Saturday, May 30, 2015

In Defense Of Being Alone by @Lexi_Herrick

I read this essay on Huffington Post Women yesterday.  It inspired me. It conveys so well how I often feel, have felt, and yet the words have failed me. But I don't need to find the words, because this woman, this Lexi Herrick, has already done it so well. I received permission from her to repost it here. Remember, there's no shame in being alone. Don't stay somewhere you aren't happy just because you are afraid of being alone. You can do it, ladies. If you find love, great, hold on to it while you can. I know I will. But if you don't...or it doesn't work out, you can stand on your own feet. I too recently discovered that fear of the unknown, fear of being alone, often keeps us stuck in place when we don't need to be. 
Recently, someone questioned my affinity for red wine. My answer, like most of my answers, was probably not at all what they expected.
"We bonded," I said, laughing and taking a sip from the glass that had inspired such a question.
"Well, I used to hate it. I was going through a difficult time when I started to drink the dry, red wine. It was just so strong and raw. It was powerful and bold. That's what I wanted to be. For the first time in my life, I just wanted to be those things, on my own. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to be fearless and bold. I wanted to be a strong, powerful red wine."
Isn't it strange to realize you actually want to be alone? It was for me. It was weird. It was weird to genuinely not desire the things I used to need so desperately, and always had. It was weird to change into a woman I both admire and fear, because she can appear unrecognizable at times. But that's OK, because I think we all need to lose ourselves, to find ourselves. I think we all need to be left alone, to learn how to stand alone. I think we all need to choose to stand alone, to know we need no one else to be the strongest, most incredible versions of ourselves.
Why do we feel so pressured to need a counterpart? What's so wrong with taking some time? We don't give ourselves enough damn time. We need time to breathe. We need time to think and to learn. We need time to shake a couple hands, get lost in a few pairs of lovely eyes and share stories with strangers that make us laugh. We don't need to jump into the arms and beds of different people until one of them decides to stay for a little while longer than the rest. We don't need titles and commitment that's rushed, or done so for any reason influenced by others. Why love someone if you don't love yourself? Why settle in life to satisfy some ridiculous human-made complex of being inadequate as a single-status person? We don't need that. We need adventure. We need friendship. We need natural confidence and bravery. We need to make the choices that are best for us and for our own happiness. We need funny stories, big pizzas, long drives, bright stars, brilliant ideas and moments that make us feel infinite and proud. That's what I need, at least.
I just want to be alone for a while. I don't want to owe anyone anything. I don't want to have to explain why I'm guarded. I don't want to hurt anyone, because I'm not ready, and a person's heart is not something I would ever place into hands I don't trust. I don't want to have to make excuses. I don't want to worry about anyone. I don't want to be pressured. I don't want to make my decisions with or for anyone else. I don't want to be told what to do, where to go or who to be. I don't want to make promises I'm not ready to keep. I don't want to be concerned with what he wants or needs from me. I don't want to feel guilty for choosing myself for once.
It's OK to want those things. For god's sake, it's OK to be a little selfish sometimes. It's OK to want to fall in love with your career and passions. It's OK to want to stay out way too late with your friends and get a little lost sometimes. It's OK to laugh so hard that you cry and make a few mistakes. It's OK to pack up your bags and go on trips at a moment's notice. It's OK to take chances. It's OK to do and say things you may have been fearful to before. It's OK to want to spend a little time loving yourself.
There's nothing wrong with wanting that. There's nothing wrong with you. It doesn't make you heartless or cold. It doesn't make you undesirable or unwanted. It won't make you incapable of happiness or future relationships. You'll have those loves one day, and when you do, you'll be happy within yourself. You'll have that light in your heart, and fall in love with the way you see it shine in someone else. You'll want them, not need them. You'll know the difference. You deserve to.
"So, did it happen then? Did you become like the red wine?"
I smiled.
"We're getting there."
Lexi writes to you from central Pennsylvania, where she blogs, works in corporate marketing and continues to study the fabulous field of communications. She's addicted to caffeinated beverages and people who make her smile. She's an advocate for equality, knowledge, healthy relationships, compassion, self-confidence, integrity and above all, love. The most incredible gift she has been given through writing is the ability to connect with the remarkable people in this world who read her work. She wants to thank them for teaching her, growing with her and changing her life. 

To read more, you can check out her blog at

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy by Graciela Limón

The Intriguing Life of Ximena GodoyWhat drew me to this novel was the promise of...I'll just quote it, "evolving rules that determine women s lives in both Mexico and America."

To be frank, except for women's sexuality, I didn't see anything about evolving women's rules or rights. There's one thing in the book that classifies as evolving women's issues: Ximena's promiscuity and exploration of liberal sex. She has sex because she wants to, with whom she wants to, and the book shows us how unacceptable this was to men who did the same. Double standard much?

Also appealing to me was the promise of revolution, but while Ximena does indeed join the revolution, it's completely without passion for the cause. I don't think she even knows what the revolution is about. She has no desire to help the working class. She just thinks it looks cool to ride around with a sombrero. While the story mentions this supposed battles she fights in, the details are relegated to her fornicating, fights with other women, and smoking weed.

She than abandons her daughter and dares to feel upset when she goes to claim her seven years later. Only then does she realize she had something precious. Beyond this, Ximena is merely a club manager. I didn't find her life intriguing at all. I actually couldn't care less about her or her life by the time I made it to 70%. I was nodding off.

 Besides the above, the story was also very telling, no showing. Borderline biography style.

Much thanks to Netgalley for providing a digital file, but it wasn't for me.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review: Ryder: Bird of Prey #Giveaway

Ryder: Bird of Prey
Fans of Steve Berry and James Rollins will devour Ryder: Bird of Prey, the latest white-knuckle thriller featuring Palestinian-born, British-educated adventurer Ayesha Ryder. She’s one of fiction’s boldest heroines—and now she’s rewriting royal history.

According to the last words of a dying man, the Maltese Falcon was no mere legend: The fabulously jeweled golden bird really existed—still exists, in fact. And Ayesha Ryder is hot on its trail. Rumor says the Falcon conceals clues to the burial place of Harold II, the conquered Anglo-Saxon King of England—and to an artifact of astonishing significance that few besides Ryder would understand.

Hunted by Scotland Yard, MI5, and those who seek the Falcon to break up the United Kingdom, Ryder joins forces with Joram Tate, a mysterious librarian with a reputation for turning up things that don’t want to be found. Soon Ryder and her handsome, erudite new companion are venturing through lost tombs and ancient abbeys, following a trail left ages ago by the Knights Templar.

Ryder knows she’s close to a game-changing secret, hidden for a thousand years beneath an English castle. But with ruthless killers waiting in the wings, Ryder must go medieval—to defend her life, her country, and the world as we know it.


What appealed to me about this book was that it had a kick ass heroine. Ryder was a great character and I enjoyed following her through this tale as she finds the Maltese Bird and the mystery around it. When I started this book, I felt like I was mid-story in something. The characters already knew one another (or so it felt to me as a reader for the first time in this series) and so much had already happened. It was then I discovered this was book 3 in a series and it doesn't feel as though I could read this one as a stand alone. I still did read this because I found the plot interesting and the writing good, but to anyone reading this review, make sure you read the first two books or you'll find yourself very lost in the beginning.

There are several point of views in this book with different angles. It took me a good few chapters before I had a grasp on each character and looked forward to their next section. It was nice to see how people reacted to this Ryder did to them in the book.

Ayesha was a character I enjoyed getting to know. I felt like the author did a good job with character development and letting us learn new things about them as the story went on, instead of a lot of back story in the beginning.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. I did have times my mind went off wandering and thinking about my daily activities. This isn't a genre I usually read, so it was nice stepping out of my comfort zone.


About Nick Pengelley

Nick Pengelley is the author of the political thrillers Ryder, Ryder: American Treasure, and Ryder: Bird of Prey. Australian by birth, he’s had careers in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom as a law professor, legal consultant, and analyst on Middle East politics, which is his passion. Pengelley lives in Toronto with his family.

Nick Pengelley’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, May 4th: A Fantastical Librarian

Monday, May 4th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, May 5th: Vic’s Media Room

Wednesday, May 6th: My Book Retreat

Thursday, May 7th: Bell, Book & Candle

Friday, May 8th: Joyfully Retired

Monday, May 11th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, May 13th: Brooke Blogs

Thursday, May 14th: Read Love Blog

Monday, May 18th: Reading to Distraction

Monday, May 18th: Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, May 19th: Book Nerd

Wednesday, May 20th: Dwell in Possibility

Thursday, May 21st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, May 26th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews

Thursday, May 28th: Book Babe

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Reading Radar 5/23/2015 @GillPaulAUTHOR @readingthepast @_secondstory @sbkslandmark

What's the Reading Radar? It's just a list of books that caught my interest in the last week, why they caught my interest, and HOW. Having been an author myself once upon a time, I was always curious about how to reach readers. I type this up every week to share with readers books they may be interested as well and to let the authors know how they're being "discovered".

Discovered on Netgalley and promptly requested: No Place for a Lady by Gill Paul. (I love Victoria Hislop and I will be recording Poldark. Hm.)

No Place For A Lady1854. England is in the grip of a gruesome war.

Lucy Harvington, ill-educated beyond how to be a wife, has travelled to the Crimea with her handsome and impetuous officer husband Charlie.
As the day of battle dawns she can only pray her husband survives. If he doesn’t, what will become of her?

Dorothea Gray, volunteer nurse at the Westminster Hospital, is determined to follow her little sister Lucy to the front and to serve her country alongside her heroine Florence Nightingale and the pioneering nurses already risking their lives.

But neither sister could possibly have known the horrors they are about to witness – the courage, the cowardice, the danger – and the excitement – nor could they have guessed the risks they must take, the passion they will taste, and the simple fact that they may never see one another again …

If you love POLDARK, Gone With The Wind or the storytelling of Victoria Hislop, this is the perfect summer escape for you.


Spotted on one of my favorite blogs, Reading the Past by Sarah Johnson, the upcoming Canadian title hit the wishlist: The Farmerettes by Gisela Tobien Sherman.
The Farmerettes

A diverse group of young women just out of high school live together during the summer of 1943 on a farm as part of the Farm Services - tending the fields and the livestock - doing the work of the men who are off fighting the war in Europe. We follow the stories of Helene, who sends her wages home to support her single mother; Peggy, a flirt with a secret she is desperate to keep; Binxie, whose rich family doesn't approve of her; Isabel, who pines over her fiance who is off fighting; the mysterious "X", who of all the girls feels most out of place; and Jean, whose family farm has been taken over by this group of "farmerettes." As the Second World War rages across the ocean, friendship, romance, hardship, and heartbreak shape their summer, and no one will be left unchanged.


Spotted on Edelweiss. I've read about this empress before and this one sounds like a more intriguing twist. The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel. Almost a year wait for this one.

The Moon in the PalaceThe gripping story of one woman's rise to royalty as China's first and only female emperor.

After her father's death, Mei finds herself in the impossible position of supporting her poverty-stricken family. But a prophecy once predicted that Mei could have the power to do the unthinkable—to become the first female ruler of China. And when an edict summons Mei to the emperor's palace to serve as one of his concubines, the prophecy no longer seems so far-fetched.

In the heart of the emperor's city, Mei faces a thousand other women, all vying for the emperor's favor. She manages to deftly manuever around the plots of wily courtiers and ambitious princes fighting for power. Then, just as she is in a position to seduce the emperor, she falls in love with his son instead. Now Mei must fight not only to gain favor with the emperor, but also to protect the man she loves.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

Tiffany GirlI was really looking forward to this title. I am a huge fan of Gist. But I'm sorry to say I found it rather lacking, especially compared to It Happened at the Fair and Fair Play.

One, it actually sort of bored me. So the heroine declares herself a New Woman and wants to work. That's cool. Awesome. Go for it, girl. But...and this will seem an odd complaint...she's so average. I don't want to read about superheroines, like Agent Carter, fighting a man atop a moving vehicle without breaking a nail. That's ridiculous and unbelievable. But neither do I care to spend four days immersing myself in the life of a dull, average person, and except for some of the situations the heroine finds herself in--the public transportation problem, the way men treat the working women, the art gallery fiasco--there was nothing interesting about her. She isn't even good at things she does. Rather than the go-getter heroine I was expecting, this girl is first and only Tiffany girl let go, for crying out loud.

Even worse, most of the story focused on the hero, who was really very unlikable.

And the ending was unsatisfactory in this story, as irritating really as the column heroine, Marylee...I'm not going to go into detail.

However, there was nothing Christian about this story, for those of you who tend to stay away from the "preachy" books, no worries here. It's just a clean read.

I did appreciate some of the things brought up within the pages though, such as, "Marylee will not be sitting around doing nothing. She'll be scrubbing, mopping, polishing, cooking, toting, and raising and the children. I daresay her photography would be much less demanding and a great deal more enjoyable."

And yet, after all her bluster about being a New

I received this via Netgalley.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to Conjure Dragons: How Writing Helped Me Live in the Real World (A Guest Post from @ElaineRosemaryD )

I have a friend who doesn’t believe there’s any such thing as an introvert. Obviously she isn’t one. She probably doesn’t believe in dragons either, but that’s okay. She’s a good friend. She’s very…practical. Me, I know introverts exist. I am one.

I’ve heard people describe themselves as a swashbuckling introvert, which I must admit appeals to me no end. I had a long chat with a cousin recently, all about our grandparents. I think we were both a little stunned afterwards. She told me stuff about them I never knew; my grandmother was tough and my grandfather was as soft as marshmallow. I would have taken an oath it was the other way around. And here’s the bizarre thing, I’d lived with the old folks for a year as a child. It was one of the best years of my life…and yet I seemed to have been oblivious.

Looking back, and not even that far, I’ve come to realise that being oblivious seems to sum up most of my life. Certainly my childhood. I can recall books I’d read, dreams I’d had – always in technicolour detail and always involving me being a heroine of some description, which explains the allure of ‘swashbuckling ‘. I remember those times when I either had no clue what was going on, usually maths class, or was desperately hoping the floor would open up and swallow me, and I’d retreat gratefully into a familiar daydream. I can recall in vivid detail the way the fibres twisted in the lounge carpet of our family home, looks on people’s faces, moments in time that are so vivid even now I can smell them. I remember the mangoes my brother and I were eating in the empty bath so we wouldn’t leave sticky puddles on the parquet flooring or fingerprints on the highly polished furniture in my grandparent’s apartment. No one else remembers that apartment, let alone the mangoes.
Wanting to be ‘normal’ and fit in, but having no idea how to achieve that, was an ache that has lasted for most of my life. There were those sparks in time that hinted at my future. Moments when I could have danced on the roof with delight. Moments that somehow, even as they happened, were slapped down by those who should have been blowing on the ember. Is it any wonder I retreated more and more into life inside my skull? 

Then, one day, I did a writing course. We had various exercises to do and I tried out bits of one of my favourite daydreams. For years I’d had one particular scene replay over and over in my mind. Now, as I wrote, I discovered how easy it was to slip into the world I was creating in ink. And I loved it. Here, I was at home. Here, I could be anyone I wanted and it was not only alright, but good. So good in fact the lecturer pulled me aside one day and told me to write the book. The ink mattered. Somehow, the daydream had become legitimate and it was the ink that did it.

Four months later, I sent my first manuscript to an editor. She was impressed and loved my story. I felt as if I’d come home. And perhaps I had. All those slivers of overwhelming internal agony, all the memories no one else in the family had, all the flights of imagination which garnered nothing but odd looks from those I thought understood  but clearly didn’t, all those frozen moments of humiliation, all that hiding away was now the rich ink into which I could dip my pen. I also discovered that writing those moments into my stories seem to drain them out of my soul, out of my heart and out through my fingers. I could almost feel them leaving my skin. The ink trapped them onto the page and they no longer had any power over me. I finally controlled them. And once they were down, I discovered real life had somehow become more navigable. It now had purpose. All those experiences, daydreams, the roiling imagination, they werethey areimportant because although I’m still an introvert; I’ll probably always be one, now I am something else, something that finally makes sense.

Now, I am a writer. And I can conjure dragons any time I want.


Harcourt's Mountain
Spring, 1867

The western frontier of British Columbia hardly seems a likely place for romance. Filthy, terrified and confused, Hope Booker is waiting to be sold off the ‘bride’ ship. Luke Harcourt happens upon the sale. It’s not love at first sight, but he feels compelled to save her from a life of slavery and prostitution. To allay her fears of being raped by him, Luke promises never to touch her. Being a man of his word, this is a pledge he quickly finds almost impossible to keep.

Battling their growing attraction to each other, they must learn to live together in the forests of the wild and almost unexplored mountains. They face white water, Indians, wolves, as well as a dangerous man from Hope’s past.

No longer able to deny their feelings, their ‘happy-ever-after’ is shattered when a corrupt land baron forces Luke’s hand. Enraged at the man’s actions, Luke rides into town—and disappears.

Alone and pregnant, Hope faces the prospect of the worst winter in ten years. The trauma of fighting off a hungry grizzly brings on labor, but the baby is stuck. Luke meanwhile wakes up on a ship bound for South America, captained by a revengeful sadist who plans to murder him. Luke’s chances of survival are slim. Can he stay alive and make it back to Hope in time?


Author Bio
I was born in Zambia, grew up in Zimbabwe and am currently living in South Africa. I say currently because I did my first round-the-world trip when I was four years old. So who knows where I'll end up! I trained as a designer and worked in that field for a number of years, even running my own company. A long stint in advertising followed. In the last few years I've been toiling away in the TV industry, winning an odd international award. Writing was an aspect of each part of my career. But I realised this wasn't enough. I love "telling stories". I'm passionate about it, so in November 2011 I decided to "wrestle the Rottweiler" and put those stories on paper. I feel most alive when I'm writing and delight in letting my imagination run riot.

My author website link is:
My Author FB page is:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ten Questions from Tara: Interview with @DianeStingley #giveaway

The Case of the Invisible Dog: A Shirley Homes Mystery
Welcome. You’re here to promote The Case of the Invisible Dog, a cozy mystery. Tell me, please, what was the inspiration behind this story (or series)? How did it come to you? Readers, here's a blurb:

In the start of a charmingly imaginative cozy series sure to delight fans of Carolyn Hart and Diane Mott Davidson, Diane Stingley introduces a blundering detective who believes herself to be the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary Sherlock Holmes.

After failing to launch her career as a Hollywood actress, Tammy Norman returns home to North Carolina, desperate for a regular paycheck and a new lease on life. So she accepts a position assisting Shirley Homes, an exceptionally odd personage who styles herself after her celebrated “ancestor”–right down to the ridiculous hat. Tammy isn’t sure how long she can go on indulging the delusional Shirley (who honestly believes Sherlock Holmes was a real person!), but with the prospect of unemployment looming, she decides to give it a shot.

Tammy’s impression of her eccentric boss does not improve when their first case involves midnight romps through strangers’ yards in pursuit of a phantom dog—that only their client can hear. But when the case takes a sudden and sinister turn, Tammy has to admit that Shirley Homes might actually be on to something. . . .

When I was growing up in southern California, a local television station featured the old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies every Sunday afternoon for a while. That became my family’s “after church” ritual for the run of the series and was my first introduction to Sherlock. When I read the stories later on I loved the atmosphere that Conan Doyle created, and I still love reading those stories on a rainy afternoon. I also love how the mystery genre has evolved over the years, with great, quirky heroines featuring such a wide range of personalities, and decided that I wanted to challenge myself to see what I might be able to create. I didn’t initially set out to make my series with any sort of Sherlock Holmes tie-in. I wanted a unique character and began toying with the idea of creating a modern female detective with some Sherlock Holmes character traits. But as soon as I gave her a name—Shirley Homes—she quickly took on a life of her own. Her relationship with her assistant, Tammy Norman, was evident from the first second I put them on a page together. (Let’s just say that Tammy does not share Dr. Watson’s worshipful attitude towards Shirley that he had towards Sherlock). Within a few days their characters and relationship were as familiar to me as if I’d known them for years. I get to have fun with the Sherlock Holmes mystique and tradition, but behind the spoof is a great deal of genuine heartfelt affection.

We focus a lot on heroines here on Book Babe. Tell me what makes your heroine(s) strong.

In my series, it is Tammy Norman, Shirley’s assistant, who is the lead character. Shirley’s unshakeable belief that she is the great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes is, unfortunately, not matched by his celebrated intelligence or deductive skills. Tammy narrates the book, as Dr. Watson did, but she is also the one who actually solves the case. Not that this bothers Shirley who remains remains blissfully unaware of her personal shortcomings, absolutely convinced that she is a private detecting genius, and has no problem rewriting history as it happens in order to make sure that she receives all the credit.

Tammy has suffered a series of devastating setbacks in her professional and personal life. She moved to Los Angeles to become an actress, and has now returned home to Springville to try and put her life back together after losing both her career and the man she thought was her soul mate. Tammy has great doubts about her future and finding a place for herself. Acting was her lifelong dream, and without it she isn’t sure if she will ever find a place to belong. Some days it is a struggle for her simply to keep going. But in spite of her doubts, she keeps hanging in there, never losing her sense of humor or her ability to laugh at herself. And when Shirley puts them in awkward and/or dangerous situations (which happens quite frequently), it is Tammy who has to figure out how to get them back out. As the case progresses, she becomes more and more intrigued with the Mystery of the Invisible Dog, and discovers she has a natural ability to sort through clues and solve puzzles. Still not quite steady on her feet, she keeps walking, one step at a time, until the case is solved. Having to keep going when she isn’t sure where she even wants to be takes a lot of strength on Tammy’s part, although she still doesn’t give herself enough credit.

As for Shirley, she is like a force of nature: unstoppable. And she has absolutely no concern about what other people think of her (their opinion is seldom positive). Nothing and no one can change her mind. On the surface she may appear to be the stronger character of the two, but as the series progresses that may start to change . . .

Do you see any of yourself in your heroine?

I do. I had started this series and was just getting into it when a chain of events made it impossible for me to have any free time to write. My mom also became seriously ill around then, and after she died, I was so drained from the challenges of the previous years that I didn’t think I had the heart or the energy to go back to writing. I went through a whole process of making peace with that when a friend I hadn’t spoken to in years called me out of the blue, and after a lengthy “catching-up-on-things” conversation, called me back a couple of days later and offered me an opportunity to stay at his home so that I could finish the book. It was completely unexpected, so I understand what Tammy is going through, trying to figure out what to do with her life now that her dream appears to be out of reach.

Was there any particular part of this story that was the hardest for you to write? Tell me why.

This book was really fun to write. The only scene that was difficult turned out to be the golf club scene. My agent is an avid golfer and we went through many, many revisions before he was able to give it his final approval!

What kind of research did you do when you penned this novel? Did anything surprising come up in your search?

I didn’t really do a lot of research for the novel. I was just inspired by my love of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and let Shirley and Tammy lead me along for the ride.

What would you like readers to gain from reading your book? Is there a strong moral? Do you hope they will laugh, learn something about a particular subject/person, ponder a point?

I definitely hope they laugh. And I hope that they will sympathize with Tammy’s struggles and gain some insight into how hard it can feel when you have to rebuild your life. Her conversations with Phil McGuire, her therapist, are mined for humor, but underneath is the pain of the depression she is battling.

I would also like to think that some readers who have only heard about Sherlock Holmes but never read any of the original stories might be intrigued enough after reading The Case of the Invisible Dog to check them out.

Your book takes place in Springville, North Carolina. If I were a tourist, what would you recommend I see in this town/country? 

My novel is set in the fictional town of Springville, North Carolina. North Carolina is a beautiful state—I personally love the mountains in the western part of the state. The small towns that I based Springville on don’t really have tourist attractions. What I would recommend, instead, is to come for a day or two and walk around. Eat at the local restaurants, shop in the local outlets, visit the library, the park, etc., talk to the people, and get a feel for that town’s unique flavor.

Moving on to personal things...if you could time travel to absolute any time and place in history, where and when would you go and what is it that draws you to this time period? What would you do whilst there?

I think I would like to go to New York City in the early 1960’s. There was so much great music and energy and ideas coming out of there at that time. I think the world was a lot younger then, and I get the sense that people thought anything was possible. I would love to hear some of those voices live and in person—like seeing Dylan playing at a coffee house before he made it big.

There are so many books out there nowadays... What makes your book stand out from them?

I think having the Sherlock Holmes character told from a female point of view is a fresh approach. Readers have the fun of following a Holmesian mystery in the style of Conan Doyle, which has attracted readers from his first appearance, but updated to reflect all that has changed since Conan Doyle first put pen to paper. I particularly liked tweaking Sherlock’s misogyny and arrogance, and turning them upside down.

I’m a dog mom, so I always ask this. Do you have pets? If so, tell me about them and do provide pictures.

Sadly, I don’t currently have any pets. I hope to change that as my circumstances change, and want to adopt at least one rescue dog and cat. My dream would be to buy some land and fill it up with rescue animals!

Stephen and Barbara Kozma graciously offered to let me stay at their beautiful home near the Gulf of Mexico in Southwestern Florida while I finished The Case of the Invisible Dog. Along with the sunshine, tropical breezes, and dips in the pool, I also enjoyed the company of their two delightful cats, who quickly became my writing buddies: Catsonova on the left and Diablo on the right. Their mom and dad didn’t break the news that my book was about an invisible dog until I returned to North Carolina. Neither of them took the news well, and a solemn promise has been made that book four in the series will feature a feline in the title (unfortunately book two and three in the series have already been named, an explanation both cats greeted with absolute disdain before resuming their naps).

As I mentioned earlier, a friend graciously offered me his home to stay in while I wrote the book. He and his wife were the parents of two delightful cats, who quickly became my writing buddies. I’ve included their photos and a little bit about them below. Since I have returned to North Carolina, I have been adopted by my neighbor’s two dogs next door—Bella and Scrappy. We take periodic breaks together on our back porches, and if I’m ever stuck in my writing, a few minutes in their company clears out the cobwebs in my mind!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Strong Women of the 17th Century in A Pledge of Better Times: Guest Post from @MargaretAuthor

 photo 508670ea-e48d-4184-bcf6-7d2c3c94185f.png

Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Gallica Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9907420-4-3
Pages: 400

Genre: Historical Fiction

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A sweeping tale of ambition, treachery, and passion...

01_A Pledge of Better Times CoverFor generations Lady Diana de Vere’s family loyally served England’s crown. But after King Charles II’s untimely death, her father firmly opposes James II’s tyranny. Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans—the late king’s bastard son by actress Nell Gwyn—also rebels against his newly crowned uncle's manipulation. Secretly pledging to wed Diana, he departs for the Continent to become a soldier.

Political and religious turmoil bring about revolution and yet another coronation before Charles returns to claim his promised bride. As companion to Queen Mary II, Diana has followed her de Vere forbears into royal service. She expects Charles to abandon his military career after marriage, but he proves unwilling to join the ranks of the courtiers he despises and mistrusts.

In palace corridors and within their own household the young duke and duchess confront betrayals, scandals, and tragedies that threaten to divide them. And neither the privileges of birth nor proximity to the throne can ensure their security, their advancement—or their happiness.

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A Pledge of Better Times contains a diverse array of women, prominent and not, who lived and loved during the final decades of the 17th century and the opening years of the 18th century.

The primary female character is Lady Diana de Vere, daughter of the 20th Earl of Oxford. An obscure figure, her education and upbringing are a mystery. She would have learned what was necessary for young ladies destined for court life: needlework, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, French language. Her eventual marriage to the First Duke of St. Albans, illegitimate son of King Charles II and actress Nell Gwyn, made her the mistress of a grand house near Windsor Castle and the various London residences they occupied. Later in life she rose to become Mistress of the Stole and First Lady of the Bedchamber to the Princess of Wales, and presumably in real life she demonstrated the skills essential to carry out these prestigious appointments.

The real Diana and my fictional Diana are more both virtuous than her mother. Diana “Di” Kirke was She was very much a court lady of the Restoration era—her morals, or lack of them, reflect that. Bred at court, Di was notoriously naughty, sleeping with several court gentlemen before becoming Lord Oxford’s mistress. Her pregnancy resulted in their marriage, and after bearing him several children she had other affairs. Perhaps Di served as a cautionary example to her daughter Diana, who came of age during Mary II’s reign and was probably influenced by the devout and virtuous queen she served. But Di, as well as Diana’s maidservant Catty, also serve as models of strength and independence.
The two Queens depicted, sisters Mary and Anne, were brought up together as Protestant princesses. Their education consisted of church teachings, music, dancing, and fashionable foreign languages. Prone to enthusiastic affections—what today we call “crushes”—they wrote effusive letters to their friends, aping the language of  male-female courtship. And though they were heiresses presumptive to their uncle King Charles II, neither was tutored in state craft before or after their own father ascended the throne as James II.

Charles arranged Mary’s marriage to her first cousin, Prince William of Orange, and she wept for days after learning of her engagement. After her bridegroom took her to Holland, her misery abated. She not only fell in love with her husband, she appreciated the simpler Dutch style of living. Her contentment was ruptured by William’s invasion of England in what became known as the Glorious Revolution, which toppled her Catholic father from the throne. Although Mary’s claim to the crown was higher, monarchical power was vested in William. Parliament preferred having a king, even if he was a Dutchman, and Mary believed that to outrank him—and rule over him—would be contrary to the laws of God. A reluctant Queen, she felt burdened by the responsibilities of governing whenever William waged war on the Continent against his great enemy Louis XIV. But however much she disliked ruling in his stead, she demonstrated good sense and a skill for handling her very troublesome councilors and advisors.

Unlike her friend Mary, my fictional Diana revels in being in control, and she is quick to exert herself in opposition to her husband when she disagrees with him. Her challenges strengthen her, and she is a survivor. Although I depict her as a woman of her time, in some respects she is the one the modern reader will probably identify with the most.

Another strong female in the novel is Sarah Churchill, who rose from lowly court maiden to the most powerful woman in England after Queen Anne. She caused many a quarrel between the royal sisters Mary and Anne and was responsible for the complete breakdown in their relationship. My portrait of Sarah is unflattering, but perhaps not as much as the ones drawn by her own contemporaries! Her vigorous personality and her influence over Anne served her well for most of her life, but as her own worst enemy she had only herself to blame for her ultimate downfall.

My research for A Pledge of Better Times offered more enlightenment about women of the time—royals, aristocrats, servants—than I could possibly fit into a novel. But within the period covered by the novel, the seeds of change were just beginning to sprout—although it would be decades, even centuries, before they bore fruit!

Praise for A Pledge of Better Times
“Meticulously researched and offering an impressive cast of real life characters brought to vibrant life, A Pledge of Better Times expertly captures the drama, passions, politics and religious turmoil of England at the turn of the 18th century. Margaret Porter crafts her story with exquisite detail, transporting the reader into a world full of intrigue, scandal, and breathtaking danger . . . a masterful writer.” - Award-winning author M. Reed McCall

“With elegant prose and vivid detail, A Pledge of Better Times sweeps you into late Stuart England, transforming the lesser known adversities and triumphs of Lady Diana de Vere and Charles Beauclerk into a beautiful love story you won’t forget.” - Marci Jefferson, author of Enchantress of Paris and Girl on the Golden Coin

“A portrait of Diana de Vere as rich as the portraits that grace British museums and palaces.” - Christy K Robinson, author of Mary Dyer Illuminated

“The sparkling, dangerous, enticing post-Restoration period comes to vivid life! Porter gives us a wonderful, complicated heroine in Diana, drawing us deep into her world . . . . I couldn’t stop reading!” - Amanda Carmack, author of Murder in the Queen’s Garden: An Elizabethan Mystery

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About the Author

02_Margaret Porter Author PhotoMargaret Porter is an award-winning, bestselling novelist whose lifelong study of British history inspires her fiction and her travels. A former stage actress, she has also worked in film, television, and radio.

For more information please visit Margaret Porter's website. You can also find her on Facebook here and here, and on Twitter.

A Pledge of Better Times Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 4
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Spotlight & Giveaway at Mina's Bookshelf

Tuesday, May 5
Review at 100 Pages a Day - Stephanie's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 6
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, May 7
Review at Book Drunkard

Friday, May 8
Review at Books and Benches

Sunday, May 10
Review & Guest Post at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Monday, May 11
Review at Reading the Past

Tuesday, May 12
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, May 13
Guest Post at Book Babe

Thursday, May 14
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Impressions in Ink
Review at Caroline Wilson Writes

Friday, May 15
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Reading Radar 5/16/2015 @CindaGault @FiCatchesBabies @bellabooks

What's the Reading Radar? It's just a list of books that caught my interest in the last week, why they caught my interest, and HOW. Having been an author myself once upon a time, I was always curious about how to reach readers. I type this up every week to share with readers books they may be interested as well and to let the authors know how they're being "discovered".

This Godforsaken PlaceDiscovered on the Goodreads Giveaways (never win these anymore but keep looking because it's a great way to discover upcoming reads): This Godforsaken Place by Cinda Gault. Any woman with a gun interests me, and even more intriguing to me is the Canadian wilderness setting. (Yes, I've become a When Calls the Heart fan.)

The year is 1885 and Abigail Peacock is resisting what seems to be an inevitable future—a sensible career as a teacher and marriage to the earnestly attentive local storeowner.

But then she buys a rifle, and everything changes.

This Godforsaken Place is the absorbing tale of one tenacious woman’s journey set against the dramatic backdrop of the Canadian Wilderness and American Wild West. Told by four narrators—including Annie Oakley and Gabriel Dumont—Abigail’s story brings the high stakes of the New World into startling focus.


The Homestead GirlsSpotted on Netgalley and has nabbed my attention with the words flight nurse and doctor. Love those tales. (And frankly, the number one way to get me to look twice at a book is put a plane on the cover--not matter how big or small.) The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthur.

After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billy Green decides it's time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. So when an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and in desperation has opened her station house to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billy, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric 80-year-old Lorna Lamerton.

The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test . . .


And I don't normally do erotica, but I've been in a weird mood lately and this one caught my eye: Hotel of Seduction by Marina Anderson on Netgalley. It made me think of Madonna's Justify My Love video, something I've always fantasized about and I'm eager to read this sexy hotel idea. And hey, I did enjoy the Beauty trilogy, and the SECRET books.

Are you ready for a weekend away at the Hotel of Seduction?

Grace has won the man of her dreams - and her fantasies. Brooding, sensual, wealthy and handsome, their days and nights are filled with pleasure. But can this enigmatic man truly love her?

Together they have set up a secret, exclusive hotel for adventurous couples, designed to open their guests' eyes to the darker, deeper side of desire. But one of the visitors has an agenda, and David is becoming distracted by a new arrival.

As they explore the delights on offer, Grace realises this is a test: if she fails, she will lose David to his next passing fancy. If she succeeds, she will secure his love for ever, and he will finally invite her into his world . . .

Take some time away and allow yourself to be seduced by The Hotel of Seduction.


Twitter works again. Bella Books followed me, bringing them to my attention. I browsed the titles offered on their website and found one I'd love to read: In the Company of Women by Kate Christie.

In the Company of WomenFort Bliss—it’s anything but. Caroline “CJ” Jamieson gave up studying history and joined the Women’s Army Corps to live it instead. Along with her new WAC friends, she is ready to do her part to help boys like her brothers, fighting in the European and Pacific theaters, make it home sooner.

The Army, however, has derailed her plans. Instead of the California post she anticipated, west Texas cacti and an artillery training base are the unexpected sights on her new horizons. Not one to question orders, she’s not sure how her skills in airplane engine maintenance will be of use in this desolate region.

But when CJ meets fellow WAC enlistee Brady Buchanan, Fort Bliss might live up to its name.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Love & Miss Communication: Can You Give Up the Internet?

love and miss communicationAbout Love and Miss Communication

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 12, 2015)
This unforgettable debut novel asks us to look up from our screens and out at the world . . . and to imagine what life would be like with no searches, no status updates, no texts, no Tweets, no pins, and no posts
Evie Rosen has had enough. She's tired of the partners at her law firm e-mailing her at all hours of the night. The thought of another online date makes her break out in a cold sweat. She's over the clever hashtags and the endless selfies. So when her career hits a surprising roadblock and her heart is crushed by Facebook, Evie decides it's time to put down her smartphone for good. (Beats stowing it in her underwear—she's done that too!)
And that's when she discovers a fresh start for real conversations, fewer distractions, and living in the moment, even if the moments are heartbreakingly difficult. Babies are born; marriages teeter; friendships are tested. Evie may find love and a new direction when she least expects it, but she also learns that just because you unplug your phone doesn't mean you can also unplug from life.
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My Review:
I have often thought about what a waste of time the social networking sites are, cesspools of one-up-manship, jealousy, bragging, and fakeness. I mean, seriously, we don't post pictures of ourselves looking like crap and just how often do we say how we really feel? And when we do, nobody can handle it and it becomes an online fight. And yes, I gave up Facebook. I'd like to see others try it. OMG. What did we do before we could sit here all day and "like" 50 selfies a day?

So I appreciated this story line. A woman realizes she has an email addiction, loses her job and her blackberry and decides to change her life. She begins to ask herself important questions we should all consider. "How does looking at photos of my ex on Facebook help me? Do I really need to Google everyone I meet? Am I being real when I post here? Am I interacting with the real world anymore?"

Being Internet free changes her life, her career, her love life. She also realizes things about herself she didn't want to admit before and learns to move on from the past.

I think this story has terrific food for thought. It's well written and engaging most of the time, though I felt it was a bit too long for what it contacted and my interest was lagging by the end of the story. There were also side stories that I didn't care and in my eyes didn't add to the main story, like the young college kid in the office.

But I think everyone everywhere could walk away having learned something from this.

About Elyssa Friedland

Elyssa FriedlandElyssa Friedland attended Yale University, where she served as managing editor of the Yale Daily News. She is a graduate of Columbia Law School and subsequently worked as an associate at a major firm. Prior to law school, Elyssa wrote for several publications, including Modern Bride, New York magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, CBS, Yale Alumni Magazine, and Your Prom. She grew up in New Jersey and currently lives in New York City with her husband and three young children.

Find out more about Elyssa at her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Saffron Crocus: A YA Mystery in 17th Century Venice

 photo 359ea8e9-ae78-4845-bae6-2c9f6bace292.png

Publication Date: December 13, 2014
Black Opal Books
eBook; 306p

Genre: Young Adult/Historical Mystery/Romance

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Winner of the 2014 Rosemary Award for Best Historical for Young Adults.

02_The Saffron CrocusVenice, 1643. Isabella, fifteen, longs to sing in Monteverdi’s Choir, but only boys (and castrati) can do that. Her singing teacher, Margherita, introduces her to a new wonder: opera! Then Isabella finds Margherita murdered. Now people keep trying to kill Margherita’s handsome rogue of a son, Rafaele.

Was Margherita killed so someone could steal her saffron business? Or was it a disgruntled lover, as Margherita—unbeknownst to Isabella—was one of Venice’s wealthiest courtesans?

Or will Isabella and Rafaele find the answer deep in Margherita's past, buried in the Jewish Ghetto?

Isabella has to solve the mystery of the Saffron Crocus before Rafaele hangs for a murder he didn’t commit, though she fears the truth will drive her and the man she loves irrevocably apart.


I have to confess that I love books set in Venice.   It's such a unique city with fascinating traditions and it played such a pivotal role in European history.    The first book that I read which took place in Venice is one of Anne Rice's best novels, Cry To Heaven.  Since The Saffron Crocus shares some of the same elements as that wonderful Rice novel, I felt as if I would be revisiting its world.   I received The Saffron Crocus free via this blog tour in return for an honest review.

This was a fast read that was mostly enjoyable.   I especially liked the heroine's voice teacher and mentor, Margherita.  I was fascinated to learn from McMahan's historical note that she was based on a historical personage.  Further research led me to discover that she was one of the first women to become an opera singer.

 I would have liked to have seen more Ladino during the scenes in the Jewish ghetto.  Ladino is a creole of Spanish and Hebrew spoken by the Jews of Spain, Portugal and Italy.  I'd heard of it before, but had never seen any example of Ladino before I read this book.

I lost my appetite for The Saffron Crocus as a result of a very predictable plot event that also had me wondering whether several of the characters were truly TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) because they should also have seen what was coming.  Oh, but the result was super-dramatic.  Look,  I love dramatic plotlines, but not a crisis that was manufactured because the characters blundered into it without thinking.  After that, the resolution seemed contrived.  I wished that I could have pushed a re-set button, so I could go back to the point where the novel was fun and I still respected the protagonists.


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03_Alison McMahan AuthorAbout the Author

Alison McMahan chased footage for her documentaries through jungles in Honduras and Cambodia, favelas in Brazil and racetracks in the U.S. She brings the same sense of adventure to her award-winning books of historical mystery and romantic adventure for teens and adults. Her latest publication is The Saffron Crocus, a historical mystery for young. Murder, Mystery & Music in 17th Century Venice.

She loves hearing from readers!

Author Links

Webpage for The Saffron Crocus

The Saffron Crocus Blog Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Monday, April 13
Book Blast at Genre Queen

Thursday, April 16
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Friday, April 17
Interview at Mythical Books

Monday, April 20
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, April 21
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Wednesday, April 22
Guest Post at History From a Woman's Perspective

Tuesday, April 28
Book Blast at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, April 29
Guest Post & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, May 5
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, May 6
Review at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, May 7
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, May 8
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Saturday, May 9
Book Blast at Romantic Historical Lovers

Tuesday, May 12
Review at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, May 13
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Thursday, May 14
Review at Book Babe
Guest Post at What Is That Book About

Monday, May 25
Review at Beth's Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, May 27
Book Blast at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, May 28
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Monday, June 1
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, June 2
Guest Post at The Maiden's Court

Friday, June 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at Jorie Loves a Story