Go Down the Mountain by Meredith Battle

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Go Down the Mountain was inspired by the stories of the people who lost their homes to Shenandoah National Park in the 1930s. At once dramatic adventure, moving love story and recollection of a vanished life, the story follows mountain girl Bee on her harrowing journey to discover the truth about her family, living and dead.

Bee is a nervy, teenage beauty whose beloved father’s sudden death in a snake charming accident has left her alone with her abusive mother. Her one salvation is Miles, the big-city photographer who promises escape and a life full of the adventure she craves. But when Bee is caught in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with a government man who takes her family’s land and won’t stop until he claims her too, it may be Torch, the boy she grew up with on the mountain, who becomes the man she needs.

REVIEW

An out of the blue read and review request…I suppose my small contribution to the literary world does have its perks. I was, at first, intrigued by the locale of this novel, as I drive through the region often, but have always looked upon it as a repository for Civil War story fodder – the exploits of General Thomas Jackson or General Philip Sheridan. It is, however, the stories and lives of the ordinary folk and their daily struggle for existence that captured my attention in this riveting account of Depression Era Appalachia. The main character, Bee Livingston, is a feisty, resourceful, and totally captivating young woman caught in the throes of dispossession and the harsh reality of her family life. If any of my peeps and fellow travelers have seen the old John Wayne movie, Shepherd of the Hills, you may, as I did, sort of model Bee after Sammy, the young heroine in the movie. Written in a very engaging style, the tale flows nicely through the trials and tribulations of the Hollow folk facing eviction from their homes by an unfeeling, and downright cruel government. The author captures the essence of mountain culture, and reminds us that there are periods of our country’s history that aren’t too reflective of our stated ideals of justice and equality. An entertaining and informative tale awaits you, dear reader.  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Akela by Ryan Uytdewilligen

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Forrest Gump meets Woody Allen in this endearing story about a sea turtle seeking to be reunited with the love of his life.

When Akela is separated from his migrant soulmate, Kalea, he will do anything to be reunited with her. Journey with this charming and neurotic sea turtle as he crosses paths with celebrities, politicians, and other moments in history with unbreakable determination to be reunited with his love.

REVIEW

I wasn’t sure what to expect when the author requested that I read his novel about the travels and travails of a Green Sea Turtle, but the premise was intriguing. I mean how could I resist seeing 20th century American history through the eyes and thoughts of a sea going reptile? While that is a major theme running throughout the book, it’s the emotional experiences Akela goes through in this wonderfully creative take on humanity that pulled me in. Add in some entertaining characters, both human and animal (a couple of my favorites are a gator named Earl, and a group of vultures known as The Good Time Gang), and what transpires is part whimsical fantasy, and part poignant introspection. A journey full of expectations, dangers, surprises, and self-realizations await you dear reader, making for an enjoyable read. 4 stars

Belle o’ the Waters by Raima Larter

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Belle Waters is about to celebrate her fourteenth birthday, and she is terrified. The fear of marriage looms large for her, and every other girl who was born into the Mormon settlement of Salt Lake in the 1850s. She knows it is her duty to marry and bring Heavenly Father’s children into the world, but she’s not interested in tying the knot with anyone—especially not the Prophet, an old man with a number of wives and counting. But when the US Army invades Salt Lake intent on arresting the Prophet, Belle soon realizes that the possibility of becoming a child bride is only the beginning in a series of disastrous threats.

 

Belle o’ the Waters is a work of fiction, but is loosely based on a true historical event: the Mountain Meadows Massacre of September 11, 1857, which sparked a short-lived Mormon War. Although set over a century ago, the themes and issues explored in this novel are extremely relevant to the modern age: religious freedom and extremism, the role and status of women in society, and the contemporary impact of homegrown terrorism. Belle o’ the Waters is a searing exploration of those living within an oppressed community, and an ultimately revelatory novel about what it means to lead a courageous life, despite one’s circumstances.

