Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Reading Radar 2/28/2015

What hit the wishlist this week? Let's see...

A Decent WomanSpotted on HFVBT: A Decent Woman by Eleanor Parker Sapia. Why? The Puerto Rico setting, due to my own PR heritage. PR historicals are few and far between.

1900 Puerto Rico: Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.


I've been seeing this one "everywhere", everywhere meaning Shelf Awareness, Netgalley, etc. It's caught my interest. Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey. (I'm a Sarah Jio fan too.)

Letters to the LostA beautifully written and evocative novel—the story of an impossible, unstoppable love affair set in London during World War II and the present day

An accomplished novel from a talented writer, Letters to the Lost is the kind of love story that will sweep you away from the very first page. Iona Grey's prose is warm, evocative, and immediately engaging; her characters become so real you can't bear to let them go.

Late on a frozen February evening, a young woman is running through the streets of London. Having fled from her abusive boyfriend and with nowhere to go, Jess stumbles onto a forgotten lane where a small, clearly unlived in old house offers her best chance of shelter for the night. The next morning, a mysterious letter arrives and when she can’t help but open it, she finds herself drawn inexorably into the story of two lovers from another time.

In London 1942, Stella meets Dan, a US airman, quite by accident, but there is no denying the impossible, unstoppable love that draws them together. Dan is a B-17 pilot flying his bomber into Europe from a British airbase; his odds of survival at one in five. The odds are stacked against the pair; the one thing they hold onto is the letters they write to each other. Fate is unkind and they are separated by decades and continents. In the present, Jess becomes determined to find out what happened to them. Her hope—inspired by a love so powerful it spans a lifetime—will lead her to find a startling redemption in her own life in a powerfully moving novel perfect for fans of Sarah Jio and Kate Morton.


I'm curious about Demuth by Edward Bristol after a post about it on Historical Editorial. 

DemuthGermany, 1499

Orphaned as a child and solitary by nature, the young and beautiful Demuth has nevertheless managed to carve out a successful living for herself as a village healer. But as the Renaissance dawns over Europe, shaking the foundations of medieval society with radical new ideas about freedom and science, Demuth’s position grows tenuous. The protection of the master of the castle overshadowing her village is the only thing standing between her and the superstitious fear of the villagers who condemn her even as they avail themselves of her services. But when she is falsely accused of a heinous crime and branded as a witch, even the master can no longer keep her safe. Demuth is forced to flee for her life with her only friend, her loyal Viking dog, Hal, and her only solace—and addiction—opium.

Disguised as a mute shepherd boy, Demuth seeks safety with her only living relative in the big city of Cologne, but she arrives to discover soldiers are already there looking for her. With no choice other than to keep moving, she is aided by the kindness of strangers and embarks on a harrowing journey to seek shelter in a far-off abbey. Pursued by the grand duke’s soldiers, beset by mishaps and tragedy, saved in her darkest hour by a mysterious hermit, Demuth’s fight for survival forces her to examine her own choices, and to determine if she has the strength and the courage to embrace a future she never imagined possible.

Edward Bristol’s historical fiction debut, Demuth, is the timeless story of a young woman’s struggle to find her place in a shifting world filled with prejudice, fear, and persecution, yet also capable of acceptance and understanding, and ultimately, love.


Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart, spotted on Edelweiss and on my wishlist.

Girl Waits with GunFrom the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: A Story of Survival in WWII France

The NightingaleThis is a story about war, the women who wait for the men to come home, the different ways women handle it, the things they'll do for their children. It's about men who train to fight for their country in hopes their families will be proud, only to end up ashamed. It's about persecution.

I thought this novel started a bit rough. We meet two women, sisters, Isabelle and Viann. Viann seems weak, lost now that her husband has gone to war, spineless, with no drive to defend others or see what's going on around her. Isabelle is the opposite: brave, daring, angry, ready to flaunt rules, including that of the Germans, whether it means distributing fliers or taking downed RAF pilots over the mountains to Spain. But she's also a bit irritating in that she doesn't help Viann much around the house and does behave like a petulant child much of the time.

But as the book and story progress, as events unfold, we see both women grow. In times of war, of duress, in harrowing situations, is that not when we show our true colors? While Isabelle runs around France and Spain helping pilots, Viann tries to help her Jewish friends and their children and we all know what happened to the Jews during the war. (To be perfectly honest, though I enjoyed this story, even got teary eyed at times, I must confess I did not get anything new from it.)

