Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ten for Dying~ Tenth visit with John the Chamberlain

 So glad to have had the opportunity to visit with John, the Lord Chamberlain of Emperor Justinian again~ for the 10th time! Constantinople in 548 CE is as dirty and violent as always but John has been exiled,and Felix is left to investigate a mystery at the court. 

John and Cornelia are sailing to their farm in Greece to live in exile. Justinian is still in seclusion after his beloved Theodora's death and all is not well in the Roman Empire. Felix, Captain of the Palace Guard is bereft of his friend John to solve a serious crime which involves Theodora's tomb and a fabulous relic.

Felix is struggling with Justinian's erratic behavior as well as his personal demons and a younger mistress, Anastasia. Who is selling relics and treasures? What faction's are in charge at the Palace and for how long?

Pick up Ten for Dying and see for yourself what is going on in ancient Rome. I was very happy to leave Cornelia and John and their household looking over the sparkling sea. Grateful to Mary Reed,John Mayer and Netgalley. 
                                                         About the Authors

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer began writing together in 1992. They have contributed to a number of anthologies such as Royal Whodunnits, MammothBook of Historical Whodunnits and Mammoth Book of Shakespearean Detectives, as well as to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. They have also publishedseveral short stories set in and around the 6th century Constantinople court of Emperor Justinian I as well as four (to date) novels about their protagonist John the Eunuch, Lord Chamberlain to the emperor. The series was listed as one of four Best Little-Known Series in Booklist Magazine in 2003, and a Greek edition of the first novel, One For Sorrow, appeared in late 2002. They live in Pennsylvania. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

American Saint ~ The Life of Elizabeth Seton by Joan Barthel

This significant, personal biography was available to me through NetGalley for review purposes, and I was impressed and enthralled with it.Prior to this book I had only a vague idea of the details of the life of the first American saint and how meaningful was her life and the times in which it was lived.

I feel it is an important work, as it lays out the events of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton's life, though her own diaries and personal correspondence of friends and family members for the judicious reader to reflect upon.Simon Brute, St. Elizabeth Seton's spiritual director in Emmitsburg MD who was with her at her death, told the other sisters "Save everything". This very fine biography illustrates why that was important.

Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born a Protestant into an educated and affluent family. Her life experiences changed her and she changed American Catholicism completely. A Catholic myself, who had ancestors who worshipped in some of the same churches that Elizabeth Seton did, I was not aware how much bravery being a Catholic at that time demanded.

Elizabeth Ann Seton, in her lifetime, was a wife, mother, widow and became the definition of what a female religious was in America. Archbishop John Carroll was her friend and she danced at George Washington's birthday Commemoration Ball wearing monogrammed cream silk dancing slippers.

“Elizabeth Seton was a religious woman who loved the Christian way and dared to support her conscience. Even today, many American nuns are rebuked by the Vatican for following the dictates of their conscience. I can only imagine how a principled Catholic woman of God survived over two hundred years ago in a climate which had few precedents of female leadership.
American Saint is a map which allows us to follow the journey of this remarkable woman. We are to examine each stop she made along the way, and we are amazed at her courage to get up and start her journey again, against visible and tangible odds.

Joan Barthel is the award-winning author of five nonfiction books and a contributor to many national publications, including The Washington Post Magazine and The New York Times Magazine. Her cover story on Elizabeth Seton in the Times Magazine inspired her to bring the singular life of this first American-born saint into contemporary focus and ultimately led to her most recent book, American Saint.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Chalice ~ UK Book Blast

The Chalice
by Nancy Bilyeau
Paperback Publication Date: February 13, 2014
Orion Publishing
Paperback; 432p
ISBN-13: 978-1409135807
Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Two
Genre: Historical Mystery
A curse to kill a king, a fight to save a nation. Follow young Joanna Stafford right into the dark heart of King Henry VIII’s court in this stunning Tudor thriller.
England, 1538. The nation is reeling after the ruthless dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII.
Cast out of Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford – feisty, courageous, but scarred by her recent encounter with rebellion at court – is trying to live a quiet life with her five-year-old charge, Arthur. But family connections draw her dangerously close to a treasonous plot and, repelled by violence and the whispered conspiracies around her, Joanna seeks a life with a man who loves her. But, no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny. She must make a choice between those she cares for most, and taking her part in a mysterious prophecy foretold by three compelling seers.
Joanna embarks upon a testing journey, and, as she deciphers the meaning at the core of the prophecy, she learns that the fate of a king and the freedom of a nation rest in her hands.