 REVIEW

A fascinating tale of the courage of a young Mormon girl in the face of some pretty daunting circumstances. The author has crafted a tale of survival in a landscape filled with a natural world both beautiful and dangerous, and a religious calling even more dangerous. Strong, believable characters, a creatively imaginative story line, and a look at a time and place in American history imbued with an iconoclastic mystery, Belle o’ the Waters had me hooked from page one. I especially enjoyed the use of Belle’s journal entries during the tale as they bring into focus the intense situations that arise during her life, and without spoiling anything, she faces much that would break many fourteen year old girls on the verge of womanhood. A page turning delight, with requisite pauses to catch one’s breath, awaits you dear reader. Prepare to be entertained, and perhaps maybe even educated a little about an oft overlooked piece of American History. 4 Stars

Once More Unto the Breach by Meghan Holloway

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For readers of The Nightingale and Beneath a Scarlet Sky comes a gripping historical thriller set against a fully-realized WWII backdrop about the love a father has for his son and the lengths he is willing to go to find him, from a talented new voice in suspense.

Rhys Gravenor, Great War veteran and Welsh sheep farmer, arrives in Paris in the midst of the city’s liberation with a worn letter in his pocket that may have arrived years too late. As he follows the footsteps of his missing son across an unfamiliar, war-torn country, he struggles to come to terms with the incident that drove a wedge between the two of them.

Joined by Charlotte Dubois, an American ambulance driver with secrets of her own, Rhys discovers that even as liberation sweeps across France, the war is far from over. And his personal war has only begun as he is haunted by memories of previous battles and hampered at every turn by danger and betrayal. In a race against time and the war, Rhys follows his son’s trail from Paris to the perilous streets of Vichy to the starving mobs in Lyon to the treacherous Alps. But Rhys is not the only one searching for his son. In a race of his own, a relentless enemy stalks him across the country and will stop at nothing to find the young man first.

The country is in tatters, no one is trustworthy, and Rhys must unravel the mystery of his son’s wartime actions in the desperate hope of finding him before it’s too late. Too late to mend the frayed bond between them. Too late to beg his forgiveness. Too late to bring him home alive.

REVIEW

“Grief and I had long been acquaintances, but now it met me in an unfamiliar guise. When I lost Aelwyd and the twins, and later my father, I had been gorged to excess on pain and anger. Grief had been a wolf pacing within the confines of my chest, gnashing at my heart, howling and feral and bitter.”

Let me say at the outset, this book is one of the best I’ve read, and I read a lot of excellent books. The above quote is a prime example of the author’s descriptive talent. Dialogue and narrative are so beautifully rendered, to the point where the reader’s mind has to work very little to conjure up the images described or the emotional depth the characters feel. Right from page one, I was hooked. The chaotic atmosphere created by the German retreat from Paris jump starts an incredible adventure. An intense drama, as Rhys and Charlotte follow the trail of his lost son, unfolds into a stunning tale of survival in a landscape filled with enemies and memories. The use of flashbacks to Rhys’ past, along with the letters from Owain that begin each chapter, are an integral part of the narrative, adding context as they reach into the very hearts and minds of father and son. Another important aspect of this book is the detailed look at a time and place filled with unspeakable horrors, and the heroic efforts by those who chose to defy the invaders. The research done by the author is very evident throughout the tale, and that coupled with an imaginative/creative writing style had this reader on the edge of his seat, pausing occasionally to take a breath. The author also found a way to include my new favorite fictional canine, a poodle named Otto. This, my peeps and fellow travelers, is a book to savor. 5 Stars

Song of Songs: A Novel of the Queen of Sheba by Marc Graham

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Lift the veil of legend for the untold story of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and Bathsheba, wife and mother of Israel’s first kings.

When Makeda, the slave-born daughter of the chieftain of Saba, comes of age, she wins her freedom and inherits her father’s titles along with a crumbling earthwork dam that threatens her people’s survival. When she learns of a great stone temple being built in a land far to the north, Makeda leads a caravan to the capital of Yisrael to learn how to build a permanent dam and secure her people’s prosperity.

On her arrival, Makeda discovers that her half-sister Bilkis (also known as Bathsheba) who was thought to have died in a long-ago flash flood, not only survived, but has become Queen of Yisrael. Not content with her own wealth, Bilkis intends to claim the riches of Saba for herself by forcing Makeda to marry her son. But Bilkis’s designs are threatened by the growing attraction between Makeda and Yetzer abi-Huram, master builder of Urusalim’s famed temple. Will Bilkis’s plan succeed or will Makeda and Yetzer outsmart her and find happiness far from her plots and intrigue?