I could have done without the hints of romance between Viann and the captain. That is very overdone and I'm never fond of that story line.

I also noticed some strange discrepancies throughout the story. I probably would not have noticed if I didn't have editing experience, but little things such as being told Isabelle sat on Sophie's bed and Viann is talking to her and saying, "You'll sleep upstairs on Sophie's bed" popped out at me often. I'd have liked more details as well about Isabelle's missions. Four men suddenly appear in a town with "I'm deaf.." signs and nobody notices the deaf male population multiplied overnight? I found some things preposterous and perhaps more detail would have made it more believable. At the same time, I found the book way too long and drawn out. Perhaps had the Nazi romance been eliminated, more time could have spent on the more interesting parts.

I'd also be happy not read the words Mon Dieu again.

But it was emotional. At times I felt anger, fear, disgust, sadness. The story evoked a lot of different emotions from me and I appreciate that. It takes a fine, skilled writer to create such a roller coaster of feelings.

I received this via Netgalley.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spotlight On A Rainy Season by Nnaziri Ihejirika

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Please join Nnaziri Ihejirika as he tours the blogosphere for A Rainy Season, from February 23-28.

Publication Date: August 1, 2014
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Pages: 280

Genre: African Historical Fiction

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01_A Rainy Season_CoverIt is the rainy season of 1998. An autocratic and corrupt ruler has just died in the arms of courtesans at the presidential villa leaving one hundred million citizens of Africa's most populous country in co-mingled states of joy, grief and uncertainty.

Through the eyes of eight fictional characters, A Rainy Season tells the story of Nigeria's latest journey to democracy. Hamed, the government contractor. Ekei, the desperate fashionista. Jude, the underground radical. Kurdi, the womanizing pastor. Tamara, the ambitious divorcee. Elechi, the inquisitive schoolboy. Mutiu, the disillusioned guard. Nonye, the blossoming idealist. The sprawling metropolis of Lagos is the junction where their stories intersect. In this most chaotic of cities, they are as divided by ethnicity, religion, gender and social class as they are united by a desire to survive at any cost.

Praise for A Rainy Season

"Ihejirika masterfully presents the complex systems of patronage, exploitation and outright theft that exist at all levels of society. He illustrates his characters' harsh pragmatism with sympathetic exactness even as he continually reminds readers of the idealism that lies dormant within them... At his best... he presents characters of moral complexity that are suited to their times and suggests that they can only begin to evolve when confronted with the startling fact that their system is moving on without them." - Kirkus Reviews

Chapter Excerpt - Part 2, Elechi

“I was in seventh heaven and pressed closer to the window.

After a few minutes, she reached out and turned off the green lamp beside her bed. My public show was over. With a disappointed sigh, I stepped away from the shadows and into the light by tank. I gave one wistful look back and there she was, standing by the window, peering out. At once, I panicked and ran off toward the back stairwell of the building, hoping to God she’d not seen me, making noise as I ran. I didn’t care. Clearly she knew someone was outside her window. I was determined that she not match a face to the deed. Reaching the stairwell, I paused. I had left the bucket beside the tank. If Tamara decided to go outside to check, she would find it. The buckets I used to fetch water were distinctive because they
were made of iron. Almost everyone else used plastic. I had to retrieve the bucket before she went outside or raised an alarm. If she reported the incident to my parents, I would be on the hook immediately. My two brothers were younger than me and, besides, I was the one responsible for fetching water. My father would kill me with his cane if such an incident reached his ears. And I would have to bear the stigma of being known as a peeping tom, although, in truth, most young adolescents were guilty of that at one point or another, given the communal living conditions of Lagos. I waited another five minutes, then, decided to be brave. I silently crept forward and picked up my bucket, escaping back up the stairwell.
I had been gone for the better part of an hour. Hopefully, I could sneak to my room without my parents noticing.

No such luck.

As I tried to slide from the kitchen to the corridor leading to the bedrooms, my father’s voice boomed out from the living room.

“And where have you been, young man?”

I stammered. “J-j-just fetching water, daddy.”

“For the last hour? I was not born last night.” He glared at me. I tried to think.

“I ran into someone downstairs and we started talking. I must
have lost track of the time. I’m sorry.”