Praise for The Chalice

“Expect treason, treachery, martyrs and more.” — Choice magazine
“A time in which no one at all can be trusted and everyday life is laced with horror. Bilyeau paints this picture very, very well.” — Reviewing the Evidence
“Bilyeau creates the atmosphere of 1530s London superbly.” — Catholic Herald
“Bilyeau continues from her first novel the subtle, complex development of Joanna Stafford’s character and combines that with a fast-paced, unexpected plot to hold the reader’s interest on every page. — Historical Novel Society
“Joanna Stafford is a young novice caught up in power struggles familiar to readers of Hilary Mantel and C.J. Sansom, but with elements of magic that echo the historical thrillers of Kate Mosse.” — S.J. Parris, author of ‘Heresy,’ ‘Prophecy’ and ‘Sacrilege’
“Second in this compelling and highly readable Tudor thriller series following the 16th century adventures of (now cast out) nun Joanna Stafford. Treason, conspiracies and a dangerous prophecy draw Joanna back from the quiet life she had made for herself after being cast out of Dartford Priory – but she isn’t prepared for the gravity of the situation she finds herself in or the responsibility she now holds. Nancy Bilyeau has followed up her impressive debut with an accomplished historical thriller perfect for fans of C. J. Sansom, Philippa Gregory and S. J. Parris.” — Lovereading UK
“Sharply observed, cleverly paced and sympathetically written, this book more than fulfils the promise of THE CROWN, itself named as last year’s most impressive debut novel by the CWA Ellis Peters judges. If Joanna Stafford is to return to see out the final years of Henry’s tempestuous reign and the accession of his Catholic daughter Mary, I am sure I will not be alone in waiting eagerly for her.” —
“A stunning debut. One of the best historical novels I have ever read — ALISON WEIR
THE CHALICE offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England’s most powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don’t let you go even after the last exciting page” — KAREN HARPER, bestselling author of MISTRESS OF MOURNING
“Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII’s reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed.” — C.W. GORTNER, author of THE QUEEN’S VOW
“Bilyeau paints a moving portrait of Catholicism during the Reformation and of reclusive, spiritual people adjusting to the world outside the cloister. This intriguing and suspenseful historical novel pairs well with C. J. Sansom’s Dissolution (2003) and has the insightful feminine perspective of Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s The Heretic’s Wife (2010).” — BOOKLIST
“As in The Crown, Bilyeau’s writing style means that the story reads almost flawlessly. The narrative really makes the reader throw themselves into the story, and makes it so the book is really difficult to put down. I was really very impressed with Bilyeau’s writing (As I was in The Crown), and honestly can’t recommend this book highly enough.” — LOYALTY BINDS ME
“THE CHALICE is a compelling and pacey time machine to the 16th Century. And when you’re returned to the present, you’ll have enjoyed an adventure and gained a new perspective on a past you’d wrongly thought to be a done deal.” — Andrew Pyper, author of THE DEMONOLOGIST
“The Chalice is a gripping, tightly-plotted mystery, with a beguiling heroine at its heart, that vividly conjures up the complex dangers of Reformation England. Bilyeau’s deftness of touch and complete control over her complex material make for a truly exciting and compelling read.”— ELIZABETH FREMANTLE author of QUEEN’S GAMBIT
“THE CHALICE is brimming with sinister portents, twisted allegiances, religious superstition and political intrigue. It’s a darkly fascinating Tudor brew that leaves you thirsting for more.” — PATRICIA BRACEWELL, author of SHADOW ON THE CROWN

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, February 17
Mari Reads
The Lit Bitch
Book Drunkard
Closed the Cover
Historical Tapestry
Royalty Free Fiction
Passages to the Past
Just One More Chapter
Tuesday, February 18
Princess of Eboli
Words and Peace
Big Book, Little Book
Curling Up By the Fire
Peeking Between the Pages
Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Historical Fiction Obsession
Wednesday, February 19
Broken Teepee
Kincavel Korner
A Bookish Affair
CelticLady's Reviews
The True Book Addict
Teresa's Reading Corner
So Many Books, So Little Time
Thursday, February 20
Drey's Library
Booktalk & More
Must Read Faster
Reading the Ages
The Maiden's Court
Historical Fiction Connection
Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews
Friday, February 21
HF Book Muse-News
On the Tudor Trail
Flashlight Commentary
Ageless Pages Reviews
Muse in the Fog Book Reviews
Confessions of an Avid Reader

