf, part-raven sorcerer, Wulfram, and Emperor Guderian, himself, a man who has the ability to stint magic and a vision to create a world where the laws of nature are beholden to men and machines. Only by learning to control the power she wields can Makarria save her newfound companions and stop the Emperor from irreversibly exterminating both the magic in humans and their bond with nature.

     My Review: In a world where the Emperor's goal is to stamp out magic in his kingdom, Makarria has found out that she is a sorceress. Through her dreams, she has the magical ability to wield magic. When she magically made her grandfather young again, she and her grandfather run away to find a safe haven where she can control her abilities. However, Makarria quickly meets Princess Taera, and the two of them embark on a dangerous quest to defeat the evil emperor.

     Makarria is a heroine that readers can relate too. She was a woman who was quickly thrust into a situation for which she was totally unprepared for. She doubts herself and her abilities. She is also very naive. At first she is weak  and lets others risk their lives to protect her. Eventually, she matures into a strong woman who is able to rely more on herself instead of others. She then decides to make decisions that is best for herself. However, she is not afraid to seek advice when she needs it. She is also very inquisitive, stubborn at times, and makes rash decisions. Still, Makarria is a woman who eventually becomes her own woman.

     Overall, this book is about family, friendship, and choices. It is also a beautiful coming of age tale. The message of this book is to believe in yourself. I really liked all the characters, and I thought that they were very dynamic. Each of the characters had to  make difficult decisions to fulfill their role in the story. I also thought that the world-building was complex and I liked the explanation of magic within the kingdom. Even though it is set in a medieval like setting, I thought that the steampunk element in this story was interesting and fitted the story together perfectly. I also liked that there was no romance in this story. Instead, the action and adventure were the focus in this story. Because there was no romance element, I liked how I could focus solely on the plot and the characters. For readers who would like some romance in your story, do not be disappointed because I’m sure there is room for romance in the sequel, Souldrifter. Thus, I’m very excited to read Souldrifter, for I cannot wait to read what happens next to Makarria. I recommend this novel for fans of Juliet Marillier’s Shadowfell trilogy, and Jeff Wheeler’s Muirwood trilogy.

Rating 5 out of 5 stars



Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blog Tour: The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose: A Book Review

The Secret Language of StonesM. J. Rose

on Tour July 19-28 with

The Secret Language of Stones

(historical fiction) Release date: July 19, 2016 by Atria Books/Simon & Schuster ISBN: 978-1-4767-7809-9 320 pages Author's page | Goodreads  

Source: This book was given to me by France Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.


SYNOPSIS

AS WORLD WAR I RAGES AND THE ROMANOV DYNASTY REACHES ITS SUDDEN, BRUTAL END, A YOUNG JEWELRY MAKER DISCOVERS LOVE, PASSION, AND HER OWN HEALING POWERS IN THIS RICH AND ROMANTIC NOVEL BY NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR M.J. ROSE.

     Nestled deep within Paris’s historic Palais Royal, safe inside La Fantasie Russie’s once-bustling workshop, young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi spends her days making trench watches for soldiers at the front and mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. Opaline has a rare gift, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones enable her to receive messages from beyond. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her. So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family.

Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones  is yet another “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).
“Spellbinding.” —Alyson Richman, author of The Lost Wife

     My Review: The Secret Language of Stones is the sequel to The Witch of Painted Sorrows, and focused on Sandrine’s daughter, Opaline. Due to her being a descendant of La Lune, Opaline has the gift of clairvoyance. Through the use of certain gemstones, she is able to  communicate with people from the dead to pass along messages to their surviving loved ones. One day, a fallen soldier talks directly to her. Soon, Opaline  and the ghost, Jean Luc, embark on a dangerous mission as she tries to find the fate of the children of Nicolas II.

     Opaline is a young woman who yearns to live a life of her own. She makes the decision to not follow her family to America and stay in Paris to become a jeweler. I really liked the character Opaline, and I believe that readers can relate to her. She does have moments of self-doubt. Yet, over time she grows into a more mature, brave, strong-willed young woman. I also found her romance with Jean Luc to be very entrancing. Because of the supernatural relationship, I was eager to see how it would end.