With my parents, especially my father, it was better to be sorry before they asked if you were. It had saved me many a beating.

“Who were you talking to that distracted you from your chores? Not that useless gateman Mutiu, I hope?”

My father disliked Mutiu intensely. He blamed him for the recent thefts of diesel and petrol from the tanks stored by the various owners in a secluded area of the compound, although, he did not have any proof. It was another paradox that for a country, which was one of the world’s largest exporters of crude oil, there were not enough petroleum products for the daily use of Nigerians. As a result, most people of means had taken to hoarding fuel from the black market to ensure that they were always supplied. Others who could not afford the black market prices had simply given up driving and were now in the habit of taking public transportation. One such person was Mr. Ekwe who lived above our flat. In fact, the rumour among some of the other owners, confirmed to me by his niece, Nonye, was that he could no longer afford the rent on the flat and would be forced to leave for a cheaper place soon.

“No, dad, I was talking to Jude. He was also fetching water.”

That was as safe as it could get for me. My parents were fond of Jude, viewing him as a son, and they encouraged me to cultivate his friendship. Of course, my father was not in favour of his work with the military regime, but they liked his personal habits and comportment. He was often invited to Sunday lunch with us.

“Jude is a sensible young man, even if he needs to find a new job and stop dining with the devil. You won’t be getting into trouble hanging around with him. But, try to be mindful of the time in the future.”

“Yes, daddy.”

“You need to be studying for your certificate exams, not fooling around.”

The senior secondary certificate examination was the common exam written by all students as they left Secondary School. It was required for entry into a Nigerian university. I was expected to achieve distinctions in at least six of my nine subjects and to better the scholastic abilities of my parents. I hoped for more than that, but my studying was yet to kick into high gear, so wishes remained horses at this point.

“Yes, daddy. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, son.”

I resolved to ask Jude to cover for me since my father was not above asking him to verify our meeting, or even berating him for delaying me from completing my chores. A few days later, I discovered just how narrow my escape had been.”

Buy the Book

About the Author

02_Nnaziri Ihejirika_Author PhotoNnaziri Ihejirika is a proud Nigerian-Canadian writer who is inspired by his and third-party experiences growing up in Nigeria during the late 20th century. He currently resides in Canada and is enthusiastic about providing social commentary on ethnicity, gender, religious, and social class issues in Nigeria. The same topics are tackled in his first book, “A Rainy Season”, casting a spotlight on the human condition during that period. Nnaziri is a frequent contributor to online social media with an emphasis on socio-political issues. Follow Nnaziri on Twitter.

For more information visit You can also follow A Rainy Season on Twitter.

A Rainy Season Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 23

Tuesday, February 24
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews

Thursday, February 26
Spotlight at Book Babe

Friday, February 27
Spotlight at Cheryl's Book Nook

Saturday, February 28
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Genre Queen
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Confederado do Norte Review

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Please join Linda Bennett Pennell as she tours with HF Virtual Book Tours for Confederado Do Norte from February 23-March 4.

Publication Date: July 7, 2014
Soul Mate Publishing
eBook; 310p

Genre: Historical Fiction

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02_Confederado Do Norte_CoverAfter surviving war, young Mary Catherine is torn from her home and thrust into a strange new life when her family decamps for Brazil rather than live with the terms of Reconstruction. Shortly after arrival in Brazil, she is orphaned, leaving only maternal uncle Nathan to care for her. He hates Mary Catherine, blaming her for his beloved sister’s death following a childish mistake. He is also a man with an incredible secret that he will go to great lengths to protect. When the opportunity for Nathan to be rid of her arises, Mary Catherine faces either forced marriage to an unsuitable man or flight into the wilderness containing jaguars and enclaves of people with much to hide. Mary Catherine chooses escape.

Finding refuge among strangers who become her surrogate parents, she matures into a beauty who marries the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. At last, Mary Catherine has happiness and security until civil unrest brings armed intruders with whom she has an inexplicable connection. When the thugs murder her husband for failing to meet their demands, she directs them to her uncle and his secret in order to save herself and her in-laws. With the danger passed, however, her husband’s family demands that she is arrested for complicity in her husband’s murder. Innocent and betrayed by family for a second time, Mary Catherine must now fight for survival.

