Sunday, December 29, 2013

Becoming Josephine: A Novel by Heather Webb

A sweeping historical debut about the Creole socialite who transformed herself into an empress.
Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.

After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

BECOMING JOSEPHINE is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.

Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: December 31st 2013 by Plume

Many year ago I started to read a book about Josephine, I didn't like it at all and steered clear of anything to do with her since.  I heard about this book and it seemed everytime I turned around there was some mention of Becoming Josephine and Heather Webb.  Deciding to give Josephine another chance I requested an ARC from Edelweiss and waited (and waited some more), finally I got approved.  The first thing that I loved about this book is that it's a debut and I love debuts!  Especially ones that grab me right from the beginning.

I have to say this book grabbed my attention right from the first page.  The author introduced Rose as a young girl living in Martinique. We got to meet her family as well and I liked the fact that I was able a little about her before she traveled to France to marry.  Taking place in 18th century Paris during the Revolution I was totally captivated with this book, taking only 3 days to read it.  Heather Webb has a writing style that I really like, this story flowed smoothly and she wrote about a very believable and likable Rose/Josephine. Her descriptions of life not just in Paris, but Martinique also, were vivid and had me picturing scenes and feeling the emotions.  The trials and tribulations that Josephine went through and how she dealt with them made her authentic.

I love history and that is one of the reasons that I like historical fiction, I can learn at the same time as being entertained.  Even though I haven't read a lot about France this book has me wanting to read more about the French Revolution and historial France.

Great debut Heather, I can't wait to see what comes next.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin

"Russo Morin skillfully blends historical fiction and fantasy in surprising ways. She draws effortlessly upon influences ranging from Dante to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the authority of her presentation makes the world she’s created come alive. A wonderfully action-packed ride through the lush landscape of Renaissance Italy." Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

The King’s Agent is based loosely on the life of Battista della Palla-a patriotic plunderer, a religious rogue-of the 16th century, a lifelong friend to the great Michelangelo.

As the cloistered ward of the Marquess of Mantua, Lady Aurelia is a woman with a profound duty, and a longing for adventure. In search of a relic intended for the King of France, Battista and Aurelia cross the breathtaking landscape of Renaissance Italy. Clues hide in great works of art, political forces collide, secret societies and enemies abound, and danger lurks in every challenge, those that mirror the passages of Dante's Divine Comedy. It is an adventurous quest with undercurrents of the supernatural, powers that could change the balance of supremacy throughout Europe.

Paperback, 411 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Kensington (first published February 28th 2012)

I was thrilled when contacted by the author and asked to review this book.  In no way does this influence my opinion of The King's Agent. I knew nothing of what this book was about, but judging from the cover I was expecting something other than what I received, and I mean that in a good way.

This book is a wonderful mix of mystery, history, romance and a tad of supernatural elements plus lots of adventure.  I was captivated with this story right from the first chapter. Told from the point of view of Battista, commissioned by the King of France to 'acquire' an old relic, he leads a search that reminded me of Raiders of the Lost Ark and I could even picture him looking like Harrison Ford. He character was realistic and believable, picture rugged but with feelings and compassion.

Lady Aurelia was a mystery right from the start and it was interesting to see her story develop, who she was and the role that she played.

I have never read Dante's Divine Comedy and I know nothing about Michelangelo (other than hearing about some of his works, I know time to get my head out of the sand on this one).  This is the part of reading historical fiction that I really like, it opens my eyes to the past in a fun and educational way.

Definitely an author that I will be reading more of.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

 This week I am waiting for: Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson
(I LOVED her debut Dogsled Dreams)

Victoria Secord, a 14-year-old Alaskan dogsled racer loses her way on a routine outing with her dogs. With food gone and temperatures dropping, her survival and that of her dogs and the mysterious boy she meets in the woods, is entirely up to her.      Author Terry Lynn Johnson is a musher herself and her crackling writing puts readers at the reins as Victoria and Chris experience setbacks, mistakes, and small triumphs in their wilderness adventure. 

What Are You Waiting For?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday: The Harlot's Tale by Sam Thomas

  Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

 This week I am waiting for: The Harlot's Tale by Sam Thomas (Midwife Mysteries #2)
                                   (I loved the first one in this series, The Midwife's Tale)

 Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: January 7th 2014 by Minotaur Books 
It is August, 1645, one year since York fell into Puritan hands. As the city suffers through a brutal summer heat, Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins are drawn into a murder investigation more frightening than their last. In order to appease God’s wrath—and end the heat-wave—the city’s overlords have launched a brutal campaign to whip the city’s sinners into godliness. But for someone in York, this is not enough. First a prostitute and her client are found stabbed to death, then a pair of adulterers are beaten and strangled. York’s sinners have been targeted for execution.

Bridget and Martha—assisted once again by Will, Bridget’s good-hearted nephew—race to find the killer even as he adds more bodies to his tally. The list of suspects is long: Hezekiah Ward, a fire and brimstone preacher new to York; Ward’s son, Praise-God, whose intensity mirrors his father’s; John Stubb, one of Ward’s fanatic followers, whose taste for blood may not have been sated by his time in Parliament’s armies. Or could the killer be closer to home? Will’s brother Joseph is no stranger to death, and he shares the Wards’ dreams of driving sin from the city.

To find the killer, Bridget, Martha, and Will must uncover the city’s most secret sins, and hope against hope that the killer does not turn his attention in their direction.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Guestpost with Anna Belfrage, author of The Graham Saga

Today I am very pleased to welcome Anna Belfrage, author of A Newfound Land, here today.

Let me start by expressing just how pleased I am to be visiting Just One More Chapter today. Many thanks to Margaret for giving me the opportunity to post on her excellent blog!

Hands up those that go sort of weepy when they watch John Smith romance Pocahontas in the Disney movie named after the Indian princess. No one? Ha, not quite sure I believe you… Anyway, apart from being a beautiful movie with some great music, Pocahontas as per Disney is also a historical mess.

Did Pocahontas exist? Yes. Did John Smith exist? Absolutely. Was John Smith a brave and intrepid adventurer who more or less singlehandedly established the colony of Jamestown? Umm… well, John would probably say “yes”. John was an early believer in self-promotion, and wrote a lot of books about his adventures. To be fair, John Smith was instrumental in keeping the fledging colony alive during the first few years.

Did Pocahontas and John Smith meet? Yup. According to John, the adolescent Pocahontas threw herself over him to save him from certain death. Very brave, don’t you think? Whatever the case, John did interact with Pocahontas’ tribe, and as she was the daughter of the chief, chances are they would have met. Maybe she was curious about this man, so different from her own people. Maybe his eyes lingered a bit longer on Pocahontas than on other Indian girls, but from there to the full-blown love story described in Disney’s movie, it’s a looong stretch.

John Smith left Virginia in 1609, when Pocahontas was about fourteen, and never returned. She, on the other hand, was captured by the English in 1613 (hostilities between her people and the colonists flared up as regularly as clockwork) and was held prisoner for two years. After her captivity, she converted to Christianity and married John Rolfe, a prominent member of the Virginia colony. John Rolfe, by the way, was the man who brought the tobacco to Virginia, thereby converting the struggling colony to one of the richest places in the world.

There is no record of Pocahontas and John Rolfe running hand in hand through the woods while singing about the colours of the wind – even if I hope they did, accompanied by a raccoon or two. Rather, their marriage seems to have been an attempt to establish some sort of treaty between her people and the colonists, and for a short period it worked. Pocahontas gave John a son and then she embarked with him to England, where she sickened and died of a mysterious ailment.

This sad and premature death is something Pocahontas shared with many, many of her Indian brethren and sisters. Upon the white man’s arrival to the North American shore, there were approximately 7 – 10 million Native Americans. A century later, the numbers had been reduced by 40-80% depending on the region, and most of this decimation was caused by the diseases the Europeans brought with them, notably measles and smallpox.

Pocahontas was a Powhatan, a confederation of tribes that had their powerbase in present day Virginia. Over time, these tribes would be more or less wiped out due to a combination of epidemics and hostilities with the white settlers. Many more Indian tribes would succumb to the same deadly combination, and in my book A Newfound land, the Indians in question are Susquehannock, northern neighbours of the Powhatan.