     Overall, this book has a romance, mystery, and a beautiful ghost-story. I really like how it was set in WWI, and I found it to be a darker setting than in The Witch of Painted Sorrows. While I did enjoy this story immensely, this story did not captivate me as much as The Witch of Painted Sorrows. This is probably because I wanted more of the mysterious ghost of La Lune. I also found the book harder to get into than The Witch of Painted Sorrows. It was not until almost halfway that I got absorbed into it. Nevertheless, the writing is very beautiful and the story was entertaining. I do hope that maybe in the future installments, the author will return to La Lune because she was one of my favorite characters. I recommend this story to anyone who is interested in the Romanovs, WWI love stories, and suspenseful, paranormal stories.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


mj-rose 



     M.J. Rose grew up in New York City exploring the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum and the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park—and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She is the author of more than a dozen novels, the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers, and the founder of the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz.com. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. Please visit her website, her blog: Museum of Mysteries Subscribe to her mailing list and get information about new releases, free book downloads, contests, excerpts and more. Or send an email to TheFictionofMJRose-subscribe at yahoogroups dot com To send M.J. a message and/or request a signed bookplate, send an email to mjroseauthor at gmail dot com Follow her on Facebook and Twitter Buy the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Books A Million

***

You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.


Enter here


Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open to US residents only: 9 participants will each win a print copy of this book.

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS, GUEST-POST AND EXCERPT


The Secret Language of Stones Banner

Monday, July 18, 2016

Allerleirauh by Chantal Gadoury: A Book Review

Allerleirauh
Author: Chantal Gadoury
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Chantal Gadoury
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 236
Source:  This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Once Upon a Time… 

     In the Kingdom of Tranen, a King makes a promise to his dying wife to only remarry someone who has her golden hair. With time, the King finds his eyes are turned by his maturing daughter. Realizing her Father’s intentions, Princess Aurelia tries to trick her Father by requesting impossible gifts: dresses created by the Sun, Moon and Stars and a Coat made of a Thousand furs. 

     When Aurelia discovers his success, she decides to sacrifice her privileged life and escapes the Kingdom disguised by the cloak and under a new name, “Allerleirauh.” 

     Aurelia enters the safe haven of the Kingdom of Saarland der Licht, where she is taken under the care of the handsome and gentle Prince Klaus. Hoping to not be discovered by her Father’s courtiers, Aurelia tries to remain hidden under her new false identity. 

     Unexpected love is found between Aurelia and Prince Klaus and is challenged with an approaching arranged marriage between the Kingdom of Saarland der Licht and a neighboring ruler. With the possibility of discovery hanging in the air, Aurelia must face the troubles of her past with her Father, and her fears of the future in her journey of self-discovery. 

     My Review: Allerleirauh is a retelling of the lesser known Brothers Grimm fairytale, “Donkeyskin.” When Princess Aurelia’s mother dies, her only request is for the king to marry a woman as beautiful as she with golden hair. Princess Aurelia’s father has been looking for brides that resembled his late wife, when finally he gives up looking and settles on marrying his daughter. Desperate to escape the marriage to her father, Aurelia tries to stall the wedding by making impossible requests. When the requests are fulfilled, Aurelia flees to the kingdom of Saarland der Lict, where she meets a handsome and gentle prince named Nikolaus.

     Princess Aurelia is, at first, very naive. She is a woman that yearns for her father to be proud of her. Yet, she realizes that her father does not love her. When she flees her kingdom, she is an emotionally-distraught young woman. Yet, in her time with Prince Nikolaus, she embarks on a journey of healing and self-recovery. She eventually grows into a wise, headstrong, and courageous woman. Therefore, readers will root for Princess Aurelia as she tries to start a new beginning to love and be happy with herself. She is a person that anyone can relate to when they experience a personal tragedy and trauma in their life.