Mary Catherine is rescued from the gallows by friends, but cannot remain in Brazil. She boards a ship bound for New York with little money and without a home to return to, a family to welcome her, or a nation from which to claim citizenship. Her father never took the loyalty oath required of all former Confederates in order to have their citizenship restored. Once again, she must recreate herself in order to survive.

In old age, Mary Catherine is still haunted by the long ago events for which she feels responsible. After a lifetime trying to forget, she seeks peace, understanding, and the ability to forgive through writing her story, Confederado do Norte.


A very engrossing it follows a young girl from post-Civil War U.S. to Brazil. So often we read about immigrants TO the United States. Rarely do we read about immigrants Leaving the U.S. It was intriguing to read about people settling elsewhere for a change, seeing Americans as the foreigners. 

It's a heartbreaking tale too. This young Mary loses her home, her nanny, her mother, her father, her home again...and again. A LOT of bad things happen to her. She very admirable though with the way she stands up, brushes herself off, and instead of wallowing in despair, tries again.

There are secrets, maliciousness, lies, deceit. I'd like to say there's romance, but in this aspect the book disappointed me. The romance was weak, came out of nowhere, and felt fake. I don't read books for the romance, mind you, but when it's there, I want to like the hero and heroine both, I want to feel their love come off the page, I want to be wrapped up in it. With this "romance" I felt only frustrated.

There's a lot of twists, happenings, in which the heroine blames herself for the outcomes. It goes to show that we cannot control everything and we never know what we'll do in the heat of the moment. 

Perhaps some of the most interesting parts of the book were the weather/traveling (rivers and boats), the slave "movement", and crops grown in Brazil. I haven't read many books that take place in Brazil, especially during this time period, so this was very cool. I learned a lot.

I found the story very well written too. My quibble besides the romance is how very miserable the story is for the heroine. If anything good happens to her, it's quickly gone, and the last five percent, when happy things being happening, is over too fast. I'd have appreciated the new romance and the international translator stuff expanded on. More happiness to counteract all the bad and more adulthood to counteract how very much time we spent on the heroine as a little girl, which was a lot.

The blurb actually says, "She boards a ship bound for New York with little money and without a home to return to, a family to welcome her, or a nation from which to claim citizenship. Her father never took the loyalty oath required of all former Confederates in order to have their citizenship restored. Once again, she must recreate herself in order to survive." That was literally only ten percent of the tale, the last ten percent. We don't really see Mary recreate herself. Had the book had a little less of her running around as a little girl with a mean uncle and more of this recreating herself in New York stuff, I would have loved it more.

Buy the eBook

About the Author

03_Linda Bennett Pennell_AuthorI have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, "Let's pretend."

I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

Favorite quote regarding my professional passion: "History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up." Voltaire

For more information please visit Linda Bennett Pennell's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Confederado Do Norte Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 23

Tuesday, February 24
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, February 25
Review at Book Babe
Interview & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession

Thursday, February 26
Review & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, February 27

Monday, March 2
Character Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, March 3
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, March 4
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Heart's Paradise - Keeping a secret from the one person you're stranded with...

The idea of living on a deserted island has always appealed to me. I got to experiance that in Olivia Starke's latest release - Heart's Paradise.

I loved this book. It's one of those that I couldn't can't put down. I read the first in the series (The Baby Contract) and was so excited when this one released. You don't need to read book 1 to enjoy this one.

Pheobe and Jonathan have a history that only one of them remembers. They spent one night together and Pheobe ends up pregnant, but never tells Jonathan. He's always in the tabloids and she's watched him for 11 years. It gets interesting when the two are placed on a reality show together--just the two of them on a deserted island. Jonathan has no idea who she is.

This is when the fun starts. As the reader, we know the secret. The chemistry between Pheobe and Jonathan is as strong as it was the night they'd met. He's instantly read to throw away his playboy ways for her because right away, he feels differently for her then any other woman. Pheobe stays strong somehow, never telling her secret that she has been raising their daughter all these years.

The writing is strong. The dialogue is realistic. And the story line is intriguing. I can't wait for the next book in this series.

Lacey's Rating:

About The Book:

Can Phoebe trust Jonathon with her biggest and most precious secret?

Phoebe Heart struggles to keep the bills paid with her survivalist training courses while raising a preteen daughter. When a producer approaches her about starring on the survival show Paradise she's hesitant. Hasn't she spent a lifetime trying to stay out of the spotlight of her famous mother? But the money is too good to pass up, and Phoebe will do anything to provide a stable future for her child.