Watch the Book Trailer: 

Buy the Book

About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013.
Some earlier milestones: In 1661, Nancy’s ancestor, Pierre Billiou, emigrated from France to what was then New Amsterdam when he and his family sailed on the St. Jean de Baptiste to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. Pierre built the first stone house on Staten Island and is considered the borough’s founder. His little white house is on the national register of historic homes and is still standing to this day.
Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Author Links

Sign up for Nancy Bilyeau’s Newsletter.

 I was grateful to have had the opportunity last year to have reviewed the very fine book at publication.
Here is a link to it:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

*Satisfied Sigh* ~ Leaving 18c Leeds

*Satisfied Sigh*  Another terrific Chris Nickson read about Richard Nottingham in early 18c Leeds, which had the mystery spill out into  a nearby small town Chapel Allerton, now a part of city of Leeds. The author knows his West Yorkshire history and how to spin a compelling narrative.

Nottingham and his Deputy Constable Sedgewick and their families and acquaintances are vibrant characters with believable actions and emotions. My only wish is to have read the series from beginning to end so I would not have knowledge of some sad events to come in the Constable's inner circle. Surely not the fault of the storyteller but of this reviewer's reading schedule.

Do I hate for the tale to end? I surely would, except to know the outcome of an always scary and eventful mystery.

About this author

I'm a novelist and music journalist, the author of the Richard Nottingham series of mysteries, sets in 1730s Leeds. I'm also the author of audiobook/ebook Emerald City, set in the 1980s Seattle music scene, and coming soon, The Crooked Spire, which takes place in Chesterfield in 1361.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Mapmakers Daughter ~ Laurel Corona

This was a complicated and complex book both to write, per the author and to read. I  am glad to have had the opportunity to read and review it although my feelings about it are mixed. Not my usual genre and a sad book for the most part, but nothing wrong with either of those facts.

Henry the Navigator and  the maps and voyages he sponsored were not unknown but the back story was fascinating. Pre expulsion Portugal and Spain between 1492 and 1497 is dealt with in the back story  which features Amalia the invented daughter of the mapmaker Jehuda Cresques. Jehuda, also known after his  conversion as Jaume Riba was son of Abraham, Jews in Portugal and Spain.

Amalia, and her daughter Eliana  who married Isaac Abravanel  are fictional characters who surely existed in some form. All of these men had wives and daughters who are unmentioned by history. Laurel Corona gives them a voice. Ferdinand and Isabella already had a voice but Corona makes their vacillation believable.

I received this copy from NetGalley for an honest review. I gave it close to four stars which is a definite like.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Winter Siege - D.W Bradbridge ~ Very fine first novel

"As winter closes in around the town of Nantwich, the civil war that rages across the yet to reach the town's gates." Just imagine the stress of daily life within enclosing earthworks, in a long ago time when life was difficult in normal circumstances. What begins to happen at that time is almost impossible to comprehend. 

I am very much hoping that the author is busily working on a sequel as this was a most  engaging read! A period I am very much interested in was brought to life by Bradbridge in this trip to Nantwich in 1643.
Daniel Cheswis, Constable, and his contemporaries are remarkably vivid and engaging characters, as are the times they are struggling through.

Violence is both within and without the town as Cheswis is called upon to solve crimes that seem to also come from without and within. What do a series of murders have to do with the Civil War that is tearing England asunder? Is someone stalking  innocent tradespeople or does it have to do with the political strife?  The citizens of Nantwich must carry on their daily activities, as well as taking their turn guarding the town fortifications, and caring for their families and friends.

 A very satisfying look at a busy industrious little town and town officials who had multiple roles to play. Nantwich had been a salt producer in Roman times, "wich"  denoting brine wells or springs. From the wich houses, eight of which are mentioned in the Domesday book, comes the salt to make Cheshire cheese and in tanning of hides from diary animals. Daniel Cheswis, Constable, cheese merchant and wich house owner was  a very industrious and likable character. 