     Overall, this book is about friendship, love, choices, and hope. It is about a woman who searches for her own identity. The message of this book is that even though there are bad times, there are also good times. This book took a while for me to get into because the first half was a very uncomfortable read, for it was very disturbing. Yet, the second part sucked me into the book, and I did not want to stop reading. I really liked the blossoming romance between Prince Nikolaus and Princess Aurelia. It starts out as friendship and both of them grow to love each other through their love of mutual understanding and respect. Therefore, while the first part of the book was disturbing, it was very important because it helps build the basis of their relationship. Therefore, I really loved the main characters, and I liked watching them grow. Even though this is a young adult book, I believe that this is more suitable for older teens. This is because there are some graphic parts in this book. Nevertheless, this was a beautiful retelling with a strong message. I recommend Allerleirauh to fans of Juliet Mariller, Robin McKinley, and Sharon Shinn.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 15, 2016

Blog Tour: The Juliet by Laura Ellen Scott: A Book Review

The Juliet
Author: Laura Ellen Scott
Genre: Historical, Mystery & Suspense
Publisher: Pandamoon Publishing
Release Date: March 22nd, 2016
Pages: 301
Source:  This book was given to me by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: "Ah, the wild west, where the men are tough, the women are trouble, and the emeralds are cursed." 

     THE JULIET is a novel that braids the history of a cursed emerald called The Juliet with the story of an ailing, retired cowboy actor who comes to Death Valley to search for her. Rigg Dexon, best known for his role as Holt Breck in the classic but controversial seventies Western, Gallows River, holes up for months in a shack known as the Mystery House, until he is driven out of seclusion by the record breaking wildflower bloom of March 2005 that draws swarms of tourists to the desert. After an intense encounter with an ardent fan named Willie Judy at a local bar, Rigg impulsively signs over the deed for the Mystery House to her in a gesture straight out of one of his corny films. But Willie, a rootless, unlucky young woman from a family of short-lived dreamers, takes it as a sign: Dexon wants her to find the Juliet, now that he’s too frail to continue his search. What Willie doesn’t know is that Dexon is giving away everything that’s precious to him, following the advice of Holt Breck: leave like you ain’t coming back. When Dexon’s gift turns out to be the scene of a crime that implicates Willie in drug trafficking, she tries to cover it up, only to be drawn into the chaotic wake of The Juliet. 

     Interspersed with the story set in 2005 are episodes from The Juliet’s twisted history as the emerald changes hands over the span of a century, leaving a wake of murder, theft, and madness until she is seemingly lost in the 50s. However, when a 1970s cereal company promises that the prize inside the box is a fragment of a treasure map that might lead to The Juliet’s whereabouts, her legend is re-ignited, helped in no small part by the cereal’s spokesman, none other than Rigg Dexon. 

     My Review: This story revolves around the hunt for a cursed emerald called The Juliet. Rigg, a retired cowboy actor, has deeded the mystery house house to Willie, a woman who has been going through some hard times. When the Mystery House turns out to be the scene of a crime, Willie is forced to learn the truth about Rigg’s past, the mystery house, and the emerald, Juliet.

     This story focuses on two characters - Rigg and Willie. Rigg is a retired actor who arrived at Centenary, Nevada, a ghost town in Death Valley, because he was ensnared by the lure of the hidden emerald, The Juliet. However, it becomes apparent that the town and The Mystery House becomes very precious to him, and Rigg makes the hard decision to give it up to Willie. While Willie is at first bye love it love it love it drawn to the hunt for the lost emerald, she is enthralled with The Mystery House. Willie is a woman who is going through hard times. She is very unhappy, and throughout the novel, she goes through some trials. However, she is very persistent and smart. She is very determined to get to the truth of the legend of the emerald. Thus, Rigg and Willie are very complex and fascinating characters.