REVIEW

I don’t know why it is that I particularly enjoy historical fiction tales from this era and region. Perhaps it has something to do with my first history professor at Wayne State University and his teaching of the Ancient Near East. Or, perhaps it is because of my life long fascination with ancient Egypt (Kemet) vividly portrayed in The Ten Commandments. 😎 Whatever the reasons, Song of Songs has joined my list of favorites from this period. The author has crafted a tale of three people whose intertwined fates makes for not only an intriguing tale of love, adventure, and drama filled historical events, but also a tale rich in the cultures, traditions, and gods of the time. One of the things that makes a story transport the reader into the pages, is having characters who are so immersed in their time and cultures that they draw the reader in with them. You are Makeda in the desert; you are Yetzer defying the fates; you are Bilkis building a kingdom.

The narrative and dialogue lull the reader into a page turning trance. The author skillfully weaves the three separate threads through the tapestry of their lives, bringing them together in a climatic fashion. A well told telling of the Biblical rendering of the time of David, Bathsheba, Solomon, and the building of a temple. 5 stars

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About the Author

Marc Graham studied mechanical engineering at Rice University in Texas, but has been writing since his first attempt at science fiction penned when he was ten. From there, he graduated to knock-off political thrillers, all safely locked away to protect the public, before settling on historical fiction. His first novel, Of Ashes and Dust, was published in March 2017.

He has won numerous writing contests including, the National Writers Assocation Manuscript Contest (Of Ashes and Dust), the Paul Gillette Memorial Writing Contest – Historical (Of Ashes and Dust, Song of Songs), and the Colorado Gold Writing Contest – Mainstream (Prince of the West, coming from Blank Slate Press in Fall 2019).

He lives in Colorado on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, and in addition to writing, he is an actor, narrator, speaker, story coach, shamanic practitioner, and whisky afficianado (Macallan 18, one ice cube). When not on stage or studio, in a pub, or bound to his computer, he can be found hiking with his wife and their Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.

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The Blood of Princes (The Craft of Kings #2) by Derek Birks

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A savage tale of love, treason and betrayal.
A bloody struggle for power at the heart of the royal court.

In April 1483, the sudden death of King Edward IV brings his 12 year old son to the throne.
Restless young lord and ex-mercenary John Elder is newly-appointed to the service of Edward, Prince of Wales, and charged with the boy’s safety. His first task, escorting the new king to London for his coronation, seems a simple one but the accession of a boy king raises concerns among the leading noblemen of the land.
As old jealousies and feuds are rekindled, the new king’s uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, seizes control and plunges the kingdom into crisis. But is Gloucester young Edward’s enemy, or saviour?
While John, outlawed and trapped, must wait to see how events unfold, other members of the battle-scarred Elder family are drawn, one by one, into his conspiracy. Soon they are mired so deep in the murky underbelly of London society, that there seems no hope of escape from the tangle of intrigue and murder.
In the end, all lives will hang upon the outcome of a daring incursion into the Tower of London itself.

REVIEW

I’m of the opinion that if you Google the phrase “adrenaline rush”, you should be directed to a page describing Derek Birks’ fictional 15th century family, The Elders. Throughout the tales in both the Rebels and Brothers series, and in the Craft of Kings, the reader is treated to intense emotional upheaval, traumatizing losses, hopeless situations; and yet the Elders persevere in the face of all the changes and challenges. I may have stated in my review of one of the prior books, that Eleanor Elder is at the top of a long list of my favorite fictional characters…after reading The Blood of Princes, I now have to add Lady Margaret Elder (Meg).

It’s tough enough being proclaimed an ‘outlaw’. Now, John Elder faces impossible tasks,.. keeping his family intact, rescuing Tower imprisoned Princes of the Realm, and by the way, staying alive. Book 2 is a certified roller-coaster ride through the transition from Edward IV to his son; but wait, there’re more contestants to the throne, more loyalties tested, more oaths sworn or forsaken, and a whole lot more danger to life and limb. The author has once again delivered the entire package, so dear reader, fasten your seat belts. The adrenaline is about to start coursing through your veins.  5 stars

 

The Alchemist of Lost Souls (Bianca Goddard Mysteries, #4) by Mary Lawrence

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A dangerous element discovered by Bianca Goddard’s father falls into the wrong hands . . . leading to a chain of multiple murders.