The Susquehannock were to suffer a similar fate to that of the Powhatan. Disease and warfare – both with their fierce cousins the Iroquois and the white settlers – would leave a once flourishing nation near on extinct. In fact, today we have no idea what these Indians may have called themselves, because there is no one around who speaks their language anymore. Once a language dies, the culture that flourished with it dies as well, and so we have no idea as to what beliefs, what myths the Susquehannock held dear. It’s almost as they never existed – well, apart from the odd artefacts that are presently displayed in one or other museum.

But the Susquehannock did exist, a power to be reckoned with, masters over a large swathe of land that stretched from Delaware, through parts of Pennsylvania and into Maryland. They were one of the people visited by John Smith as he went exploring along the Chesapeake Bay, but from this encounter there are no anecdotes of pretty girls protecting John with their own bodies. Maybe there was no need for such drastic measures, as the Susquehannock were friendly towards the white men. For the first few decades of their co-existence, both the Susquehannock and the colonists prospered – a win-win situation for both.

In the 1670’s, the constant skirmishes between the Powhatan and the Virginia colonists escalated into open warfare, and through a series of unfortunate events, the Susquehannock were dragged into the conflict. A decade later, the once so mighty Susquehannock had ceased to exist. Their wooden forts had been razed to the ground, their men had been slain, their women enslaved, and what few remnants remained had fled due north-west, seeking the protection of the Iroquois.

Some Susquehannock made it over to Pennsylvania and founded a community there, Conestoga Town. There they eeked out a living far removed from their former life, hiring themselves as labourers to adjoining farms. But in 1763, the last three dozen or so of true-blooded Susquehannock were massacred by the Paxton Boys, a militant group of white bad boys that killed whatever Indians they could get their hands on in retaliation for the recent French-Indian war. Less than two centuries after their first contact with the European settlers, the Susquehannock had ceased to exist.

Qaachow in A Newfound Land is a Susquehannock. He shares his name with one of the victims of the 1763 massacre (one of the few lists we have of Susquehannock names), and sometimes I worry that the little boy so brutally murdered in the 18th century is a great-great-grandson of my Qaachow. But my Qaachow is not a defenceless boy, he is a leader of men, a chief, a man who views the white settlers on lands that were once his with more curiosity than ill-will – at least initially.

Some sort of friendship springs up between Matthew and Qaachow, two men with similar perceptions of right and wrong, two men intent on protecting their families. But as the Susquehannock lose everything to the white man, Qaachow’s relationship with Matthew changes, developing from an uncomplicated, if cautious, friendship to something far more bitter – as will be depicted in the coming books of The Graham Saga. Ultimately, Matthew and Alex will pay a very high price for Qaachow’s continued goodwill, but they have no choice, dependent as they are on the silent Indian’s protection.

Qaachow is my homage to a people that no longer is, to a people that extended their hands in generous welcome to the palefaces that landed on their shores – a gesture they were to bitterly regret. As Qaachow says to Alex, We should have listened to our wary brethren of the north and pushed you back into the sea.” In retrospect, of course they should. But then, most of us don’t know today what tomorrow’s consequences of our actions will be. That’s probably a good thing, I think. Just as it is a good thing if people do extend a helping hand to those that need it. Sadly,  I’m not sure the restless shades of the Susquehannock agree. The price they paid was way too high.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Newfound Land by Anna Belfrage (book tour)

 It’s 1672, and Matthew Graham and his family have left Scotland. Having taken the drastic decision to leave their homeland due to religious conflicts, Alexandra and Matthew hope for a simpler, if harsher, life in the wilds of the Colony of Maryland.
Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out as you want them to, and the past has a nasty tendency to resurface at the most inappropriate moments. Both Matthew and Alex are forced to cope with the unexpected reappearance of people they had never thought to meet again, and the screw is turned that much tighter when the four rogue Burley brothers enter their lives.
Matters are further complicated by the strained relations between colonists and the Susquehannock Indians. When Matthew intercedes to stop the Burleys from abducting Indian women into slavery he makes lifelong – and deadly – enemies of them all.
Once again Alex is plunged into an existence where death seems to threaten her man wherever he goes.
Will Matthew see himself – and his family – safe in these new circumstances? And will the past finally be laid to rest?
A Newfound Land is the fourth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Silverwood Books
Paperback; 402p
ISBN: 978-1781321355 

 This is the 4th book in the Graham Saga, I have only read the 3rd book, The Prodigal Son and have fallen in love with this family.  Reading this book was like visiting with old friends.

The author has created a couple, Matthew and Alex, that are real and genuine, their relationship is not fluffy nor superficial.  Their life has not been without struggle, trials and heartbreak, but they are committed to each other and their family. While Alex is originally from today's age she has adapted quite nicely to this time period.

Like the last book, which dealt with the religious conflicts in Scotland, this book deals with other issues of the time period.

A Newfound Land takes place in colonial America during the 1670's, the Graham's have left Scotland and are working the land in Maryland. This book has more than the religious issues of the time to deal with, there is also the slave trade and the relationship with the American Natives.  The author did not sugar coat the past, but wrote it in a way that was honest and authentic.  Anna Belfrage has a writing style that brings to life the past in a real way so that I could feel the injustice and turmoil that was going on.  She has done a lot of research and knows her subject matter quite well.  Once I started this book it was very hard to put down, the writing style made it easy to read, and the subject matter really brought this book to life.

Even though this is book 4 of the series, you can read as a stand alone.  However I recommend going back and starting from the beginning, this is a series that I hope will continue.

Please come back tomorrow when I will have a guest post with Anna.

About the Author

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.
I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website.  You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Monday, December 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Giveaway at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Tuesday, December 3
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, December 4
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Thursday, December 5
Interview & Giveaway at The Most Happy Reader
Friday, December 6
Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Monday, December 9
Review at Just One More Chapter
Tuesday, December 10
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, December 11
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Thursday, December 12
Review at bookramblings
Friday, December 13
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Guest Post at The Little Reader Library
Monday, December 16
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, December 17
Review at Anglers Rest
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, December 18
Review & Interview at Kincavel Korner
Guest Post and Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cookbook Sunday: the Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

The Best Little From-Scratch Bakery in Texas

The pastry case in Rebecca Rather's bakery in Fredericksburg is packed with ultra-buttery scones, luscious cakes, cookies the size of saucers, brownies as big as bricks, and fruit pies that look as though they came straight out of Grandma's oven. Since the day Rebecca and her Rather Sweet Bakery and Café came to town, life in this Hill Country hamlet has been even sweeter and the townsfolk now know why she is the Pastry Queen. Everything she makes is a lot like her: down-home yet grand, and familiar yet one-of-a-kind.

A native Texan, Rather makes the most of her Lone Star state's varied traditions, whether looking to the kitchens of Texas's Mexican and German immigrants or to the cowboy culture of her own forebears. Best of all, her recipes aren't fussy—one of her best-selling cakes stirs together in a single saucepan. Add in a cupful of Texas attitude and her made-from-scratch-with-love philosophy, and you've got an irresistible taste of American baking.

What's best at Rather Sweet? Rebecca's customers all have their favorites (and she is happy to cater to their cravings), but here's just a taste of the perennial best sellers:

•  Apple-Smoked Bacon and Cheddar Scones
•  Texas Big Hairs Lemon-Lime Tarts (the only big hair Rebecca has ever had!)
•  Fourth of July Fried Pies
•  Peach Queen Cake with Dulce de Leche Frosting
•  Turbo-Charged Brownies with Praline Topping
•  All-Sold-Out Chicken Pot Pies
•  Kolaches (pillowy yeasted buns with sweet or savory fillings)
•  PB&J Cookies

With over 125 surefire tested recipes and 100 photographs that richly capture small-town life in the Hill Country, The Pastry Queen offers a Texas-size serving of the royal splendor of Rebecca's baked goods—courtesy of the rather sweet gal behind the case.

Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Ten Speed Press
I discovered this gem when it was released back in 2004 while on a vacation with my husband celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  It was advertised in a magazine and I knew that it had to be part of my collection, it is rare that I will pay full pop for a new release but the cover just grabbed me, I mean look at that lemon-lime meringue tart!  (And yes that was the first thing I made when I finally got my hands on this book)

I have made many things from this book, Chock-Full-of-Nuts Cookies that disappear as fast as they are made.  The Chicken Pot Pies are a family favorite, though I usually turn them into turkey pot pie after the holidays. Texas Pecan Pie Bars, just like the state are huge.

The recipes themselves are easy to follow, though some have many parts to them that make them look looking then they are, but well worth the effort.  It you are watching your caloric intact well them maybe you might want to pass on this cookbook, it is too much of a temptation having the baked goods in the house and not nibbling (and I speak from personal experience).

I can't share any recipes from this cookbook but here is a link to her Red Velvet Cupcake recipe from The Pastry Queen Christmas (which I have yet to explore)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine
and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

My pick for this week is A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

Hardcover, 464 pages
Expected publication: February 18th 2014 by William Morrow & Company

In Chaucer’s London, betrayal, murder and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings. A Burnable Book is an irresistible thriller, reminiscent of classics like An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Name of the Rose and The Crimson Petal and the White.

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s flamboyant mistress, Katherine Swynford—England’s young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an
ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings—and among the book’s predictions is Richard’s assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low.

Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews--and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.

Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail—on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels—to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.

BRUCE HOLSINGER is a prolific and award-winning scholar of the medieval period who teaches at the University of Virginia. His books on medieval culture have won numerous prizes from the Modern Language Association, the Medieval Academy of America, and other scholarly organizations. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and a recipient of research fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Release Day! Spotlight on DAUGHTERS OF THE NILE

Daughters of the Nile slide

From critically acclaimed historical fantasy author, Stephanie Dray comes the long-awaited new tale based on the true story of Cleopatra's daughter.

After years of abuse as the emperor’s captive in Rome, Cleopatra Selene has found a safe harbor. No longer the pitiful orphaned daughter of the despised Egyptian Whore, the twenty year old is now the most powerful queen in the empire, ruling over the kingdom of Mauretania—an exotic land of enchanting possibility where she intends to revive her dynasty. With her husband, King Juba II and the magic of Isis that is her birthright, Selene brings prosperity and peace to a kingdom thirsty for both. But when Augustus Caesar jealously demands that Selene’s children be given over to him to be fostered in Rome, she’s drawn back into the web of imperial plots and intrigues that she vowed to leave behind. Determined and resourceful, Selene must shield her loved ones from the emperor’s wrath, all while vying with ruthless rivals like King Herod. Can she find a way to overcome the threat to her marriage, her kingdom, her family, and her faith? Or will she be the last of her line?

Read the Reviews

"A stirring story of a proud, beautiful, intelligent woman whom a 21st century reader can empathize with. Dray's crisp, lush prose brings Selene and her world to life." ~RT Book Reviews

"The boldest, and most brilliant story arc Dray has penned..." ~Modge Podge Reviews

"If you love historical fiction and magical realism, these books are for you." ~A Bookish Affair

Read an Excerpt

Below me, six black Egyptian cobras dance on their tails, swaying. I watch their scaled hoods spread wide like the uraeus on the crown of Egypt. Even from this height, I'm paralyzed by the sight of the asps, their forked tongues flickering out between deadly fangs. I don't notice that I'm gripping the balustrade until my knuckles have gone white, all my effort concentrated upon not swooning and falling to my death. And I would swoon if I were not so filled with rage. Someone has arranged for this. Someone who knows what haunts me. Someone who wants to send me a message and make this occasion a moment of dread. My husband, the king must know it, for he calls down, "That's enough. We've seen enough of the snake charmer!" There is commotion below, some upset at having displeased us. Then Chryssa hisses, "Who could think it a good idea to honor the daughter of Cleopatra by coaxing asps from baskets of figs?" The story the world tells of my mother's suicide is that she cheated the emperor of his conquest by plunging her hand into a basket where a venomous serpent lay in wait. A legend only, some say, for the serpent was never found. But I was there. I brought her that basket. She was the one bitten but the poison lingers in my blood to this day. I can still remember the scent of figs in my nostrils, lush and sweet. The dark god Anubis was embroidered into the woven reeds of the basket, the weight of death heavy in my arms. I can still see my mother reach her hand into that basket, surrendering her life so that her children might go on without her. And I have gone on without her. I have survived too much to be terrorized by the emperor's agents or whoever else is responsible for this. If it is a message, a warning from my enemies, I have already allowed them too much of a victory by showing any reaction at all. So I adopt as serene a mask as possible. My daughter blinks her big blue eyes, seeing past my facade. "Are you frightened, Mother? They cannot bite us from there. The snakes are very far away." I get my legs under me, bitterness on my tongue. "Oh, but they're never far enough away."


Daughters of the Nile cover

Available now in print and e-book!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Powells | IndieBound | Goodreads

Available now in print and e-book!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Powells | IndieBound | Goodreads

Stephanie Dray Headshot

STEPHANIE DRAY is a bestselling, multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt's ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has-to the consternation of her devoted husband-collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cookbook Review: Company's Coming - Squares by Jean Pare

I have a cookbook collection that is rather scary, I have been known to sit and read a cookbook (and I know the only other people to understand that statement is someone who does the same thing).  Raising 4 boys (plus a husband) I needed to make meal time anything but boring.  Some days there were hits and other days major flops.

I've decided to devote Sunday's to Cookbook Sunday and to start it off with here is a book that I have had since it was first published in 1981 and I use it faithfully every Christmas season. In fact it got so used and abused that I actually had to go buy another copy of it. It was hard to find, I am not sure if the Company's Coming people are still in business or not (which is sad, this is a really good series). This is a big series of cookbooks, but it's the original series that I think is better than the revised versions and sadly they can be picked up at goodwill, value village and other thrift stores (oh if people only knew what treasures they are!)

Call your friends. Brew some coffee. Make some squares . . . company's coming! Each completed square can be frozen. Full-color photos (of all recipes).

The recipes are easy to follow, no fancy, hard to find ingredients and tastes wonderful, can't think of a flop in the whole bunch.

Since this recipe from the book is all over the internet I figured that it would be safe to post one of my favorites.

Nanaimo Bars

1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup fine coconut

1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 4 ounces chocolate
4 tablespoons butter or 4 tablespoons margarine

BOTTOM LAYER: Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler or heavy saucepan.
  Add egg & stir to cook & thicken.
  Remove from heat.
  Stir in remaining ingredients& press firmly into an ungreased 9 x 9-inch pan.
MIDDLE LAYER: Cream all ingredients together; beat until light.
  Spread over bottom layer.
TOPPING: Melt chips & butter over low heat; cool.
  When cooled but still runny, spread over middle layer.
  Chill in refrigerator.
  Use a very sharp knife to cut into squares.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Waiting of Wednesday: Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Stephanie Thornton

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.
This week I am waiting for:: Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt

Paperback, 448 pages
Expected publication: May 6th 2014 by NAL Trade

 Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt...and sets her on a profoundly changed course.

Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Horus Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew.

Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall....

Once again, Stephanie Thornton brings to life a remarkable woman from the distant past whose willingness to defy tradition changed the course of history.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Eleanor the Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Norah Lofts

Eleanor of Aquitaine rules as a modern heroine in the twelfth century, in this beloved classic of royal fiction from renowned author Norah Lofts. At a time when a woman's value was measured solely by her wealth and the number of sons she bore, Eleanor was the high-spirited, stubborn, and intelligent heiress to the vast duchy of Aquitaine.

Her leadership inspired the loyalty of her people, but she was continually doubted and silenced by the men who ruled beside her; the less wise but far more powerful men of the church and court who were unwilling to lose power to a woman, regardless of her rank or ability.

Through marriages to two kings, two Crusades, and the births of ten children; including the future King Richard the Lionhearted; Eleanor solidified her place in history. In Eleanor the Queen, Norah Lofts brings to life a brave and complex woman who was centuries ahead of her time.

Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 20th 2010 by Touchstone (first published January 1955) 
 I was a little leery starting this book. I've read about Eleanor's life by Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick already so really did I need to read another one? Since I feel the need these days to read books on my shelf and because I was able to grab the audible version I went ahead and read it. I  have to say that I really enjoyed it. The reader did a wonderful job and the writing was just as good.
 The book doesn't go into great details about certain major events and skips over others totally. But still I was totally captivated with it, it was entertaining and had a writing style that I liked.  
Originally written in the 1950's this book and many others by Norah Lofts have been reissued.

I think this book will appeal to those that like HF about strong women of their time and kings/queens in Medieval time period.
(here are some that appear on my bookshelves)


Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: The Tenth Saint by D.J. Niko (book tour)

Gold Medal Winner, Popular Fiction, 2013 Florida Book Awards.

Cambridge archaeologist Sarah Weston makes an unusual discovery in the ancient Ethiopian mountain kingdom of Aksum: a sealed tomb with inscriptions in an obscure dialect. Seeking to ascertain the translation and the identity of the entombed man, she and her colleague, American anthropologist Daniel Madigan, stumble upon a lethal conflict.
Tracking down clues in Addis Ababa and the monasteries of Lalibela, Sarah and Daniel uncover a codex in a subterranean library revealing a set of prophecies about Earth’s final hours written by a man hailed by Coptic mystics as Ethiopia’s tenth saint. Violently opposed by the corrupt director of antiquities at the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, they’re left for dead in the heart of the Simien Mountains. Surviving to journey to Paris, Sarah is given another piece of the ancient puzzle: a fourteenth-century letter describing catastrophic events leading to the planet’s demise.
Connecting the two discoveries, Sarah faces a deadly intercontinental conspiracy to keep the secret of the tenth saint buried. Risking her reputation and her life, Sarah embarks on a quest to stall the technological advances that will surely destroy the world.

Publication Date: January 25, 2012
Medallion Press  
ISBN-10: 1605422452  
Paperback; 464p

 Even though this book comes in at 464 pages it was a quick read.  The chapters are not too long and usually ended with a little cliffhanger, which just made me want to read more and 3 days later I was finished.  Weaving back and forth in time, the author wove a very interesting story that I enjoyed and thought was original. 

This book was a mix of mystery, action, historical, suspense, archaeological and romance along with time travel. In the 1600's we have a man named Gabriel, you know that there is something different about him, but ya just can't quite put your finger on what it is.  I really liked his part of the story, very mysterious and intriguing.  In present day we have Sarah and Daniel, as much as I really enjoyed this book I had a difficult time connecting with these two. I found Sarah to lack feeling or any emotion, same with Daniel.

There were parts of the story that I found predictable, while others were a surprise.  Some of the action scenes were a little farfetched, but then again the way the author wrote them out I could cleanly see them happening in my little brain (and that's a good thing). 

This is the first book in the Sarah Weston Chronicles with book 2 already released, The Riddle of Solomon.
All in all a fast paced book that will appeal to those that like face paced books with lots of action.

Praise for The Tenth Saint

“The characters are lively, and the story is fast-paced and exciting, especially for inveterate fans of the genre.” – David Pitt, Booklist (January 1, 2012)

“Like ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ ‘The Tenth Saint’ takes you to a place you have never been, creating an adventure you will not soon forget.” – Laurence Leamer, New York Times-bestselling author of ‘Kennedy Women’

“Interesting, intricate and intriguing, ‘The Tenth Saint’ is an archaeological puzzle the reader can’t wait to solve.” – James O. Born, author of ‘Burn Zone’

“Her descriptive powers are remarkable. Whether constructing the distant past or today, whether reproducing the foreign or the familiar, Ms. Niko brings vivid, convincing sensory detail to her settings.” – Phil Jason, Naples Florida Weekly (April 2012)

“Fast-paced and filled with danger and action in interesting and less well-known locales, The Tenth Saint will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the end.”-

“An impressive and well-researched thrill-ride … Dark tombs, buried secrets, and apocalyptic prophecies, this book has it all!” – Ronald Malfi, author of ‘The Ascent’ and ‘Floating Staircase’

“The Tenth Saint is a clever and well-written story which piqued my interest and curiosity. I enjoyed the wicked twist at the end, which I thought brought everything together cleanly. I look forward to more of Ms. Niko’s writing!” – Star Fyre, Bibliophilic Book Blog

“The author, D. J. Niko, thoroughly researched the history and geography of Ethiopia, providing sufficient authenticity to the story line and plot to satisfy even the most skeptical Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.” – The Etritrea and Ethiopia Herald (for Peace Corps volunteers)


Wednesday, November 20
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, November 21
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, November 22
Guest Post at A Bookish Libraria
Monday, November 25
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, November 27
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Thursday, November 28
Guest Post at A Book Geek
Monday, December 2
Review at Library of Alexandra
Tuesday, December 3
Review at For Winter Nights
Wednesday, December 4
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, December 5
Interview at For Winter Nights
Friday, December 6
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Monday, December 10
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

D.J. Niko is the nom de plume of Daphne Nikolopoulos, an award-winning author and journalist. Her first novel, titled The Tenth Saint, was released in March 2012 to rave reviews by both readers and the trade. In March 2013, it was awarded the Gold Medal for popular fiction in the prestigious, juried Florida Book Awards. An archaeological thriller embroidered with historical motifs, The Tenth Saint takes readers on an adventure across the globe: Ethiopia, the Syro-Arabian Desert and Abyssinian Empire circa fourth century, London, Paris, Brussels, and Texas. The Tenth Saint is the first book in The Sarah Weston Chronicles series. The second, titled The Riddle of Solomon, releases July 1, 2013.
Daphne is now at work on a historical novel set in tenth century B.C.E. Israel. The epic story details the collapse of the United Monarchy and the glory and fall of the empire built by King Solomon. It will be released in early 2015.
As a former travel journalist, Daphne has traveled across the globe on assignment, or for personal discovery. She has been to some places most of us don’t realize are on the map, and she has brought them to life through her writing for various magazines, newspapers and websites on an international scale. Her travel background and rich experiences now bring authentic detail, color, and realism to her fiction.
She also is the editor in chief of Palm Beach Illustrated magazine, a 62-year-old luxury-lifestyle glossy. She also is the editorial director of Palm Beach Media Group, and in that capacity oversees 11 magazines and 3 websites.
She is the mother of twin toddlers and, in her spare time, volunteers for causes she believes in—literacy, education, child advocacy, and the advancement of traditional and tribal arts from around the world. Born in Athens, Greece, she now lives with her family in West Palm Beach, Florida.
For more information, please visit D.J. Niko’s website. You can also follow on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Buy Links

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Barnes & Noble

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Based on the true story of Cleopatra’s daughter…

After years of abuse as the emperor’s captive in Rome, Cleopatra Selene has found a safe harbor. No longer the pitiful orphaned daughter of the despised Egyptian Whore, the twenty year old is now the most powerful queen in the empire, ruling over the kingdom of Mauretania—an exotic land of enchanting possibility where she intends to revive her dynasty.

With her husband, King Juba II and the magic of Isis that is her birthright, Selene brings prosperity and peace to a kingdom thirsty for both. But when Augustus Caesar jealously demands that Selene’s children be given over to him to be fostered in Rome, she’s drawn back into the web of imperial plots and intrigues that she vowed to leave behind.

Determined and resourceful, Selene must shield her loved ones from the emperor’s wrath, all while vying with ruthless rivals like King Herod. Can she find a way to overcome the threat to her marriage, her kingdom, her family, and her faith? Or will she be the last of her line?

Paperback, 576 pages
Expected publication: December 3rd 2013 by Berkley Trade 
(arc provided by author for an honest review)

This is book #3 in the Cleopatra's Daughter series, competing the series which started with Lily of the Nile and Song of the Nile  (click for my review of both).  You might be able to read this as a stand alone, but I don't recommend it, it is just too wonderful a series to miss any part of it.

How do I begin to review this book?  It is hard at times to do a review justice without any spoilers and I don't want to spoil anyone's enjoyment of this wonderful book.  It was a fitting conclusion to an awesome series and I am very sad that it is over. This is a part of history that I know very little about, plus (according to the author's notes) there is not a lot of information available.  Stephanie Dray filled in the blanks perfectly and wrote a very believable and emotional story.

This was one of those books, that I didn't rush through.  I knew it was the end of the series but I just took my time and  enjoyed the ride.  First introduced to Selene when she is taken to Rome (in Triumph), she is now married and Queen of Mauretania. This book is about relationships, and there are a number of them in here.  There is Selene's relationship with Augustus, which is dark and warped. He wants control of her, her children and it was very interesting to see how that situation continued to develop (really I want to say more, but a major spoiler would most likely take place).

Her relationship with King Juba, her husband was not without turmoil.  I really enjoyed watching that play out, the author has a way of writing that made the conflicts genuine and one can't help feeling the emotions of certain situations.  Yeah I shed a few tears too.

So much more is offered, Selena's relationship with her daughter, Isadora, her friend Julia (Augustus daughter), Livia, the people of Mauretania, even Herod. There is also King Juba and Augustus's relationship, oh I could go on and on.  As you can tell there is a lot going on in this book and it is written in such a way that it was not overwhelming with everything flowing together perfectly.

This book has so much to offer and I am very grateful to have received an ARC.

This book will appeal to those that are interested in HF Rome, Egypt, Isis, Cleopatra and Caesar Augustus.