     Overall, this novel is about the search for truth. The story has a mystery, a murder, a curse, and a treasure hunt. While the story is slow-paced and took me a while to get into, I liked having to peeling many layers into the characters’ pasts. I found the characters to be very interesting, real, and human. I thought the setting to have a very mysterious atmosphere, and I was glad to explore the story more. My favorite parts in this novel were the historical aspects. I did not like some parts of the book. I found some scenes to be very unnecessary, and I would have enjoyed it better had those scenes been cut from the book. Still, I recommend this book to anyone interested in Westerns, mysteries, and a hunt for lost treasure.


Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Dragon and Princess Madeline by Kirstin Pulioff: A Book Review

The Dragon and Princess Madeline
Author: Kirstin Pulioff
Genre: Children's, Fantasy
Publisher: Kirstin Pulioff
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 129
Source:  This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Princess Madeline is ready to celebrate. With the foundation of her future in place, it seems nothing can hurt her. Then the return of a mysterious green dragon threatens her kingdom and king. Will this challenge prove to be too much for Princess Madeline and Prince Braden, or will they find the answers they seek hidden in cryptic messages from the past? 

     Can Madeline save her kingdom from the dragon, or is the real danger something else? 

     My Review: The Dragon and Princess Madeline is the final book to The Princess Madeline trilogy. The story picks up where The Battle for Princess Madeline has ended. Princess Madeline is ready to be queen of a new kingdom and marry her knight, Daniel. However, the green dragon has appeared that threatens to destroy everything that Madeline holds dear. However, clues from the past may give her a clue as to how to beat the dragon. Can Madeline save her kingdom from the dragon before it is too late?

     Madeline has really grown throughout the course of the three books. I like how she has grown to be very confident and self-assured. She is willing to take charge and be a queen. I also like how she is ready to make her own decisions. Madeline is also very observant. She looks for clues to solve the situation with the dragon. Overall, Madeline has become a leader. She makes very wise decisions, and people follow her reasoning. Therefore, she gets people around her to listen to her advice. Thus, I believe that she will make a good queen.

Overall, this story is about friendship, love, and family. The message of the story is to be yourself and to follow your heart. I  found this story to be very fast-paced, and I felt that all the loose ends were tied together neatly. My only complaint is that aside from Princess Madeline, there was not much development with the side characters, including her love interest, Daniel. They just seemed to be there. Still, I found this trilogy to be very light, charming, and enjoyable. I recommend this book to anyone who loves fierce heroines and fantasy books about dragons.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Blog Tour: Author Interview with Gwendolyn Womack

       Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Gwendolyn Womack, author of The Memory Painter. Ever since I read and enjoyed the novel, I have been wanting to interview her for a long time. Now, a year later, I am pleased that I finally had the chance to interview her. I hope this interview gives you some insight into her writing and her novel. Thank you, Mrs. Womack!



This is your first novel. How long did it take you to write it?


The Memory Painter took me about two years to write and one year to polish.

Did you ever encounter writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?


I really don't encounter writer's block. I just push through the inertia of not knowing what's next by trying to dig a little deeper.

What inspire you to write The Memory Painter?


The original spark of the idea was what if neuroscientists created a wonder drug that enabled us to remember our past lives. With those memories we would be able to speak all the languages of those lifetimes and have lost abilities. Then the image of Bryan painting in the dark, in the middle of night, while speaking ancient Greek came to me and the story grew from there.

There are some interesting theories about reincarnation that you've used in your book. Did you read any interesting books about the subject or is it all from your imagination?

I purposefully did not read any books on reincarnation while writing the novel. I didn't want to be influenced by those ideas. The story comes from a neuroscientific stance of memory retrieval. And that really came from my imagination. After the book came out I did read Dr. Brian Weiss' Many Lives, Many Masters because so many of my readers were asking if I had read it. I found the book completely fascinating and highly recommend it.

Your characters travel through many continents and time periods. Which one was your favorite? Also, which one did you find the most challenging?