Spring 1544 Now that she is with child, Bianca is more determined than ever to distance herself from her unstable father. Desperate to win back the favor of King Henry VIII, disgraced alchemist Albern Goddard plans to reveal a powerful new element he’s discovered–one with deadly potential. But when the substance is stolen, he is panicked and expects his daughter to help.

Soon after, a woman’s body is found behind the Dim Dragon Inn, an eerie green vapor rising from her breathless mouth. To her grave concern, Bianca has reason to suspect her own mother may be involved in the theft and the murder. As her husband John is conscripted into King Henry’s army to subdue Scottish resistance, Bianca must navigate a twisted and treacherous path among alchemists, apothecaries, chandlers, and scoundrels–to find out who among them is willing to kill to possess the element known as lapis mortem, the stone of death . . .

REVIEW

I’ve read a few novels that take place during the reign of Henry VIII, and have watched the Tudor series on Netflix.  The Alchemist of Lost Souls (and the earlier books in the Bianca Goddard series) is a definite departure from the Royal Court and the mercurial antics of Henry. The author paints a vivid picture of life in the least desirable haunts of London and the precarious and often violent existence of the folk who live there. Colorful characters abound in this fascinating mystery, and what is especially nice is their usage of the language of the times, the idioms, the curses, the names etc,etc. I was captured from page one, the ongoing mystery with many twists and turns, surprises, and a peculiar denizen of the Thames, The Rat Man. The main character, Bianca, daughter of an alchemist, finds herself enmeshed in solving a series of crimes that have implications involving friends and family, all the while experiencing her first pregnancy, with her husband away with Henry’s army. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this wonderfully descriptive, and creative tale. The only problem is that this is book four of the series, and now I have to go back and read the first three.  Oh wait, that’s not a problem, that’s three future treats for me to devour. 🙂  5 stars

 

 

Lord of Emperors (The Sarantine Mosaic #2) by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Beckoned by the Emperor Valerius, Crispin, a renowned mosaicist, has arrived in the fabled city of Sarantium. Here he seeks to fulfill his artistic ambitions and his destiny high upon a dome that will become the emperor’s magnificent sanctuary and legacy.

But the beauty and solitude of his work cannot protect his from Sarantium’s intrigue. Beneath him the city swirls with rumors of war and conspiracy, while otherworldly fires mysteriously flicker and disappear in the streets at night. Valerius is looking west to Crispin’s homeland to reunite an Empire — a plan that may have dire consequences for the loved ones Crispin left behind.

In Sarantium, however, loyalty is always complex, for Crispin’s fate has become entwined with that of Valerius and his Empress, as well as Queen Gisel, his own monarch exiled in Sarantium herself. And now another voyager — this time from the east — has arrived, a physician determined to make his mark amid the shifting, treacherous currents of passion and violence that will determine the empire’s fate.

REVIEW

An intricate tale, as I have come to expect from Mr. Kay, full of interwoven strands, ironic circumstances, and an amazing array of characters. The full range of personalities, ambitions, hopes and dreams permeate the pages beckoning the reader into the very souls of the players. Take it from this humble scribe, but Holy Jad, Guy Gavriel Kay can sure spin a yarn.  5 Stars

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The Dane Law by Garth Pettersen

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After a peaceful year running their Frisian estate, Harald and Selia are called to Engla-lond.

Their return is marked by violence and intrigue. The king has vowed to Queen Emma that their son, Harthacnute, will inherit the throne, but the atheling is cruel and reckless. Many view Harald as the better choice, which makes him a target for the unseen supporters of his half-brother. King Cnute urges Harald to be prepared to assume the throne should Harthacnute prove inadequate. Harald resists being swept up by forces beyond his control, but doubts he will survive the reign of King Hartha.

And what of his older brother, Sweyn?

REVIEW

Oh, the lengths one will go to if one longs for the crown, either for them self or their progeny. The Dane Law, as the blurb indicates, is the story of King Cnute’s sons and the tough decision to choose his successor. Well, that’s the main plot.  The author has crafted a tale that is so much more than that. It is also a love story, a story of determination and survival, a story of the duplicitous nature that is a royal court.  And, oh what a duplicitous lot of characters we have, my peeps.  Mind you, not all of the main characters are shady, unscrupulous, and single minded, but they sure make for an interesting, enjoyable, entertaining read.  Of the many things that I have found over the years that I’ve been reading and reviewing books, is the utmost pleasure derived from well developed characters, and The Dane Law certainly fulfills that criteria.  Of course, I felt like punching out the evildoer or at least screaming at their evil deeds and intentions, a sure sign that the author has done their job. 🙂

Another aspect of The Dane Law that, as a historian, I really appreciated was the use of  contemporary spellings of names and places. To me that reinforces the whole idea that England has such a long and varied history, and how that place evolved over the centuries to become what is is today, and the many other cultures influenced by that evolution. I might not know how to pronounce some of the names and places, however, I enjoy reading them all the same.  So, my dear reader prepare for a far flung adventure that has one turning pages in anticipation of what comes next in this tale, a lead up event to the Godwinson/William confrontation.  5 stars

The Tory by T.J. London

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THE TORY BY T.J. LONDON

Publication Date: April 11, 2018
Peperback & eBook; 517 Pages

Series: The Rebels and Redcoats Saga, Book #1
Genre: Historical Fiction

It is the winter of 1776, and Captain John Carlisle, one of His Majesty’s not-so-finest, has gone back to the scene of the crime to right a wrong so dark it left a permanent stain on what was once an illustrious career and left a man broken, defeated, in search of justice…

In an effort to win back his commission, he must discover the true nature of the relationship between the Six Nations of the Iroquois and the Colonial Army. Undercover as a war profiteer, John travels to the treacherous Mohawk River Valley and infiltrates local society, making friends with those he’s come to betray.

But a chance meeting with a beautiful half Oneida innkeeper, whose tragic history is integrally linked to his own, will provide him with the intelligence he needs to complete his mission—and devastate her people.

Now, as the flames of war threaten to consume the Mohawk Valley, John has the chance to not only serve King and country, but to clear his name. When the truth he uncovers ties his own secrets to those in the highest positions of the British military and threatens the very life of the woman he’s come to love, he will be forced to make a choice…

“The pages fly as you immerse yourself in this fantastic adventure.” – RT Book Review

MY REVIEW

At first I was slightly hesitant about reading this book, at least for the time being, as I am in the process of writing my own novel set during the American Revolution. However, once I determined that the subject matter for The Tory was sufficiently different from mine, my reticence disappeared. Besides, the author and I share hometowns, so how could I say no.  🙂

I  was riveted to this tale from the beginning; a different look at the Revolution, one that takes place on the frontier and features the involvement of the Iroquois Confederacy; especially the tribe that sided with the colonists, The Oneida. I can’t say enough about the emotional suffering, mental anguish, and physical trauma that the two main protagonists endure in this tense drama. There are many sub-plots that are seamlessly weaved into the narrative that highlight the very complicated, increasingly dangerous situation facing John and Dellis. It is, boys and girls, a page turning tale, though I did stop once in a while to catch my breath.  🙂  Meticulously researched, engaging subject matter, and best of all, a tale that will continue in the sequel, The Traitor, I think you will thoroughly enjoy The Tory.  5 Stars

 

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About the Author

T.J. London is a rebel, liberal, lover, fighter, diehard punk, and pharmacist-turned-author who loves history. As an author her goal is to fill in the gaps, writing stories about missing history, those little places that are so interesting yet sadly forgotten. Her favorite time periods to write in are first and foremost the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolution, the French and Indian War, the Russian Revolution and the Victorian Era. Her passions are traveling, writing, reading, barre, and sharing a glass of wine with her friends, while she collects experiences in this drama called life. She is a native of Metropolitan Detroit (but secretly dreams of being a Londoner) and resides there with her husband Fred and her beloved cat and writing partner Mickey.

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Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 3 sets of both books in Paperback, 3 sets of both books in eBook, and a $50 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 16th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to readers in the US & Canada only.
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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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