Billionaire playboy Jonathon Breck is always up for a new adventure. When he's offered a starring role on Paradise he jumps at the chance. In return for spending twenty-five days on a tropical island, using only his wits to survive, he'll receive a nice big check, which he plans to donate to his favorite charity. So with two months training under his belt, he's dropped off on a lush oasis. He knows it'll take skill to find food, water, and shelter on the deceptively beautiful island.

Each of them expect to be on the island alone, so they're shocked when they discover the producers have thrown in a surprising twist. Phoebe and Jonathon find themselves teamed up. Jonathon is intrigued by the sexy woman, but he can't shake the feeling he's met her before. Phoebe is appalled she's paired off with the man she had a drunken college one-night stand with.

Passion ignites while they share in the trials of Paradise, but disaster strikes, leaving them facing life or death. And Jonathon learns the truth that Phoebe desperately hoped to keep hidden from him—they share a child.

Now Jonathon faces the biggest challenge of his life—convincing Phoebe to let him be a part of their daughter's life. Can Phoebe trust the notorious playboy with her young, impressionable daughter's heart? And can she trust the feelings she has for the charismatic billionaire?

Content Warning: contains graphic language and explicit sex

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

This movie is like a cross between a historical Laura Croft and the movie Night at the Museum, and I loved every second of it.

I didn't expect to. It was with some reservations that I rented this French movie on Amazon. You see, it's got a dinosaur in, one of those flying dinosaurs, and mummies, and I don't normally go for fantasy stuff. And frankly, even though much of this movie is preposterous, it was great fun and I was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, the heroine. She's wonderful! She curses at camels, has no patience for dumb-butts, and has a witty retort for nearly every situation. I think my favorite was when she kicked a villain in the nuts and told him, "Whenever you use it, you will think of me," or something like that. LOL You have to see it to "get it" but I guarantee you'll get a kick out of it.

And she dresses fabulously. The year is 1911 so it's a bit Steam Punky.

She's a journalist/author who treks the globe fearlessly. For this movie she heads to Egypt to raid a tomb--not for the gold, but for a mummy she believes is a doctor whom if he comes back to life, he can heal her sister. But the man she needs to bring the mummy back to life is on death row because of this drama with the dinosaur...and so she must get him out of that situation first...and that comes with its own set of laughs.

Laughter. This movie made me laugh quite a few times. The police officers are hilarious; her failed attempts to get the professor out of jail; the mummy...the witty quips, there's a lot of funny moments and while one may think a talking mummy is silly, the movie isn't overdone or cheesy. It's just the right balance.

I wish there was a sequel. The ending leaves one in suspense. I thought perhaps it was a new adventure starting, that would be finished in another movie...and I'm not going to reveal anything more than that. Having watched this incredible, tough, feisty woman ride a Petrodoctyl (sp?), curse at a camel, and fend off bad guys, I have no doubt she'll get herself out of the mess the ending puts her in. But another movie would be nice.

If you want a kick-butt female, a little fantasy, and a lot of humor, this one is for you.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Thousand Pieces of Gold Features Feisty Female from China Making Her Way in the American West

I had no idea this was based on a true story and a book with the same title penned by Ruthanne Lum McCunn. It only crossed my radar at all because it was recommended to me on Amazon Prime.
Thousand Pieces of Gold Movie Poster (11 x 17)Released in 1991, this is a gem that is still worth watching today. It follows the story of Lalu as her family falls on hard times in 1880 China, forcing her father to hand her over one day to a slave trader/wife seller, who then sends her off to gold-mining San Francisco where she's purchased and then taken to a saloon in Oregon.
It's there that things go from bad to worse. Her "owner" Hong King uses her badly and plans to sell her to the rest of the town, but a man named Charlie says he won't have slavery on his property. This made me think. The woman has been enslaved longer than anybody, haven't we? Almost twenty years after the battle against slavery was fought and won, women were still being enslaved, bought and sold, raped and beaten.
Image result for thousand pieces of gold
She brandishes a knife more than once to keep an unwanted "customer" at bay and refuses to lie down for any man but her "husband" Hong King, even though she loathes him. 

Circumstances finally take her away from the awful Hong King and when presented with the opportunity, Lalu immediately attempts to make her own path in the American west whether by taking in laundry or running a little boarding house of sorts. I laughed out loud and with glee when Lalu brandished a knife at the breakfast table. "You don't like my pancakes?"

We also see the hostility and deportation of the Chinese in Oregon. And romance lovers will not be disappointed either.

Long story short, this is not a woman who sits back and accepts whatever crap fate hands her. She makes her own fate, against all odds. Def a historical western movie worth watching. I thought the story, acting, settings were all marvelous. I'd watch this again.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Atlanta Burns (Atlanta Burns #1+2) by Chuck Wendig

Atlanta Burns (Atlanta Burns #1-2)"You come back here again, I'll be handin' you your balls in a cereal bowl."

Atlanta Burns is not a chick to be messed with. When a boyfriend of her mother's came at her with ill intentions of the sexual sort, she shot him in the you-know-whats with a shotgun. When a fellow classmate comes to her with burns all over his body and needs her help with a White Supremacist group who's bullying him, she grabs her shotgun. When a girl comes to her wanting to know what happened to her dog, she heads into the nasty world of dog fighting.

She's a really tough teenager, but this is not a young adult book. Atlanta does drugs and other things parents don't want their kids doing. She also thinks she should just be given a B-plus in school due to the bad things that have happened her.

She's hard to like at times. And to be honest, this book was hard to like at times. It's an ugly story that takes place in an ugly town full of the ugliest people. I was really enjoying Atlanta and her kick-ass-iness for a while but then I realized I was meeting a LOT of ugly people in this town--the bullies, their parents, the dog fight folks, the "twins".  And the things they others, to dogs. I got tired of it.

I began say, "Seriously? Everyone in this town is pure evil?" Because the things they do...and there are so many of them. It seems everyone Atlanta meets is horrid and nasty and ready to shove chili peppers in places I won't mention, hang people, or pull out all of a dog's teeth. Or they're selling drugs. There's one decent adult, a teacher. That's it.

I will not be visiting any Podunk town in Pennsylvania, that's for sure.

The dogfighting is of course, a very ugly thing. Mr. Wendig holds nothing back. I had to skim these parts; they were too difficult to me. I began to worry that someone would come abduct my toy breed dogs and do this to them. That's how vivid the scenes are. This author knows how to write. The ugliness came through the pages and frightened me.

He's a good writer. Atlanta Burns could be a great heroine. She's got flaws--that makes her real, but the drug use and the grades thing put me off. I wouldn't call her a role model, that's for certain. This book was just too ugly--yea, I've used that word a lot--for me to really enjoy as much as I wanted. While I was totally engrossed in the first half, the last half I mostly skimmed. It got to be too much for me and I don't see myself reading the rest of the series.

I received this via Amazon Vine.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Union Jack Plastic Canvas Clutch

I've always loved plastic canvas. It's easier to see than cross stitch--which I also do.

I was pretty excited to discover recently that they have clutch forms now. You simply put your design on it, stitch it, and then sew it up. I add self adhesive felt to the inside to make a nice lining and then added a beaded handle. Me, I'm a clutch-type of gal. I don't carry big purses, so I plan to make a few of these to match my vintage dresses.

Yea, this has nothing to do with books, movies, or strong women, I know. But it's my blog...LOL And I've shared crafts on here before and OH, many of you are Downton Abbey/Call the Midwife/Selfridge/Grantchester fans, so I think you'll appreciate this particular design.

Show your love of British TV. :)

First of all, the supplies:

The design I got free here. It's actually modified from Jenny Henry's Union Jack pillow. I had to change the flag a bit to make it look good on the rectangle form. It's not perfect. But the blue and red designs stayed the same. I simply had to "play" with it a bit to figure out where to put them, based on how the clutch would look once sewed and closed. Unfortunately I came out with crosses when closed--not what I intended but oh well. It still looks nice, I think.

The yarn, plastic canvas clutch plastic, clasp, elastic cord, self adhesive felt, and red beads were all purchased at Joann's. The Union Jack sparkly beads were bought on Etsy. The glow-in-the-dark thread is from Jenny Henry's Etsy shop. It was a free gift when I purchased some of her lovely Downton Abbey-inspired needlepoint pendants. She informs me she acquired it from Kreinik.

Basically what I did: I used a sharpie to make little dots on the canvas, put the red and blue where I wanted it. Stitched it all. It's a simple stitch on lower second hole to upper first hole. Google it. Just before finishing, while the sides were still awaiting stitches, I threaded my beads onto the elastic cord. This was tricky. I had to tie some thread to the cord and use a small needle to transfer the beads from the needle to the thread to the cord. Once I figured out this method, it was a breeze.

I then tied (knotted) the ends of cord to the top of one of the sides and made my red yard stitches cover the loose ends. Now I have a glitterly handle that stretches over my hand onto my wrist.

And did I mention that I have glow-in-the-dark thread around the the white stripes of the Union Jack? I tried to get a photo of it glowing in the dark, but I failed. Trust me though; it's there and it looks great in the dark.

Once I finished sewing the pattern, it looked like this:

I then trimmed some red adhesive felt the size of the clutch (a bit smaller, actually as once it begins to fold with the purse, it starts to hang over the edges. More trimming may be necessary as you stitch.)

I occasionally sewed through the felt as I stitched the clutch up the sides.

Those bare spots? You can cover them later, but as the for that large area, I left it feltless on purpose because the clasp bottom needs to poke through there and so I cut that piece off the big piece to add AFTER it's sewn up and the clasp is poked through, to avoid sharp edges inside the purse.

And the finished product came out looking...

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Doctor Death (Madeleine Karno #1) by Lene Kaaberbøl

Doctor DeathThis is a very dark historical tale/mystery following disturbed people with diseases, sexual desires, secrets, and religious delusions. Some of the occurrences within shocked me. It made me think of a historical Patricia Cornwell novel with this heroine, Maddie, as the historical Dr. Scarpetta.

It's very long ago France. Women still wear corsets. Men inherit everything. Women are NOT supposed to be doctors, let alone coroners or the like, but Maddie wants to do this above all else and a carriage accident finally provides her the chance to step into her father's shoes for a while and get in on a case involving dead bodies on ice, wolves, a convent, and nasty little mites in the nose.

And then there's a very dashing professor who suddenly has his sights on Maddie.

There were lots of twists and turns in this story. The mystery is not easy to piece together. Too many of the characters withhold information. I was kept guessing and as I said above, repeatedly shocked. The heroine is strong but not unbelievably so. She has her moments in which she's shaken by what's she witnessed--understandably. She has good intentions and a lot of drive.

I think the story lacked emotion though. There were many instances with her, her father, the professor, others, that I felt exhibited too little emotion for the situation; they were a bit too robotic. Despite this, the writing itself is stellar.

The ending didn't adequately explain some things for me. It's hard for me to convey what I mean without putting spoilers in this though. There are many things in the story that I mustn't reveal.

And to be frank, I found some things just a bit too perverted. I was saying, "Um, seriously? That's sick."

But I was entertained and I liked it enough to possibly check out the second book whenever it comes out. It truly is like a historical Dr. Scarpetta. I'd also like to add that there is a moral I appreciate: never jump to conclusions, especially if it's an assumption that someone has done wrong. Being weird does not make one a killer.

I received this via Netgalley.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Witch of Napoli: A Psychic Medium's Successes and Failures

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Please join Michael Schmicker as he tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for The Witch of Napoli, from February 16-March 20.

Publication Date: January 15, 2015
Palladino Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fantasy 

02_The Witch of Napoli CoverItaly 1899: Fiery-tempered, erotic medium Alessandra Poverelli levitates a table at a Spiritualist séance in Naples. A reporter photographs the miracle, and wealthy, skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi arrives in Naples to investigate. When she materializes the ghost of his dead mother, he risks his reputation and fortune to finance a tour of the Continent, challenging the scientific and academic elite of Europe to test Alessandra’s mysterious powers. She will help him rewrite Science. His fee will help her escape her sadistic husband Pigotti and start a new life in Rome. Newspapers across Europe trumpet her Cinderella story and baffling successes, and the public demands to know – does the “Queen of Spirits” really have supernatural powers?
Nigel Huxley is convinced she’s simply another vulgar, Italian trickster. The icy, aristocratic detective for England’s Society for the Investigation of Mediums launches a plot to trap and expose her. The Vatican is quietly digging up her childhood secrets, desperate to discredit her supernatural powers; her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her; and the tarot cards predict catastrophe.
Praised by Kirkus Reviews as an “enchanting and graceful narrative” that absorbs readers from the very first page, The Witch of Napoli masterfully resurrects the bitter 19th century battle between Science and religion over the possibility of an afterlife.

While I was rooting for Alessandra to convince the academics that she was genuine, she did do something foolish at one point that disappointed me very much.  She had a choice and she made the wrong one.   I wish she hadn’t done it.  I respected her less afterward. 

Alessandra made an unethical choice because her emotions were out of control.  It has long been demonstrated that paranormal gifts aren’t 100% reliable.  Most scientists seem to think that this means they are completely invalid and don’t really exist.  Yet no non-paranormal gift is 100% reliable.  For example, a gifted author can experience writer’s block when he or she isn’t emotionally ready to write.  Does this mean that there is no such thing as a gift for writing?  Humans aren’t machines.   We all have good days and bad days, but science makes no allowances for psychics.  Alessandra was being held to a standard that was too rigid for any human being.  The Witch of Napoli demonstrates how and why genuinely gifted mediums can fail. 

Yet when Alessandra was successful in her work, I very much enjoyed reading about her.  I looked forward to finding out what she would do or say next.  Her unconventionality and unruly tongue made her a charming and unpredictable character.  In an author’s note, Michael Schmicker tells us that Alessandra was based on a real medium named Eusapia Palladino.  If the real woman was anything like Alessandra, I’d be very interested in finding out more about her.  Schmicker provides a bibliography that allows readers to pursue that interest.

I did have a problem with the fact that Alessandra was regularly possessed by a spirit entity who was supposed to be Girolamo Savonarola, a fanatical 15th century preacher.  He was an ascetic who was best known for his opposition to the arts and all luxuries.  Based on what I know about him, Savonarola would have despised Alessandra.  I can’t imagine that his spirit would have chosen her as his mouthpiece.   While the spirit knew historical facts about Savonarola, his actions didn’t convince me of  his authenticity.  Why would he be so invested in proving that Alessandra was a real medium?  Wouldn’t he be delivering thunderous sermons as he did in his lifetime?

Despite this flaw, I did like The Witch of Napoli and look forward to future paranormal fiction by Michael Schmicker.  I'd like to thank Net Galley for giving me access to this book in return for this honest review.

About the Author03_Michael Schmicker Author

Michael Schmicker is an investigative journalist and nationally-known writer on the paranormal. He’s been a featured guest on national broadcast radio talk shows, including twice on Coast to Coast AM (560 stations in North America, with 3 million weekly listeners). He also shares his investigations through popular paranormal webcasts including Skeptiko, hosted by Alex Tsakiris; Speaking of Strange with Joshua Warren; the X-Zone, with Rob McConnell (Canada); and he even spent an hour chatting with spoon-bending celebrity Uri Geller on his program Parascience and Beyond (England). He is the co-author of The Gift, ESP: The Extraordinary Experiences of Ordinary People (St. Martin’s Press). The Witch of Napoli is his debut novel. Michael began his writing career as a crime reporter for a suburban Dow-Jones newspaper in Connecticut, and worked as a freelance reporter in Southeast Asia for three years. He has also worked as a stringer for Forbes magazine, and Op-Ed contributor to The Wall Street Journal Asia. His interest in investigating the paranormal began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand where he first encountered a non-Western culture which readily accepts the reality of ghosts and spirits, reincarnation, psychics, mediums, divination,and other persistently reported phenomena unexplainable by current Science. He lives and writes in Honolulu, Hawaii, on a mountaintop overlooking Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Connect with Michael Schmicker on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

The Witch of Napoli Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 16
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 17
Review at Book Babe

Wednesday, February 18

Thursday, February 19
Review & Giveaway at A Dream Within a Dream
Interview at Books and Benches

Saturday, February 21
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary

Sunday, February 22

Monday, February 23
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation
Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Tuesday, February 24
Guest Post & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews

Wednesday, February 25
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, February 27
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Monday, March 2
Review at A Book Drunkard

Tuesday, March 3
Review at Unshelfish

Wednesday, March 4
Review at Carpe Librum

Thursday, March 5
Interview at Carpe Librum

Monday, March 9

Tuesday, March 10

Wednesday, March 11
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Thursday, March 12

Tuesday, March 17

Wednesday, March 18

Thursday, March 19

Friday, March 20
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee