Category Archives: Historical fiction

Under A Veiled Moon (Inspector Corravan Mystery, #2) by Karen Odden

Under a Veiled Moon (Inspector Corravan, #2)Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A dedicated and compassionate police inspector unravels a deadly politically-motivated case of historical terrorism.

By 1878, the Whitechapel district of London had long been home to the thousands of Irish immigrants fleeing the famine and seeking work. However, conditions started to deteriorate with the influx of another wave of displaced people from Russia and Poland seeking a new life. Not only were there clashes of culture, but the Irish gang that held sway over the area was being picked apart by a rival gang with a more radical agenda for Irish Home Rule. So far, two of James McCabe’s Cobbwallers had been found shot in the back of the head and left in the road to be found.

Meanwhile, a train derailment that claimed the lives of many passengers and injured even more was suspected of being the deliberate work of the Irish Republican Brotherhood or at least staged to look like it was. Similarly, when a tragic collision on the Thames between two vessels resulting in the loss of over 500 souls soon followed, the London papers were quick to print inflammatory headlines and questionably factual stories blaming the Irish as well, fomenting fear and unrest across the city.

Inspector Michael “Mickey” Corravan is charged with looking into the suspicious nature of the collision of the Princess Alice, a pleasure steamer, and the Bywell Castle, a large commercial vessel. But from the start, the incident looks like no accident but rather another deliberate act of destruction. No group claims responsibility, and pinpointing the actual perpetrator proves to be dangerous and a test of Corravan’s integrity and loyalty.

Under A Veiled Moon is the second book in author Karen Odden’s Inspector Corravan Mystery series, and it is a complex and compelling tale. Incorporating fascinating actual incidents from the time period, it is historical mystery fiction at its best and eerily reflects similarities in our current time and society.

The story unfolds from the viewpoint of Michael Corravan, now the acting superintendent of the Wapping River Police. Corravan, an Irishman, diligently sets aside his biases for his culture and people yet still must suffer through society’s prejudices, including those of his own supervisors and others working the same case. Thankfully, he has the support of his love interest, novelist Belinda Gale, and his former partner at Scotland Yard, Gorgon Stiles. He and Stiles remain a formidable pair working in tandem on the complicated case. While Belinda doesn’t feature heavily in this book, she still has a significant role, with her outsider’s perspective, in helping Corravan view his investigation through a different pair of eyes.

The author breathes life into the time period and the London setting, so much so that I could almost smell the odors wafting off the river. I got a fascinatingly distinct impression of what life must have been like for someone like Corravan and his adopted family, the Doyles, and some of it was downright horrifying. Brief glimpses into Belinda’s life accentuate the discrepancies in living conditions, treatment, and prospects for the future between the classes, especially for the immigrants.

The plot is complex and absorbing, especially when it appears to be headed in one direction only to veer off into another. Some surprising twists and turns really upped the tension and the feeling of urgency to solve the case. Besides the eye-opening political machinations that Corravan must untangle, there is an utterly personal aspect to this case for him that was heartbreaking and absolutely riveting.

With its dedicated and conflicted police investigator, vivid historical setting, and complex plot, I recommend UNDER A VEILED MOON to mystery readers who enjoy historical mystery fiction with a political basis and tense terroristic threats and readers who enjoyed the first book in the series.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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Book Blog Tour: Thunder Road by Colin Holmes

THUNDER ROAD
by
COLIN HOLMES
Noir / Suspense / Historical Fiction
Publisher: CamCat Books
Publication Date: February 15, 2022
Page count: 384 pages

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In this gamble, more than a few poker chips are at stake.
When an Army Air Force Major vanishes from his Top Secret job at the Fort Worth airbase in the summer of 1947, down-on-his-luck former Ranger Jefferson Sharp is hired to find him, because the Major owes a sizable gambling debt to a local mobster. The search takes Sharp from the hideaway poker rooms of Fort Worth’s Thunder Road, to the barren ranch lands of New Mexico, to secret facilities under construction in the Nevada desert.
Lethal operatives and an opaque military bureaucracy stand in his way, but when he finds an otherworldly clue and learns President Truman is creating a new Central Intelligence Agency and splitting the Air Force from the Army, Sharp begins to connect dots. And those dots draw a straight line to a conspiracy aiming to cover up a secret that is out of this worldliterally so.
PRAISE QUOTES:

“[In this] intriguing debut . . . clear crisp prose . . . morphs from a western into a detective story with an overlay of conspiracy theories.” —Publishers Weekly

“Sparkling 1940’s dialogue, wry humor, an unpredictable yet coherent storyline, and a breezy style all his own, make Colin Holmes’ somewhat spooky novel, Thunder Road, a winner. I’ll be on the lookout for his next novel.” —Rob Leininger, author of Killing Suki Flood and the Mortimer Angel “Gumshoe” series

“This genre-defying and enormously entertaining romp is Mickey Spillane meets Whitley Strieber meets Woody Allen. I can’t remember when I’ve had so much plain old fun reading a book and just didn’t want it to end.” —Historical Novel Society, Editor’s Choice

“A carefully crafted and original suspense thriller of a read, Thunder Road by Colin Holmes is the stuff of which block-buster action/adventure movies are made. With many and unexpected plot twists and turns, Thunder Road is an inherently fascinating and entertaining novel . . .” —Midwest Book Review

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review-2
5 stars!

Thunder Road hits the ground running!

Thunder Road by author Colin Holmes is an exciting and action-packed scorcher of a story from the very first page, and considering it begins in a pasture somewhere west of Fort Worth among a herd of cattle, you’d think that would be hard to do. But Holmes grabs the story by the horns, and it’s off and running.

The reader is introduced to the book’s hero, Jefferson Sharp, on one of his worst days ever. Between the events of the pasture and discovering he and his wife are no longer a compatible match, the guy takes several tough gut punches and still gets up to start all over, all the while maintaining a decent attitude. He’s a down-to-earth guy and a ‘ride or die’ kind of friend. He’s joined in the story, for the most part, by friends he’s grown up with, some of whom have secrets that bring him a lot of trouble. However, my favorite supporting character is Veronica “Roni” Arquette, the sister of a childhood buddy and the widow of Sharp’s former partner when both were detectives with the Fort Worth PD before the war.

I loved the post-WWII, 19476 time period and the setting in my hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. The author sprinkles the non-stop action and casework with Fort Worth history, historical figures, and local lore. Some characters appear to be fictional recreations of actual individuals, such as Amon Carter. The historical ‘time travel tour’ aspect was so delightful and fun that before I was even done reading the novel, I purchased multiple hardcover copies to gift to family members at Christmas.

The story can be broadly categorized as a thriller or mystery or noir or historical fiction or sci-fi; there is literally something for everyone here. But the main character is a private investigator with cases to work on, so that is the book’s predominant ‘look and feel’. Sharp is a stand up guy who’s good in a fight and takes his drinks with little fuss. The dialogue is crisp, snappy, and clever, and place descriptions are saturated with mood and atmosphere, so much so that you’ll think you’re hanging at the Four Deuces right along with the characters.

I recommend THUNDER ROAD to mystery readers who would enjoy a story with a noirish post-WWII Fort Worth setting and wouldn’t mind a little sci-fi action in their crime drama.

Before the pandemic, Colin Holmes toiled in a beige cubical as a mid-level marketing and advertising manager for an international electronics firm. A recovering advertising creative director, he spent far too long at ad agencies and freelancing as a hired gun in the war for capitalism.

As an adman, Holmes has written newspaper classifieds, TV commercials, radio spots, trade journal articles and tweets. His ads have sold cowboy boots and cheeseburgers, 72-ounce steaks, and hazardous waste site clean-up services. He’s encountered fascinating characters at every turn.

Now he writes novels, short stories and screenplays in an effort to stay out of the way and not drive his far too patient wife completely crazy. He is an honors graduate of the UCLA Writers Program, a former board member of the DFW Writers Workshop and serves on the steering committee of the DFW Writers Conference. He’s a fan of baseball, barbeque, fine automobiles and unpretentious scotch

CamCat Publishing

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A War in Too Many Worlds (The Time Traveler Professor, #3) by Elizabeth Crowens

A War in Too Many Worlds (Time Traveler Professor, #3)A War in Too Many Worlds by Elizabeth Crowens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The exciting and highly entertaining next installment in the Time Traveler Professor series!

With WWI in full swing, John Patrick Scott, a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Scots, had been assigned to a desk job after an injury took him off the frontline in France. A painful recovery left him with a morphine addiction that he successfully fought off yet still lurks beneath his self-control. He and his friend, Arthur Conan Doyle, remained in contact; however, Doyle had sidelined Sherlock Holmes in favor of his intense interest in spiritualism, so John’s assistance with the detective stories was no longer necessary.

The night of Doyle’s recent Halloween party, the time machine John had crafted for him had gone missing. However, he strongly suspected his friend, H.G. Wells, was the thief. Wells, who actually did take the machine, struggled to figure out how to get the thing to work, but a nudge in the right direction sent him back to 1845 and a lush but strange and dangerous jungle-like location. While there, he found an abandoned sketchbook with a locket enclosed among its pages, and when he returned to his own time and place, he was amazed to discover these souvenirs came back with him. The trip whetted his appetite to try again, but when he improperly assembles the machine, he literally gets the shock of his life. He’s rescued from electrocution by the timely appearance of the machine’s rightful owner, Arthur. Together, the two plan a more extensive trip back in time to thoroughly investigate the odd island and the unnatural creatures it harbors.

Meanwhile, John’s superiors at GHQ realize he’s wasted shuffling papers and send him undercover to Germany to trap a traitor: his dear friend Francois Poincaré. After being wounded in France, John developed the supernatural ability to see the ghosts of the soldiers killed on the battlefield around him. This secret skill comes in handy, and he enlists the help of two unlikely specters in his mission in Berlin.

A War in Too Many Worlds is the third book in Elizabeth Crowens’s fantasy series, Time Traveler Professor, which should be read in order for the greatest enjoyment. This book focuses on John’s mission in Germany and Doyle’s and Wells’s time-traveling attempts back home. The story builds on the actions and relationships developed previously and the plot is intricate and multi-faceted as it follows storylines through the combined books. However, an excellent Author’s Note preceding the start of this story relates the essence of what has gone on before that may assist a newcomer in getting their bearings.

John Patrick Scott has become somewhat embittered, what with his wound leaving him with a permanent ache and limp, being relegated to a desk job, not to mention the canceled musical career he’d worked so hard to attain. He’s overcome his addiction to morphine, but it’s a weakness that remains just under the surface of his willpower. I was sad for his gradual and complacent slide back into the use of opium even as he acknowledged the folly and the pain he had gone through in kicking his habit. I was intrigued by his relationship with the ghostly child, Chaimie, and Private Freund, and the storyline in Germany was my favorite by far of the two. The dark and decadent state of dissolution of wartime Berlin created a moody, atmospheric setting for John’s operation and set the stage for his internal struggle over betraying his old friend in more ways than the one ordered by General Headquarters.

Arthur Conan Doyle provided some of the best dialogue in the story and H.G. Wells, “Bertie,” was most entertaining as he experiences time traveling with fresh eyes. The author deftly mixed historical figures with fictional characters during historical events and imaginative fictional adventures.

I recommend A WAR IN TOO MANY WORLDS to fantasy readers who enjoy alternate history, time travel tales, or stories set during WWI or old Berlin.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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Multi-Book Blitz & Giveaway: JOANNE EASLEY – Fiction about Complicated, 20th-Century Women

SWEET JANE,

JUST ONE LOOK,

&

I’LL BE SEEING YOU

by

Joanne Kukanza Easley

SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

Sweet Jane

Joanne Kukanza Easley’s debut novel

2019 Wisdom-Faulkner Award finalist

2020 Adult Fiction winner Texas Author Project

2020 Sarton Award Finalist

2020 Eric Hoffer Award Short List


A drunken mother makes childhood ugly. Jane runs away at sixteen, determined to leave her fraught upbringing in the rearview. Vowing never to return, she hitchhikes to California, right on time for the Summer of Love. Seventeen years later, she looks good on paper: married, grad school, sober, but her carefully constructed life is crumbling. When Mama dies, Jane returns for the funeral, leaving her husband in the dark about her history. Seeing her childhood home and significant people from her youth catapults Jane back to the events that made her the woman she is. She faces down her past and the ghosts that shaped her family. A stunning discovery helps Jane see her problems through a new lens.

Family Saga / Women’s Fiction / Historical Fiction 

Publisher: Red Boots Press

Pages: 279 pages

Publication Date: September 17, 2022

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Just One Look

May 2022 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Pick

Shelf Unbound 2021 Notable 100 Best Indie Books

Recommended by the US Review of Books


In 1965 Chicago, thirteen-year-old Dani Marek declares she’s in love, and you best believe it. This is no crush, and for six blissful years she fills her hope chest with linens, dinnerware, and dreams of an idyllic future with John. When he is killed in action in Viet Nam, Dani’s world shatters. She launches a one-woman vendetta against the men she seeks out in Rush Street’s singles bars. Her goal: break as many hearts as she can. Dani’s ill-conceived vengeance leads her to a loveless marriage that ends in tragedy. At twenty-four, she’s left a widow with a baby, a small fortune, and a ghost—make that two. Set in the turbulent Sixties and Seventies, Just One Look explores one woman’s tumultuous journey through grief, denial, and letting go.

Family Saga / Women’s Fiction / Historical Fiction 

Publisher: Red Boots Press

Pages: 293 pages

Publication Date: September 17, 2022

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I’ll Be Seeing You

The new release from Joanne Kukanza Easley, the multi-award-winning author of Sweet Jane and Just One Look


A saga spanning five decades, I’ll Be Seeing You, explores one woman’s life, with and without alcohol to numb the pain.


Young Lauren knows she doesn’t want to be a ranch wife in Palo Pinto County, Texas. After she’s discovered by a modeling scout at the 1940 Fort Worth Stock Show Parade, she moves to Manhattan to begin her glamourous career. A setback ends her dream, and she drifts into alcohol dependence and promiscuity. By twenty-four, she’s been widowed and divorced, and has developed a pattern of fleeing her problems with geographical cures. Lauren’s last escape lands her in Austin, where, after ten chaotic years, she achieves lasting sobriety and starts a successful business, but happiness eludes her.

Fast forward to 1985. With a history of burning bridges and never looking back, Lauren is stunned when Brett, her third husband, resurfaces, wanting to reconcile after thirty-three years. The losses and regrets of the past engulf her, and she seeks the counsel of Jane, a long-time friend from AA. In the end, the choice is Lauren’s. What will she decide?

Family Saga / Women’s Fiction

Addiction & Recovery / Historical Fiction 

Publisher: Red Boots Press

Pages: 227 pages

Publication Date: August 28, 2022

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A retired registered nurse with experience in both the cold, clinical operating room and the emotionally fraught world of psychiatric hospitals, Joanne lives on a small ranch in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes fiction about complicated, twentieth-century women. 

Her multi-award-winning debut, Sweet Jane, was named the adult fiction winner at the Texas Author Project and shortlisted for the Sarton Award and Eric Hoffer Award, among others. Just One Look, Joanne’s second novel was a May 2022 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Pick. I’ll Be Seeing You, her third novel, features characters from Sweet Jane. Her prize-winning short stories and poetry have appeared in several anthologies.

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***

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Book Blog Tour: The Lost Melody by Joanna Davidson Politano

THE LOST MELODY
by
Joanna Davidson Politano
Historical Romance / Christian Fiction
Publisher: Revell
Pages: 384 pages
Publication Date: October 4, 2022
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When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant’s father dies, he leaves to her the care of a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. Vivienne had no idea the woman existed, and yet her portrait is shockingly familiar. When the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams.
The longer she lingers in the deep shadows and forgotten towers at Hurstwell, the fuzzier the line between sanity and madness becomes. She hears music no one else does, receives strange missives with rose petals between the pages, and untangles far more than is safe for her to know.
But can she uncover the truth about the mysterious woman she seeks? And is there anyone at Hurstwell she can trust with her suspicions?
Joanna Davidson Politano casts a delightful spell with this lyrical look into the nature of women’s independence and artistic expression during the Victorian era–and now.

PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:

“Haunting. Riveting. Filled with hope. The Lost Melody is all these things and more. Author Joanna Davidson Politano delves into the dark world of Victorian mental health, and it’s the reader who comes out the winner after being enchanted by this tale of identity lost. After you read the last page, the characters will live on in your mind. Truly a fantastic read!” — Michelle Griep, author of Lost in Darkness

“Joanna Davidson Politano’s stories go on my bookshelf as a favorite! The stories she pens entice my Gothic-loving senses, thrill my literary soul, and inspire the dark romantic inside my spirit. I cannot emphasize enough how strongly I adore each story from this vivid and insightful author, and how badly I wish for all readers to experience her tales!” — Jaime Jo Wright, author of The Souls of Lost Lake, and Christy Award-winning The House on Foster Hill

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review-2

5 stars!

Wrongfully confined to a Victorian mental asylum, a former concert pianist desperately tries to convince someone she’s not mad!

The Lost Melody was a dark yet exciting historical Christian fiction novel about mental health care and treatment during the 1800s. The asylum storyline and setting are the stuff of nightmares:  a creaking old building situated on the edge of the moors, barred doors and windows, hidden passageways, dimly-lit wards with confused and suffering patients, a crumbling tower off-limits to staff, all within view of a well-populated cemetery on the grounds. The main character must even hide in a morgue at one point!

When the story opens, Vivienne is relieved by her father’s death; he’d been something of a tyrant. She’s an angry young woman, and with good reason. Her father had been an abusive and harsh autocrat, taking the parenting style of the time to an extreme. She’s just gotten out from under his thumb only to discover she’s got a manager with an agenda that doesn’t align with her own. This dissonance led to a gripping novel filled with plot twists and shocking surprises that kept me turning the pages to find out how it would turn out.

The author uses light and dark imagery throughout the story with beautiful results. Within the asylum setting, hope struggles with hopelessness, and dark, gaslit corridors are juxtaposed with the chandelier-bright conservatory. Candles and matches are Vivienne’s only items within her control. Light and dark even plays a role in characterization, with some representing light and others darkness while still others actively suck the very light out of the lives of those left to disappear into the asylum.

With its gripping plot, superb storytelling, and sympathetic and engaging characters, I recommend THE LOST MELODY to readers of historical fiction, especially those who are interested in Victorian-era asylums, the treatment and care of mental health patients in the 1800s, and the beginnings of music therapy in mental health settings.

Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears, A Rumored Fortune, Finding Lady Enderly, The Love Note, and A Midnight Dance. She loves tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone’s story. She lives with her husband and their children in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan.
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Receives a Sterling Silver Treble Clef pendant necklace
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Book Tour: The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

THE DOOR OF NO RETURN

by

Kwame Alexander

Middle Grade Novel-in-Verse Historical Fiction

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 432

Publishing Date: September 27, 2022

SYNOPSIS:

Dreams are today’s answers for tomorrow’s questions.

11-year-old Kofi Offin dreams of water. Its mysterious, immersive quality. The rich, earthy scent of the current. The clearness, its urgent whisper that beckons with promises and secrets…

Kofi has heard the call on the banks of Upper Kwanta, in the village where he lives. He loves these things above all else: his family, the fireside tales of his father’s father, a girl named Ama, and, of course, swimming. Some say he moves like a minnow, not just an ordinary boy so he’s hoping to finally prove himself in front of Ama and his friends in a swimming contest against his older, stronger cousin.

But before this can take place, a festival comes to the villages of Upper and Lower Kwanta and Kofi’s brother is chosen to represent Upper Kwanta in the wrestling contest. Encircled by cheering spectators and sounding drums, the two wrestlers from different villages kneel, ready to fight. 

You are only fine, until you are not.

The match is over before it has barely begun, when the unthinkable–a sudden death–occurs…

The river does not care how grown you are. 

As his world turns upside down, Kofi soon ends up in a fight for his life. What happens next will send him on a harrowing journey across land and sea, and away from everything he loves.

Content Warning: slavery

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REVIEW:

5 STARS!

In The Door of No Return, author Kwame Alexander tells the heartbreaking story of Kofi, a boy on the threshold of adulthood, and his close-knit and loving family. Readers get to know this curious and charming boy and will connect with his adolescent thoughts, feelings, and desires for the future. Young readers will undoubtedly be drawn in and quickly relate to him.

There is joy in the story as Kofi swims in the river and talks and learns from the older male members of his family: grandfather, father, and big brother, Kwasi. But tension arises quickly as he prepares to swim a race against his rival. But that tension is only a teaser for the trouble to come, something so unimaginable it will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

The story is conveyed in verse which may be unfamiliar to some young readers. However, this format creates perfect bite-sized pieces that will, in the end, keep the reader on the edge of their seats yet give them a much-needed pause from the mounting tension before continuing. These natural stops may work well for reluctant readers and those looking for a meaningful story for reading aloud.

Kofi’s story hits so many emotions and offers a wealth of material for discussion, examination, reflection, and further reading. Its gorgeous cover is sure to catch the eye of browsers as well. I recommend THE DOOR OF NO RETURN to middle-grade readers and older and those searching for an exciting opportunity for sharing and reading aloud.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, publisher, and New York Times Bestselling author of 36 books, including SWING, BECOMING MUHAMMAD ALI, co-authored with James Patterson, REBOUND, which was shortlisted for prestigious UK Carnegie Medal, The Caldecott Medal and Newbery Honor-winning picture book, THE UNDEFEATED, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and his NEWBERY medal-winning middle grade novel, THE CROSSOVER. A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Kwame is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Three NAACP Image Award Nominations, and the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award. In 2018, he opened the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic in Ghana, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded. He is the writer and executive producer of THE CROSSOVER TV series on Disney+. The fall of 2022 will see the release of book one of a new trilogy, THE DOOR OF NO RETURN.

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Book Tour: As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW

by

Zoulfa Katouh

Young Adult Historical Fiction

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 432 pages

Publication Date: September 13, 2022

SYNOPSIS:

Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.

Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.

But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.

Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.

Content Warning: on page death and sexual assault. As well as, descriptions of torture, child abuse and torture, PTSD, starvation, and general descriptions of the horror that comes with war.

For more information or to purchase:

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REVIEW:

5 stars!!!

Simply an amazing debut novel based on the ongoing conflict and atrocities in Syria!

As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow is the amazing debut novel by Syrian author Zoulfa Katouh. It is a gripping tale from start to finish and exudes the ever-present fear of the main characters and their neighbors. The story is absolutely heart-wrenching and made even more so with the understanding that it is based on actual events and ongoing conditions in Syria. The tension was constant from the beginning but continued to build as the story unfolded. The author doesn’t pull any punches. There is no softening of the blows of the revolution’s impact on the characters or the reader. There is death and danger at every turn of the page. I had to step away from the story to recover before going on. I can’t imagine the reality of those that cannot.

The story is told in first-person from Salama’s point of view, so we are privy to her thoughts and feelings. The effects of her PTSD manifest themselves in Khawf, who shows up at all hours of the day or night to harangue and taunt her. But Salama is an extraordinary and extremely likable young woman, a real underdog everyone will want to succeed. Amid her desperate daily life, romance finds its way to her, and it is accomplished in a most natural way and satisfying way.

The story isn’t all heartbreak; there are moments of joy and recollections of good times. There are descriptions of life in pre-revolution Syria, college memories, friends and family, food and drink, and mentions of the glories of Syria’s past. Layla and Salama have been best friends since childhood, and they still have some BFF moments, sharing secrets and giggling together when they can, although, under the circumstances, this is infrequent. (This book also presents one of the biggest and most shockingly blindsiding twists I have ever encountered in a plot. All I will say is I totally did not see that coming.)

With its engaging heroine and other main characters and tense, desperate plot, I highly recommend AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW to readers of young adult fiction and suspense, especially those who enjoy stories based on actual events. Please note that the subject matter is tough and comes with a list of content or trigger warnings.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Zoulfa Katouh is the only person in her family who can’t roll her tongue, but that’s okay because she writes characters who can do so. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Drug Sciences. She is trilingual in English, Arabic and German. Zoulfa currently resides in Switzerland where she finds inspiration in the Studio Ghibli picturesque scenery.

Ever since her Mama gave her a copy of Anne of Green Gables when she was eight years old, she discovered the beauty of books. Soon enough she was sneaking books under her school desk to read while teachers went on about Math and Physics. Her imagination grew, and one day, she had the courage to pen down the stories that roam her mind. And she never stopped!

Her speculative contemporary YA debut AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW comes out September 13th by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and September 15th by Bloomsbury Kids & YA UK, making her the first Syrian YA author to be published in the US and UK. She is represented by the warrior queen Alexandra Levick at Writers House.

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Book Tour: The Bluest Sky by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

The Bluest Sky

by

Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Page count: 320 pages

Publishing Date: September 6, 2022

SYNOPSIS:

A boy and his family must decide whether to remain in Cuba under a repressive government or risk everything for the chance of a new beginning in this gripping story from the award-winning author of The Red Umbrella.

There are two versions of Héctor: the public and the private. It’s the only way to survive in communist Cuba—especially when your father was exiled to the U.S. and labeled an enemy of the people. Héctor must always be seen as a fierce supporter of the regime, even if that means loudly rejecting the father he still loves.

But in the summer of 1980, those two versions are hard to keep separate. No longer able to suppress a public uprising, the Cuban government says it will open the port of Mariel to all who wish to leave the country—if they can find a boat. But choosing to leave comes with a price. Those who want to flee are denounced as traitors by family and friends. There are violent acts of repudiation, and no one knows if they will truly be allowed to leave the country or not.

So when Héctor’s mother announces that she wants the family to risk everything to go to the United States, he is torn. He misses his father, but Cuba is the only home he has ever known. All his dreams and plans require him to stay. Can he leave everything behind for an unknown future?

In a summer of heat and upheaval, danger and deadly consequences, Héctor’s two worlds are on a collision course. Will the impact destroy him and everything he loves?

Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s great-grandmother, great-uncle, and extended family came to the U.S. through the Mariel boatlift. She vividly remembers meeting them all for the first time in the summer of 1980 and is proud to share this part of her family’s history.

For more information or to purchase:

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REVIEW:

5 stars!

Atmospheric and tense, the story held my attention from start to finish.

The Bluest Sky by Christina Diaz Gonzalez is a new middle-grade book that older readers would also enjoy and find enlightening. It combines historical events with fictional ones that could easily be the backstories of many Cuban refugees that literally landed on these shores. There are moments of complete heartbreak but also hope for new lives and freedom.

Although Hector is content for much of the first part of the book, it becomes clear he is so because he’s never known life to be anything different. The author envelops the characters and reader in an atmosphere of oppression, fear, poverty, and lack of the freedoms we know as fundamental to our lives in the U.S. But as the reality of life is revealed to Hector, he quickly loses that contentment. Just the effects the American embargo had on the Cuban people’s ability to maintain their homes (they couldn’t get the materials to do so) was eye-opening. The author has put names and faces, albeit fictional, to those suffering, personalizing it and making it real.

Besides the oppressive setting, the plot quickly becomes tense and dangerous. I held my breath numerous times during the family’s harrowing process of leaving the country and teared up with both sadness and relief at others. It may take me a while to get over this story.

The juvenile main characters are engaging, strong, and brave: boys and girls with whom young readers will readily feel a connection. The plot includes features of their everyday living, home life, food, and growing up. The dialogue is liberally sprinkled with Spanish words and phrases whose meaning must be construed from context or looked up. Although it slowed the reading process down somewhat, I enjoyed looking up those that I didn’t recognize or couldn’t translate on my own.

With its taut storyline and engaging characters, THE BLUEST SKY would be a great book to share and discuss. I recommend it for middle-grade or older readers, which was well worth the reading.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Christina Diaz Gonzalez is the Edgar® award-winning author of several books including The Red UmbrellaA Thunderous WhisperMoving TargetConcealed, and two upcoming books, Invisible (a graphic novel available in August 2022) and The Bluest Sky (a historical fiction novel available in September 2022). Her books have received numerous honors including the Florida Book Award, the Nebraska Book Award, and the International Latino Book Award. Her work has also been designated as an American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults selection, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection, and as an International Reading Association’s Teachers’ Choice book. Christina currently lives in Miami, Florida with her husband, sons, and a dog that can open doors.

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Immoral Origins (The Desire Card, #1) by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Immoral Origins (The Desire Card, #1)Immoral Origins by Lee Matthew Goldberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The author’s immersive writing drew me in from the start, and I flew through the story.

It’s 1978, and Jake Barnum, a young man in his 20s, already has a rap sheet of small-time, petty crimes. Out of a short stint in jail, he’s living with his parents and disabled brother in his childhood home in Hell’s Kitchen with no prospects to improve his situation. The younger brother, Emile, needs costly medical attention and future surgery to survive, so the entire family is living on the razor’s edge, trying to keep it together and makes ends meet. His father works two full-time jobs, his mother picks up occasional work as a legal secretary when she can get someone to watch Emile, who requires constant care, and Jake feels the guilt of failing his parents and not helping out enough. Jake hooks up with a petty criminal in town, stealing and reselling coats through his childhood friend, Maggs. However, it doesn’t net him much, and his father and mother are reluctant to accept what they know is dirty money.

But at the Halloween party dressed as Robin Hood, Jake catches the eye of a mysterious and intriguing woman dressed as Marilyn Monroe. They get to talking, and Jake is taken with her, even though she refuses to remove her “Marilyn” mask or give him her real name. She explains to him that she helps fulfill wishes for a living and wants to introduce Jake to her boss, thinking Jake would be a good asset for their company, The Desire Card. The company motto is “Any wish fulfilled for the right price.”

Impressed by the boss and the company concept, Jake accepts the job offer and is immediately sent on his first assignment: a simple delivery of a small box to a woman at an exclusive address in the city. An extremely generous fee payment follows, and Jake is hooked. But as the assignments edge closer to the illegal and immoral and jobs start hitting close to home, Jake is caught between wanting to maintain his new lifestyle and cash flow and getting away from The Desire Card before the company decides he’s a liability.

Immoral Origins is the first book in a thrilling new series, The Desire Card, by Lee Matthew Goldberg. With its very different sort of hero and plot that includes him successfully performing dirty deeds, I was hooked. I was glued to the story every step of the way, not wanting to put it down until the very last page.

The characters surprised me. I don’t believe there was a genuinely likable one in the bunch. Jake is pretty much a loser. Marilyn is a damaged young woman, and Gable, the boss, a power-mad sociopath (as are all of The Desire Card’s employees.) Thugs, hoods, and mobsters populate the story, showing their very worst sides. But through it all, I was compelled to root for Jake to overcome the odds and come out on top. I had much the same experience when reading The Godfather, heinous people doing horrible things that you still are compelled to get behind.

The Desire Card operation was fascinating. Everyone works incognito, wearing masks when doing a job, visiting the office, and even attending the annual office holiday parties. Their rich and famous clientele also wear masks at the client events hosted by the company, and everyone goes by the name of the person the mask depicts: Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, or Errol Flynn, to name a few.

The late 70s setting encompassed iconic people and places and the headlines and music of the time. It was so well done; I was immersed in that time and that place. Goldberg’s writing drew me in from the start, and I flew through the story, feeling Jake’s confusion, hopelessness, and fear as he tried to make sense of it all. The story was fascinating, with a heavy dose of bizarreness that had me turning those pages for more.

With its well-defined setting, laden with recognizable persons, places, and events, extraordinary characters, and fascinating plot, I recommend IMMORAL ORIGINS to readers of thrillers and mysteries, especially those who like stories set in New York or organized crimes and like a touch of the bizarre.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical fiction, Historical mystery, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Someday Belongs to Us by Margie Seaman

SOMEDAY BELONGS TO US
by
MARGIE SEAMAN

Fiction / Pirate Romance / Late in Life / Sea Stories
Publisher: Stoney Creek Publishing Group
Pages: 224 pages
Publication Date: June 22, 2022
SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

It’s never too late to find love on the high seas.

Kate Caldwell is a 72-year-old romance novelist writing under the nom de plume, Desiree Desire. With more than thirty bestsellers to her credit, Kate is considered an authority on romance. Her personal life, however, has been lacking in the love department for a long time, and she has all but given up hope of finding a true, romantic connection. Her latest series, about a rakish eighteenth-century pirate, has been a struggle. Her struggle with her own creative processes boils over on a stormy night, when Captain Edward Peregrine, a pirate of the Caribbean during the year 1721, begins appearing to her as she sleeps. Convinced that Edward is a figment of her imagination, Kate happily accepts his return visits, and the two collaborate on the first two books of the series. Then, Edward suddenly stops appearing, and Kate is frustrated with her publisher’s demands for the next book.

In desperation, she decides to take a two-week cruise with her granddaughter, Ellie, hoping the chance to relax and watch the waves breaking in the beautiful waters of the Caribbean will reset her creative process. Little did Kate know that troubled waters lay ahead or that she’s in for the adventure of her life, and possibly, true love at long last.

PRAISE FOR MARGIE SEAMAN’S SOMEDAY BELONGS TO US

“A fun and lively read about romance, and the real and imagined adventures of a woman writer cruising through her senior years. Once again, Margie Seaman proves age is no obstacle in this swashbuckling debut novel.” —Lise Olsen, Author of CODE OF SILENCE

CLICK TO PURCHASE!

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review-2-1

ARRGH-uably one of the most delightful books I’ve read all year!

Someday Belongs to Us is Margie Seaman’s debut novel and hopefully is the start of a long, lovely series. Kate is a wonderful character and the type of person one would love to have as a best friend. She’s in her early 70s but is very youthful in mind, spirit, and body, as her absolutely killing it on the dance floor can attest. I liked that she was so genuine – a real standup gal – who also happens to have 30 bestsellers to her name. She and her granddaughter, a real sweetie herself, have the BEST relationship: one any grandmother would envy. And though Marco was the initial hot daddy out of the starting gate, I really rooted for the quiet professor to eventually win her heart.

I loved how the author had two stories going at one time (and in a first book!) Her handling of the dual plotlines was smooth and seamless, with both having their exciting twists and turns and tender moments. I felt Kate’s excitement as her writing started to flow again, her bittersweet regret over Edward’s new love, and her anger later when a betrayal comes to light. I particularly enjoyed the dance contest subplot with its rehearsals, costumes, and exciting final performance.

One of the biggest things I got from this delightful book is an urgent desire to go on a cruise! The little tidbits the author included about the day-to-day aboard ship and the island excursions were so tantalizing that I don’t care where I go as long as I go!

With a charming cast of characters, many of whom are retired persons and senior citizens, stunning story-within-a-story, and the tempting treat of a cruise life setting, SOMEDAY BELONGS TO US is an inspiring romance that incorporates later-in-life love and second-change romance. I recommend it to romance readers who enjoy more mature protagonists, cruises, and PIRATES!

MARGIE SEAMAN is an eighty-five-year-old, late-blooming author of her debut novel Someday Belongs to Us. After a forty-year career in marketing, she switched to a new venture in website design where she has been the president of Citation Solutions for the past fourteen years. Margie also writes a travel blog for seniors, The Graytripper, that encourages people to get out and explore their world. Margie is the mother of three, grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother of three. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and lives in Houston, Texas, right down the street from her childhood home. She is currently dogless for the first time in her life but does have some totally spoiled cats that ungraciously allow her to share their living environment.

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THREE WINNERS!

Each winner receives an autographed, limited edition,

hardcover copy of Someday Belongs to Us.

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 8/26/22)


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