The plot was well thought out and the mystery had quite complicated twist and turns. Daniel Cheswis and his family and friends had quite complex and competing elements going on in their eventful lives.  Another look at these folks and this place is essential. D.W. Bradbridge has presented an extremely fine and well written narrative in this tale. He indicates that an interest in genealogy and local history led him to realize this tale needed to be told, as well as providing a perfect environment for a crime story. I think I understand why I enjoyed it so very much! Recommended for history as well as mystery fans-in fact, just about anyone who enjoys a well written novel.

Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Electric Reads
Paperback; 488p
ISBN-10: 1492795712
1643. The armies of King Charles I and Parliament clash in the streets and fields of England, threatening to tear the country apart, as winter closes in around the parliamentary stronghold of Nantwich. The royalists have pillaged the town before, and now, they are returning. But even with weeks to prepare before the Civil War is once more at its gates, that doesn’t mean the people of Nantwich are safe.
While the garrison of soldiers commanded by Colonel George Booth stand guard, the town’s residents wait, eyeing the outside world with unease, unaware that they face a deadly threat from within. Townspeople are being murdered – the red sashes of the royalists left on the bodies marking them as traitors to the parliamentary cause.
When the first dead man is found, his skull caved in with a rock, fingers start being pointed, and old hatreds rise to the surface. It falls to Constable Daniel Cheswis to contain the bloodshed, deputising his friend, Alexander Clowes, to help him in his investigations, carried out with the eyes of both armies on his back. And they are not the only ones watching him.
He is surrounded by enemies, and between preparing for the imminent battle, watching over his family, being reunited with his long-lost sweetheart, and trying, somehow, to stay in business, he barely has time to solve a murder.
With few clues and the constant distraction of war, can Cheswis protect the people of Nantwich? And which among them need protecting? Whether they are old friends or troubled family, in these treacherous times, everyone’s a traitor, in war, law, or love.
When the Winter Siege is through, who will be among the bodies?

Buy Links

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

About the Author

D.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.
“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.
“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?
“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”
For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge’s website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Here is the tour schedule.
Monday, January 13
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, January 14
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, January 15
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, January 16
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, January 17
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Monday, January 20
Review at Closed the Cover
Tuesday, January 21
Giveaway at The Novel Life
Wednesday, January 22
Interview at Closed the Cover
Friday, January 24
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Monday, January 27
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, January 28
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, January 29
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, January 30
Guest Post & Giveaway at To Read or Not to Read
Monday, February 3
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Tuesday, February 4
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, February 5
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Friday, February 7
Giveaway at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Monday, February 10
Review at Reading the Ages
Tuesday, February 11
Review at Carole’s Ramblings
Thursday, February 13
Review at Just One More Chapter
Friday, February 14
Guest Post at HF Connection

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Lady of Haigh - A Prequel by Elizabeth Ashworth

I liked this book and found the period detail very well done. Castles in that time period are a passion of mine, so I plan to read An Honorable Estate also.

I understand there is a legend regarding Lady Mabel Norris heiress of Haigh and Blackrod and her husband. It seems to be fact that she was a child bride and married to her guardian's son William.

I hope to decipher what is legend and what is factual. I love 13th century Castles and to read about those who lived in them.

Sebastion's Way - The Pathfinder by George Steger

An epoch which has some importance for me in both my reading life and my genealogical pursuits, apparently called the "Saxon March" at that time. I loved the period descriptions of life in this hard and distant time on the borders of what would be France.George Steger has crafted a fine piece of work as a first novel, and he enjoys as well as develops his characters.

Sebastian is clearly a reluctant hero,but he does have elements of heroism as well as blunders.The author allows him and his characters to grow and develop well. The villain,or antihero, his cousin Konrad, has his ups and downs as well.The love story with Adela is quite bumpy and rocky but it gets there in the end as does his ups and downs with Charlemagne, also know as Karl der Grosse. A violent era, I still think that Sebastian's staunchest supporters got killed off with remarkable rapidity, so I am expecting a few more important folks to emerge in subsequent books.

Simon is a bit of a puzzle  and Adelaide, also, has an improbable character for the 8th century.I think it all works however as the story seems to flow along pretty well, due to the fact that Steger is  a skillful writer.He is a top notch medieval scholar, as the descriptions of 8th century fortifications as well as agricultural developments of the times are superb.

I received the book for a review  and enjoyed it a great deal. I personally am looking forward to the next installment in Sebastian's life and recommend this for historical  and medieval novel fans.

Link to Tour Schedule:

Tour Hashtag: #SebastiansWayTour

About Sebastian's Way

Publication Date: October 3, 2013
Paperback; 370p
ISBN-10: 1491708964

In a dark age of unending war and violence, one young warrior opposes a mighty king to forge a new path to peace…

During the savage Frankish-Saxon wars, the moving force of his age, Karl der Grosse, King Charlemagne, fights and rules like the pagan enemies he seeks to conquer. But in the long shadow of war and genocide, a spark of enlightenment grows, and the king turns to learned men to help him lead his empire to prosperity.

One of these men is the unlikely young warrior Sebastian. Raised in an isolated fortress on the wild Saxon border, Sebastian balances his time in the training yard with hours teaching himself to read, seeking answers to the great mysteries of life during an age when such pastimes were scorned by fighting men. Sebastian’s unique combination of skills endears him to Charlemagne and to the ladies of the king's court, though the only woman to hold his heart is forbidden to him. As the king determines to surround himself with men who can both fight and think beyond the fighting, Sebastian becomes one of the privileged few to hold the king’s ear.

But the favor of the king does not come without a cost. As Charlemagne's vassals grapple for power, there are some who will do anything to see Sebastian fall from grace, including his ruthless cousin Konrad, whose hatred and jealousy threaten to destroy everything Sebastian holds dear. And as Sebastian increasingly finds himself at odds with the king’s brutal methods of domination and vengeance, his ingrained sense of honor and integrity lead him to the edge of treason, perilously pitting himself against the most powerful man of his age.

This fast-paced adventure story brings Charlemagne's realm to life as the vicious Christian-pagan wars of the eighth century decide the fate of Europe. Filled with action, intrigue, and romance, Sebastian's Way is a riveting and colorful recreation of the world of Europe’s greatest medieval monarch.

About the Author

A native of Louisiana, the author followed a long tradition of young men from the Deep South by seeking to improve his prospects in the military. From a green second lieutenant in the famed 101st Airborne Division to battalion command in Vietnam, Colonel Steger spent most of the rest of his military career in four European tours as an intelligence officer and Russian foreign area specialist, working on both sides of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. He traded sword for plowshare in a second career in academia and is now Professor Emeritus of history and international affairs at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The motivation to write Sebastian’s Way came from his experiences in both war and peace, from fourteen years in Germany and Eastern Europe, and from his love of teaching medieval and other European history courses. 

Steger is an avid hiker and trail biker, and much of the story of Sebastian came out of time spent in the woods and fields of eastern Kansas. In memory of Mary Jo, his wife of many years, he and filmmaker son Ben spent a recent summer trekking across Spain on The Camino de Santiago, one of Europe’s oldest pilgrimage trails. He lives and writes in rural Kansas and has four other grown and gifted children.

For more information please visit George Steger’s website. You can also find him on Facebook.

To the very first person who requests this book before the end of the tour.Email or inbox me at Facebook Blog page.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Girl on the Golden Coin~ A Novel of Frances Stuart

I did not know much about Frances Stuart before beginning this book, and that is why I prefer to read historical fiction. Marci Jefferson has researched and crafted a fine tale which I very much enjoyed. 

Because some of the events in her life are not well know I remained suspenseful for the author's view point until the very end. I almost missed the last four years of Charles II's reign as it pertained to Frances, but the excellent author's notes sent me back a few pages.

There are several British eras I need to learn about through my reading and this is one of them. Why did a handful of my ancestors come across perilous seas to take their chances in a dangerous and primitive new world? Frances Stuart's life and times give very strong clues as to the danger all around.

I received this book from NetGalley for a review. I am so very glad I did. I recommend this highly to historians and historical novels fans alike.

Growing up in an Air Force family took Marci across the world, but her passion for history sparked while living in Yorktown, Virginia, where locals still share Revolutionary War tales. Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing herself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, she realized she'd neglected her love of writing. The plot for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN evolved after a trip to London, where she first learned about the Stuart royals. She now resides in the Midwest with her husband and two young children