Friday, January 31, 2014

The Crooked Spire - A 5 star read by a favorite author

Chris Nickson's writing mesmerizes me and I am transported to another place and time. I like that time and place and to prove it, I have located some ancestral ties to the area.Before my L'enfant family moved across to Ireland ( 1270s) they were in Shropshire and parts  of Lancashire. That fact makes me happy!

The book is dedicated "to Penny, because that is her favorite"..Penny I agree!  There was a lot of depth and astute character development, as well as an intricately complex mystery. John Carpenter (surnames just being assumed, folks) was a self made man who had warm memories of his parents as well as chilling  ones of the pestilence that had recently ravaged the land. It is obvious that his resilience and resourcefulness  allowed him to become a competent and loveable yung man.

The author is a superb historian as well as wanting to tell the story of the people of the English Midlands over the centuries. What better than a riveting plot, a fast paced narrative and entrancing characters to  describe a population. I cannot wait for the next book in the series but do have one more to read of the Leeds books so will hop to it. I promised myself I will read books I love and not just books to review.

Music journalist, author of novels set in Leeds, Seattle and...Chesterfield. Chris Nickson

Genetic Genealogy - The Basics and Beyond ~ Great Job

Emily Aulicino is known by many of us at ISOGG ( International Society Genetic Genealogy),and is known as devoted to her research. What I know NOW is that Emily devoted an extraordinary amount of  time and effort on the terrific detail that is in this book.I have been "doing" Genetic Genealogy for a long time but I got some very important tips and pointers from this fine book.It is extremely readable, understandable and cohesive. 

 I learned that I was confused about "upstream" and "downstream"  SNPS as well as which laboratories discovered certain SNPS. As a surname group administrator of 5 groups, I needed to learn more about the haplogroup families besides what an STR is and which SNP is terminal Thanks Emily!

Something good here for testers at all levels. I am recommending it to my groups,CoAdmins and new testers alike.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Isabella - Braveheart of France Colon Falconer

Isabella and Edward's story has been told in a variety of ways and from many viewpoints but this one is my favorite.Since Isabella was a very young girl when she was married to Edward, Colin Falconer's understanding of the complexities of their relationship was right on target. Isabella had such resilience and resourcefulness that she actually held the kingdom together much longer than seemed possible. Far from being a she-devil, Isabella did truly have a "brave heart" and  a determination to survive an impossible situation.

Isabella was a Princess of France and a Queen of England, married by her father Philip le Bel, to Edward II when she was twelve years old. Raised by parents who loved each other she expected to love, and hoped to be loved by, King Edward. Instead, her life was unimaginably  out of control almost from the first moment, with few allies in this new land. Due to her beauty, political wisdom and intellect she was  respected by both the nobility and the populace.

History, as well as the author, indicate that she was a faithful wife and a good mother to her four children, despite the indignities she had to endure. Indeed her son, Edward III, was an able ruler and a successful warrior for the fifty years of his reign. He raised twelve children and had  a long and loving marriage to Philippa of Hainaut.

Isabella's downfall was when she eventually turned to Roger Mortimer for both emotional and political support after seventeen years of marriage to Edward.She sailed to France with her son, the Prince of Wales, to facilitate a peace treaty with her brother  who was now King.They made plans and were successful at invading England but definitely lost the peace.

A fine and insightful treatment of this fascinating queen and the times she lived in.I recommend this engrossing and informative version of Edward II and Isabella's live to readers of royalty and  medieval history alike. I received this book for the purposes of a review.

About the Author
Born in London, Colin first trialed as a professional football player in England, and was eventually brought to Australia. He went to Sydney and worked in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has published over twenty novels and his work has so far been translated into 23 languages. 

He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz. 

His most recent novels are Silk Road, set in the 13th century, and Stigmata, set against the backdrop of the Albigensian Crusade in Southern France in 1209. He currently lives in Barcelona.


For more information please visit Colin Falconer's blog. You can also find him on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

Link to Tour Schedule:
Twitter Hashtag:  #IsabellaTour

Monday, January 27, 2014

Venus in Winter ( or Autumn?) A very good read by Gillian Bagwell

Having read several other books about Bess of Hardwick, and always admiring her resilience, I was pleased with this interpretation of her life. Gillian Bagwell made her a bit softer than I suspect she was in real life. That being said, however, the author made a very good case for that more reticent side, as Bess had found the Tudor court overwhelming and even frightening.

Born into an impoverished upper class family, Bess also apparently had a resourceful mother, who sent her as a lady in waiting,at 12 years of age, to Lady Anne Zouche. This brought Bess into the Tudor court as Ann of Cleves came into England, which taught her caution.

The tale stops when she is 40 years old, leaving some of the more unpleasant parts of her story, untold. Therefore not sure why the title is Venus in Winter as Bess lived for many more years? 

I certainly enjoyed this version and even put other review copies aside for a time.(gasp)Recommending it to lovers of accurate historical fiction as well as Tudor fans. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Kiss of the Concubine by Judith Arnopp ~ I cannot recommend it enough !

 A riveting and revealing interpretation of what is known about Anne Boleyn's downfall, by a masterful writer. Judith Arnopp always puts her all into her research and her characters and Anne Boleyn's story was no exception. I was delighted with her early years and the glimpses of her family life and horrified at her last days.

This week-end I was able to view an original oil painting from 1593 of Elizabeth I and it brought the Boleyns to life even more for me. How Elizabeth looked in the portrait and what the presenter had to say about HER life was impressive. I have always been so drawn to the Boleyns and this tragedy.

Arnopp's novels are always wholeheartedly endorsed and this one excels even more than the others.I really cannot recommend it enough to all Tudor, historical novel and history fans. Download it this minute and immerse yourself.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment - A tale of WWII

I suppose I am an ethnocentric reader, whatever that is. I do read a certain type and certain periods of historical fiction. The story is primarily told from a Japanese perspective but without any polishing of the cruelties of the Japanese at war. It is stark, yet has an important interwoven tale to tell, of the ties that bound all these people together.

Not a war history buff, I should have brushed up a bit on the Doolittle Raid and it's effect on both America and Japanese cultures.I have remedied that lack now, and am impressed with  the story Epstein was able to create from the facts of the raid. The toll they took on human life were, and are, startling!  I learned a lot from the author's writing and that is the reason I read historical novels.

There was a lot of love and death in this tale, which is what war novels are about of course. My perception of the work was that  it  is in actuality a succession of short stories, some almost novella length, with a central theme. Arranged so that some sections were smooth and others were choppy or  terse and abrupt. Jennifer Epstein is a polished and skillful writer and that is very evident. The historical, period and cultural details were top notch.A great read for lovers of  military history as well as historical novels of more recent times.

I received a copy of the novel for a review. 

About The Gods of Heavenly Punishment
Paperback Publication Date: January 13, 2014
W.W. Norton & Company
Paperback; 400p
ISBN-13: 9780393347883
One summer night in prewar Japan, eleven-year-old Billy Reynolds takes snapshots at his parent’s dinner party. That same evening his father Anton–a prominent American architect–begins a torrid affair with the wife of his master carpenter. A world away in New York, Cameron Richards rides a Ferris Wheel with his sweetheart and dreams about flying a plane. Though seemingly disparate moments, they will all draw together to shape the fate of a young girl caught in the midst of one of WWII’s most horrific events–the 1945 firebombing of Tokyo.
Exquisitely-rendered, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the stories of families on both sides of the Pacific: their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses–and their shared connection to one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

Praise for The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

“Epstein’s second novel (after The Painter from Shanghai) is bursting with characters and locales. Yet painful, authentic (Epstein has lived and worked in Asia), and exquisite portraits emerge of the personal impact of national conflicts—and how sometimes those conflicts can be bridged by human connections.” (Publishers Weekly)
“The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is a page-turner thanks to its high-stakes adventure, torrid love affairs and characters so real they seem to follow you around. And in the end, this gripping novel asks us not just to consider a lost chapter of a famous war but also to explore what it means to be lucky—and what it means to be loved.” (Amy Shearn,
“The Gods of Heavenly Punishment showcases war’s bitter ironies…as well as its romantic serendipities.” (Megan O’Grady, Vogue)
“With stunning clarity, Epstein has re-created Tokyo both before and after the bombing in a novel that raises still-unanswered questions about the horrors of war, the cruelty associated with it and the lasting impression it can make on a person, a people or a place.” (
“An epic novel about a young Japanese girl during World War II underscores the far-reaching impact that the decisions of others can have.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Sweeping….[A] harrowing novel of destruction and creation that will appeal to fans of historical fiction” (Library Journal—starred review)

Buy Links

Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two daughters and especially needy Springer Spaniel.
For more information, please visit Jennifer Cody Epstein’s website and blog.  You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Link to Tour Schedule:
Twitter Hashtag:  #GodsHeavenlyPunishmentTour

Monday, January 13, 2014

An Untitled Lady - Nickly Pentilla

 Although not exactly  my genre, and a bit of a romance and complicated, the characters were vivid and the story line energetic. It worked for me much of the time, and as the author indicates herself,  "This is my most ambitious story yet ".

I really liked the complexity of the Shaftbury family, and how uncomplicated and purpose driven Madeline seemed at first. In actuality, Maddy was just as complex with hidden issues which began to bubble to the surface after her quick marriage to Nash Quinn. Each character had their own quirks and wrinkles which ebbed and flowed, which was part of the fun and energy of Pentilla's  narrative.

Did I mention I do not usually read romances? As romances go, I thought this part of the storyline worked quite well. What also worked for me was the detail of  working class Manchester, which was very well done, and  historically correct. The workers, although fictional, seemed very appropriate in mood, thought and speech to their era in time.

Although I was not thrilled with the massacre description, that is what actually happened! From the Peterloo History website,  I found this,"An estimated 18 people, including a woman and a child, died from saber cuts and trampling. Over 700 men, women and children received extremely serious injuries. All in the name of liberty and freedom from poverty. "

Despite being not quite Regency romance and not quite historical novel, I do recommend this to readers of both. It  was intricate and entertaining.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule
Monday, January 6
Feature & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, January 7
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, January 8
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review & Giveaway at WTF Are You Reading?
Thursday, January 9
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Friday, January 10
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Monday, January 13
Review at Reading the Ages
Tuesday, January 14
Interview at Layered Pages
Wednesday, January 15
Review at She Is Too Fond of Books
Saturday, January 18
Spotlight at Romantic Historical Reviews
Monday, January 20
Review & Giveaway at Found Between the Covers
Tuesday, January 21
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Wednesday, January 22
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Friday, January 24
Review at Turning the Pages
Monday, January 27
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review & Interview at Just One More Chapter
Tuesday, January 28
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Interview at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, January 29
Review at Book Nerd
Friday, January 31
Interview at The Most Happy Reader

Official Book Trailer

About the Author
Nicky Penttila writes stories with adventure and love, and often with ideas and history as well. She enjoys coming up with stories that are set in faraway cities and countries, because then she *must* travel there, you know, for research. She lives in Maryland with her reading-mad husband and amazing rescue cat. 

She’s chattiest on Twitter, @NickyPenttila, and can also be found at and on Facebook.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Shortlisted for 2014 Book of Year ~ Ancestral Journeys-The Peopling of Europe

My Christmas book and a very fine one! My colleagues of Genetic Genealogy are also all reading this one and a masterful work it is. As a former Anthropology scholar, this one makes my heart beat much faster.It will be reread quite often and currently is next to my reading chair as I have only read through once and did not yet peruse all the appendices.

As Genetic Genealogist since 2004 I am thrilled to see the DNA research was up to the minute of publication. Mesolithic information has come out since then( December 2013) and shows my Faunt/L'enfant I2a1* Sardinian family right in the mix of it. The author, of course, would not have been privy to the prepublication data on the Mesolithic but she was exactly on target about their neolithic origins.  Very exciting to me about this lineage is how accurately the DNA and the migration follows what we know from ancient paper records. This led me to go back and reread the parts about my other lines.

Jean Manco has a superb grasp on the anthropological and the genetic journeys of Europeans. I earnestly encourage other scholars, genealogists and scientists to obtain this book. It is worthwhile and priceless.

  1. Ancestral Journeys has been shortlisted for the Current Archaeology magazine book of the year 2014.

Monday, January 6, 2014

An Air of Treason ~ Sir Robert Carey Mystery ~ P.F.Chisholm

My favorite place to visit Robert Carey and Sergeant Dodd is the West March near the Debatable Land. However this was an interesting although complicated mystery and outing.

Carey is asked by his aunt and cousin the Queen to revisit the mysterious murder of Amy Robsart Dudley 30 years after it occurred in 1560.Kidnapping, poisoning and gangs of robbers in the forest near to Oxford ensue. The gang of robbers who captures Henry Dodd, or as he calls them "broken men" have been infiltrated after 30 years by persons who have personal knowledge of the original events.

Lord Hunsdon, Lord Chamberlain and father to The Courtier, Sir Robert plays a fine part as does a new employee of his. Hughie Tyndale,a young Scot paid to kill him becomes a loyal servant and we shall surely see him again. Will Sir Robert meet up with his lady love in the next episode? Getting to be that time I think.

Recommended for Tudor fans and mystery lovers alike. Received from NetGalley for review purposes.