I really love the Viking lifetime with Bjarni Herjolfsson and also Bodhidharma was a favorite to write. The most challenging was perhaps ancient Egypt because it was not based on any historical figures and I was creating an entire world without the references I had for the other lifetimes.

I heard you are you are writing a sequel. Which book do you find most challenging, the first book or the anticipated sequel? Did you initially plan for a sequel or did the idea come while writing the first novel?

I do have a sequel in mind but nothing has been planned for it yet. My next novel coming out next year, which I'll announce soon, is a standalone. That novel is also another thriller and love story that travels a lot of history.

For The Memory Painter I originally wrote it as a standalone, but then the story's continuation began to form in my mind over time. And so I went back and planted some seeds to connect the two. If and when I do a sequel for The Memory Painter, I'm imagining it more as a companion book that pairs with The Memory Painter, but will tie up any and all questions the first book posed. I hear a sequel is easier because the characters are already created, but in my mind it will be harder to write.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Follow the 3 P's: Persistence, Passion & Perseverance. Write from the heart and don't hold back. Go for drama. Deepen the characters. A lot of the magic is found while editing. So revise, revise, revise. Take time away from the computer to fill your imagination and recharge and then come back and revise some more. Be open to the ideas and feedback of others. Sometimes what is in your mind is not yet on the page. Be your hardest critic. And my favorite writing quote is from Ray Bradbury: "Your subconscious knows what it wants to write so get out of the way."

Thanks for having me on your blog!

Also check out my review of Gwendolyn Womack's novel, The Memory Painter.


The Memory Painter: A Novel of Love and Reincarnation by Gwendolyn Womack

02_The Memory Painter PB CoverPublication Date: July 5, 2016 Picador USA Paperback; 336 Pages ISBN: 978-1250095770 Genre: Historical Fiction/Time Travel/Mystery/Romance Finalist for the 2016 RWA Prism Awards for Best First Book & Best Time Travel/ Steampunk category.

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Synopsis: Two lovers who have travelled across time. A team of scientists at the cutting edge of memory research. A miracle drug that unlocks an ancient mystery. At once a sweeping love story and a time-travelling adventure, Gwendolyn Womack's luminous debut novel, The Memory Painter, is perfect for readers of The Time Traveler's Wife, Life After Life and Winter's Tale

     Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist, whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there's a secret to Bryan's success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. Bryan believes these dreams are really recollections―possibly even flashback from another life―and he has always hoped that his art will lead him to an answer. And when he meets Linz Jacobs, a neurogenticist who recognizes a recurring childhood nightmare in one Bryan's paintings, he is convinced she holds the key. Their meeting triggers Bryan's most powerful dream yet―visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer's, died in a lab explosion decades ago. As his visions intensify, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried. The Memory Painter is at once a taut thriller and a deeply original love story that transcends time and space, spanning six continents and 10,000 years of history.


“Gwendolyn Womack's tale dazzles.” ―US Weekly (Standout Spring Novels)
“…hang on for a wild and entertaining ride around the world and through the centuries back to ancient Egypt.” ~ Library Journal, starred review
“A sweeping, mesmerizing feat of absolute magic. . . . ~ M.J. Rose, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows
“Layers of past and present form a rich pastry of a narrative, poignant and thoughtful, rich and suspenseful, filled with intrigue and dripping with meaning... ~ Charlie Lovett, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Bookman's Tale and First Impressions


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



About the Author:

     
     Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing theater plays in college at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She went on to receive an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Directing Theatre, Video & Cinema. Currently she resides in Los Angeles with her husband and son where she can be found at the keyboard working on her next novel. The Memory Painter is her first novel. For more information visit Gwendolyn's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


Giveaway:


     To win a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card & Vegvisir decal and Eye of Horus Necklace, please enter via the GLEAM form below. 

Rules 

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 12th. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada addresses only.
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 




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Monday, July 11, 2016

Guest Post by Roland Colton: Creating Female Characters From A Male Perspective

     Today's guest writer is Roland Colton. He is the author of Forever Gentleman, a historical romance. In this guest post, he discusses creating female characters from a male perspective. I hope this guest post will give you some insight into his novel and his writing. Thank you, Mr. Colton!


CREATING FEMALE CHARACTERS FROM A MALE PERSPECTIVE


By Roland Colton



   When the plot for my historical novel, Forever Gentleman, began to form in my mind, I imagined two very different female leads with extraordinary beauty---one whose physical beauty was astonishing, and the other who had great inner beauty. Jocelyn Charlesworth arrives on the scene after spending four years at an elite finishing school in Paris. Not only is she beautiful, but she comes from great wealth. However, it soon appears that her beauty is only skin deep. In the opening chapter, she is introduced to the male lead, Nathan Sinclair, and she publicly humiliates him when she learns he lacks wealth or station. 

     Soon after, Nathan meets Regina Lancaster. She is no great beauty, but Nathan senses a tenderness and innocence in her eyes. Regina comes from humble circumstances but now lives with her wealthy uncle after losing her parents as a young girl. 

     I was intrigued by the contrast of beauty between the two women and how Nathan Sinclair would respond to each. Both women came alive to me as I began to write the story. Their personalities and character began dictating their actions and dialogue. 

     As the story evolved, so did the ladies. I wanted the story to be told from a male perspective, to help the reader understand Nathan’s first impressions of the women and how these impressions evolved as he became better acquainted with them. While Nathan’s first impression of Jocelyn is that she has a withered heart, he begins to view her in a different light during subsequent encounters. Although she can be temperamental and mischievous, he also experiences her generosity and thoughtfulness. Jocelyn’s frank modesty about her own lack of inner beauty is unexpected and foreshadows her desire to develop such a trait. I visualized Jocelyn as a woman constrained by privilege and wealth, who longed to be able to pursue her true passions. I tried to portray the insecurities of a woman who laments that her physical beauty blinds men to her other qualities; she fears that her future husband will treat her as a possession and not value her for he she truly is. As the book progresses, we observe Jocelyn maturing through the eyes of Nathan.

     Nathan’s initial response to Regina is much different than to Jocelyn. When he first meets her, he is immediately drawn to her virtue and lack of pretension. Wealth and station are of no consequence to Regina; rather it is a man’s character and heart that attracts her. As Nathan becomes acquainted with Regina, his respect and admiration for her grows, especially after seeing her grace and noble work in the aftermath of great tragedy. We also see through Nathan’s eyes Regina’s goodness in dealing with the adversity of others. Nathan also senses a reluctance on Regina’s part in forming a romantic attachment, not realizing she harbors a secret that she believes will disqualify her from ever marrying.

     In creating the female characters for my book, I drew on some of my own experiences with women. I recall dating a very attractive girl when I was a young man, whom I tired of quickly because of her shallow and dull personality. Her outward beauty eventually diminished in my eyes. 

     I remember a few years later getting to know a woman who was plain in appearance, but had a keen mind, character and maturity. As I got to know her better, she became more beautiful. However, the development of Regina and Jocelyn went far beyond those reminiscences, as I attempted to create multi-dimensional, intriguing women who would develop as the story progressed.

     In my story, a shocking twist brings Nathan back into the company of Jocelyn, while he is pursing Regina’s love. Jocelyn makes a tantalizing proposition to Nathan that offers him the fulfillment of his wildest dreams, but also places him at risk for losing the woman he truly loves. Nathan must play his role perfectly, or he may lose his reputation, livelihood, and his life to the powerful echelons of Victorian society. As the story reaches its climax, we observe how Jocelyn and Regina deal with their respective destinies in light of Nathan’s defining choice.


About the Author:




     An experienced trial attorney and musician, Roland Colton attended the University of Utah on a baseball scholarship, graduating cum laude in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. He received his Juris Doctorate from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1978, where he received scholarships and awards for academic excellence. An avid pianist and composer, Colton performs for public and private gatherings around the world. He resides in Southern California and France. Forever Gentleman is his first novel.



Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Battle for Princess Madeline by Kirstin Pulioff: A Book Review

The Battle for Princess Madeline
Author: Kirstin Pulioff
Genre: Children's, Fantasy
Publisher: Kirstin Pulioff
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 142
Source:  This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Princess Madeline rejected Prince Paulsen’s advances, but he’s not about to take it lying down. In the middle of Soron’s festival preparations, his obsession jeopardizes the kingdom. When mysterious figures from the kingdom’s past arrive offering assistance, Madeline will have to decide if she can accept it, or will their information about a family secret be too much for her to handle? 

     Can Madeline trust anyone or will saving the kingdom come down to her own bravery? 

     My Review: The Battle for Princess Madeline is the sequel to The Princess Madeline trilogy. Madeline is happily engaged to her Daniel. Her father gives her a new place where the engaged couple can build a new home. However, her happiness soon changes when Prince Paulsen, one of Madeline’s rejected suitors, is still desperate enough to make Madeline his wife. He soon wages a war against her kingdom. Can Madeline save her kingdom before it is too late?

     One thing that I really like about this book is that there is more depth to the side characters. We get to learn more about Princess Madeline’s late mother, her twin brother, Braden, and her best friend, Sophia. We also learn more about the wizards, especially, Elias. I liked how we get to see how their personal conflicts and struggles. Another thing I like about this book is how Madeline has grown from the first novel. She is very reckless and does not heed the advice of others, especially her father. Yet, she is willing to sacrifice herself for the good of her kingdom. Therefore, I think that Madeline would make a great queen. The only thing that I did not like about this book’s characters is that Daniel made very few appearances in this novel. Thus, I did not feel that his character was developed very fully.

     Overall, this book is about love, friendship, duty, bravery, and choices. The message of the book is to stand up for what you believe is right, even when others are against you. The world-building is much more developed than in the first novel. The only thing that I dislike about the book was the cliffhanger at the end. I felt that it was very unnecessary. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to read more about Princess Madeline’s next adventures. I recommend this book to those interested in original fairy tales, romances, and those who want to read an entertaining series of adventure tales.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Escape of Princess Madeline by Kirstin Pulioff: A Book Review

The Escape of Princess Madeline
Author: Kirstin Pulioff
Genre: Children, Fantasy
Publisher: Kirstin Pulioff
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 144
Source:  Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Madeline, princess of Soron, awakens on her sixteenth birthday to find that her father has already made preparations for her betrothal. When she disappears unexpectedly, her suitors and knight champion rush to the rescue. But all is not as it seems, and the errant princess’s flight has put the kingdom at stake… Can Madeline find freedom or does it come with too high a price? 

     My Review: Princess Madeline has come of age, and while the kingdom celebrates, Princess Madeline is unhappy. She knows that she is expected to do her duty as the heir apparent in Soren and that she must marry well for the kingdom. On the day of her sixteenth birthday, when suitors are competing for her hand, she decides that she wants to take her own future into her hands. She leaves the palace in pursuit of romantic adventures. She soon learns that her adventures are not what she expected them to be.

     I really love the character of Princess Madeline! She is a very romantic person who dreams of adventures. She is also very bold and determined and takes matters into her own hands to choose how she lives her life. She is very naïve and does make some mistakes, which is how she easily gets into danger. However, throughout the course of the novel, she begins to grow. She soon realizes the important things in life, which is family and friendship. Therefore, Madeline becomes a very wise person who is ready to have her share of responsibility. Thus, I do found her to be a strong and relatable heroine that girls can relate to.

     Overall, this story is about love, family, and responsibility. It is a lovely coming-of-age tale.The message is about being yourself. Even though this novel is geared towards middle graders, it has something to offer everyone. I like the romance in the book, for it was very believable. Thus, it was a very entertaining read that will be sure to thrill you for a few hours. This novel leaves me wanting more, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.  The Escape of Princess Madeline will appeal for fans of Gail Carson Levine, Robin McKinley, and Shannon Hale.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars